By Fleming Smith
On Tuesday, August 25, several school leaders spoke in All Saints’ Chapel about how they hoped to move Sewanee forward in the 20152016 year. Although the “Launching of a New Year” served as a platform to communicate the next year’s agenda, the afternoon session was also, in Vice Chancellor Dr. John McCardell’s words, a “welcome back, welcome home” to all those either returning to the Domain or passing through the gates for the first time.
One of the speakers, Student Government Association President Julian “Jewlz” Humphrey-Davis, (C’16), began his talk with a comparison between Sewanee and Arthur, a cartoon that began airing in the 90’s. Its theme song, Humphrey-Davis noted, is particularly apt: one line notes, “And I say, hey! What a wonderful kind of day if we could learn to work and play and get along with each other.” It is similar to Sewanee’s own motto, “behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity,” and these themes were later echoed in Dr. McCardell’s own talk: “All of us in this community are working together for a great and shared purpose.”
President of the Order of the Gownsmen Alec Hill (C’16), outlined several goals for his organization. This year, its members will vote on changing the group’s name to “Order of the Gown” in order to be more inclusive. He also hopes to create a “gown library,” in which students unable to purchase a gown would be able to “check out” one for the duration of their time at Sewanee.
Dr. McCardell started his remarks with both welcome and thanks, welcoming new and returning students and faculty as well as thanking the staff who make each new year possible. He described several of his aspirations for the coming year, from moving the School of Theology to central campus to creating a new University Commons, though not at the expense of Fulford Hall. He also mentioned his desire to take the freshman “Finding Your Place” program off of probation, making it a permanent fixture of the University. “The issue is our willingness, as a faculty, to allow our colleagues to continue to participate in an innovative, Sewanee-specific undertaking, which exemplifies all the things we hold dear,” said Dr. McCardell on the subject. The program is currently in its third year, welcoming approximately 150 freshman to campus ten days before orientation for an immersive experience founded on the concept of place in its many forms.
Throughout the talks, a common theme emerged of both preserving important traditions and adopting new ideas in order to help Sewanee grow as a community and as an institution. Dr. McCardell’s remarks ended with a story about Willie Six, a beloved former athletic trainer for Sewanee. “A reporter asked Willie, at the time of his retirement, what was the best year in Sewanee athletic history. This man, who had seen many great teams and many great moments answered without hesitation: ‘The best year? The best year is the one comin’ up,’” recalled Dr. McCardell, considering Willie Six’s answer an attitude that all Sewanee community members should share.
The afternoon finished with a picnic on the quad, but Dr. McCardell first wished to remind attendees both of Sewanee’s accomplishments in the past and the school’s great potential in the future. Regardless of circumstance, said the Vice Chancellor, the University of the South will remain a place “where, even when the fog closes in, a kindly light still leads us on.”