Photo by Robert Beeland (C’18)
By Robert Beeland
Optimism colored the Vice-Chancellor’s address in All Saints’ Chapel for the August 30 “Launching the New Year” event. Students, faculty, and staff were invited to hear McCardell—in addition to SGA President David Harkins (C ’17), president of the St. Luke’s Community of the School of Theology Molly Payne-Hardin (T ’17), and OG President Sarah Reeves (C ’17)—speak about goals for the new academic year. The VC welcomed the University community and encouraged both “an awareness of history” and “a sensitivity to place” with regards to the myriad of changes occurring now and over the course of the coming years.
Central to McCardell’s address was an outline of the University’s Strategic Plan for future development and the specific efforts being made to carry out the plan. Even as this academic year begins, many goals have already been reached. “Last year I commented specifically on the challenges we would face in finding new leadership for the Sewanee Review and the University Choir. We have met those challenges and, in Adam Ross and Geoffrey Ward, made two truly distinguished appointments,” McCardell remarked. The university has also, within the past year, “[successfully navigated] two important reaccreditation events, a comprehensive review of the School of Theology by the Association of Theological Schools, and the decennial review of the College by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.”
The Vice-Chancellor noted that a variety of data further corroborates these successes. This June, the University received a donation of nearly $8 million to support financial aid, “thereby bringing us closer to the day when every student’s full need can be met.” The Class of 2020—a record-high 518 new students—was comprised from an applicant pool that matched the previous year’s record size.
While the stats are certainly promising, McCardell’s most encouraging words came in his delineation of a campus development plan that enriches the university’s community mores. The VC reaffirmed the University’s plans for the return of the School of Theology to central campus and for a distributed University Commons. Under the framework of these plans, the University’s “historic relationship with the Church” is strengthened, while “[placing] the School of Theology on a site of far greater visibility.” Furthermore, in true Sewanee style, the plans for a singular, variety-use Commons are resurrected in the form of a distributed Commons—Phase One of which will “house the Outing Program, fitness and workout space as an alternative to the Fowler Center, the Wellness Center, and perhaps spaces for food and convenience items” in and around the space of the University Book and Supply Store.
Even in the midst of these changes, McCardell reasserted the continued value placed on the University’s core values. He concluded his address by quoting beloved former Sewanee athletic trainer Willie Six. For those with any trepidations regarding the future of the University, McCardell offered the same response as Willie Six upon being asked which year in Sewanee athletic history was the greatest. To quote them both, “The best year is the one comin’ up.”