Theologians returning to central campus

The Bishop's Common

Photo by Connor Flood

By Quang Tran

Staff Writer

The Board of Regents has approved to move the School of Theology to a new location in and around what is currently called the Bishop’s Common in order to meet goals which were outlined in the 2012 Strategic Plan, which called for “closer relations between the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Theology, as well as new or renewed facilities for the latter,” according to Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, remains much planning to do, including dean of The School of Theology (hereby abbreviated “the SoT”). He continued, adding that “the initial assumption was that the SoT would be staying on Tennessee Avenue, but as planning went on, a number of our folks said we’re making a one-hundred year decision here. So we decided to conduct a study on relocating the SoT altogether and found that this was the most cost efficient option and made the best usage of the university’s resources. There fundraising, getting architectural designs, working out the logistics, and dealing with the displacement of people which is inevitable with these projects. What is known is that the BC will be significantly remodeled.”

In speaking of the benefits of this move, Alexander kept referring to “proximity.” He fondly recalled Sewanee life of the early 1980’s as a professor at the SoT, when it was on central campus. “We were all there together, and got to know each other better. The whole university used to have a morning break for students and faculty/staff of both the College and the SoT. People would go get their mail together, have coffee and pastries in the hallways together, eat at the Tiger Bay Pub together, or any number of things. Now, despite there only being a ten minute walk from All Saints’ Chapel, the SoT might as well be in Nashville.”

Senior Boyd Evans, Episcopal diocese of East TN, expressed similar sentiments of isolation, saying, “We feel removed. It’s the small things, such as not having the option to grab Stirling’s on the way to class, or just having enough time to get to duPont Library and back.” Senior Neil Raman, Diocese of Long Island, New York, noted ironically that “the library is where it is now originally because of its location across from St. Luke’s, where the SoT was housed.” Of St. Luke’s, Evans added that “it really feels like we’re home there.”

Of the physical reintegration, Alexander was excited to talk about how “part of the Sewanee experience has historically been having a strong liberal arts college and a strong theological seminary living together, very connected and fully supportive of the other. That’s the Sewanee I fell in love with. What Sewanee history has shown is that this connection can be beneficial in some very powerful ways.” Raman also noted that “the opportunities for collaboration between the College and the SoT will skyrocket.” Senior Trey Kennedy, Diocese of Alabama, an avid fencer, revealed how “having activities like fencing with students from the College is huge for us. We want to see more integration between us and those students.” Raman reminded us that “our motto is EQB.” Senior Robert Beazley, Diocese of Florida, felt that “the DNA of the University of the South is ultimately made up of both the College and the SoT. It was separated in 1982, and is now being reunited.” Kennedy concurred, responding that “we in the SoT are just one part of the puzzle. Scientists, English teachers, doctors, lawyers, you name it. We’re all called to do God’s work.” Beazley added “It isn’t just for those of us with a collar,” to which Kennedy said, “We’re all a part of the mission of the University of the South.”

Alexander took the board’s approval of a relocation of the SoT, along with other projects on campus such as the construction of the new dorm and the new University Commons, as a sign to be optimistic about the present and future of the University. “Our student body is growing and it’s an exciting and extraordinary thing. Sewanee’s thinking in terms of growth, rather than just managing cutbacks. It’s a good time to be Sewanee.”