By Richard Pryor III
As the Board of Trustees meets on October 11 and 12, perhaps no decision will be more relevant than the election of the next Chancellor of the University. The Chancellor is required to be the Bishop Diocesan of one of Sewanee’s owning dioceses and will serve for the next six years.
The Chancellor acts as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and leads various ceremonial functions at the University, including Convocations, Baccalaureates, and Commencements. Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard (H’04) of Florida has served in this role since 2012 and his term is almost up, although he will lead the Founders’ Day Convocation after the election of his successor. The next Chancellor will be installed in January.
The Trustees Committee on Nominations and Credentials, chaired by trustee Pete Stringer of Tennessee, has nominated three bishops to stand for election: Rob Skirving (H’15) of East Carolina, Dabney Smith (H’08) of Southwest Florida, and Morris Thompson (H’11) of Louisiana. All three have been members of the Board of Regents for at least a year.
Skirving was elected and consecrated as Bishop of East Carolina in 2014, having previously been Rector of St. John’s Church in Midland, Michigan. Prior to his service in Michigan, Skirving was at parishes in Ontario, where he studied at the University of Waterloo and Huron University College. The diocese comprises 68 parishes and is located in the eastern portion of North Carolina. Skirving has been a Regent since 2017.
Skirving commented to The Purple that “it is my privilege to represent the Diocese of East Carolina as a Trustee and Regent at the University of the South. As an owning diocese, we have the responsibility to take our part in the governance structures of this historic university. I am honored to have been nominated for election as Chancellor. Whether elected or not, I will continue to serve the university to the best of my ability, sharing with others at Sewanee in facing the challenges of leadership in complex times.”
Smith was elected Bishop Coadjutor of Southwest Florida in 2006, consecrated in March 2007, and was installed as Bishop Diocesan in September 2007. He was elected Bishop while serving as Rector of Trinity Church in New Orleans. He previously worked for parishes in Florida and Indiana. In 2015, Smith was a nominee for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, where he finished second.
Smith is also the father of The Rev. Ashton Williston (T’17) and has been a Regent since 2013. He was unavailable for comment due to already scheduled commitments in his diocese, namely preparing for their Golden Jubilee Convention to be held the weekend of October 12.
Thompson was elected Bishop of Louisiana in 2009 and consecrated in 2010. He was, at the time of election, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, Kentucky. He also served parishes in Mississippi and Kentucky. A veteran of the United States Marines Corps, Thompson spent time in Sewanee in the Anglican Studies Program. Thompson has been a Regent since 2015.
Thompson was unavailable for comment because according to Karen Mackey, Communication Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, Thompson had not yet “received official word of the nomination” as of October 9.
The election for the next Chancellor will take place during the Trustees meeting on October 11 and 12. The results will be released by the University shortly after the end of their meeting on October 12.