The new plaque in All Saints’ Chapel. Photo by Matt Hembree, C’20.
By Gresham Redman
This Homecoming, an alumnus’s memory was formally enshrined into All Saints’ Chapel in the form of a commemorative plaque. Robert Moss Ayres (C’49) served the University for 28 years in various leadership positions and was Sewanee’s 13th Vice-Chancellor.
The service was attended by multiple members of the Ayres family and friends. Robert Moss Ayres was born September 1, 1926 and passed on June 19, 2018, and he is commemorated by a plaque bearing his name on the west end of All Saints Chapel, Ayres Hall at Sewanee, and the Ayres Center for Spiritual Development at Saint Mary’s.
“It is almost impossible to overstate the influence Bob and his wife, Pat, had on the University of the South, the Sewanee community, and indeed the Cumberland Plateau,” said Vice-Chancellor John McCardell in a press release.
“Years after he left office, his successors continued to call on him for guidance, counsel, and inspiration. A generation of alumni, faculty, and staff remember warmly Bob’s unfailing encouragement, his generosity with his time, and the hospitality he and Pat offered at Fulford Hall. His deep and abiding faith gave confidence and courage and hope to others,” McCardell continued.
Ayres graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Sewanee in 1949. He then went on to gain a MBA from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his Master’s degree he began a career in banking, first in the Northeast before he returned to San Antonio, Texas, his home.
Ayres served in World War II as a radio operator in the Navy and later reenlisted in the reserves. He earned a commission with the Navy Reserves and served in the Korean War. He was a leader in every facet of his life from work, to church, and was active in his community, particularly through his involvement in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and community organizations such as the German Club and Young Presidents Club.
During the ‘60s and the ‘70s, Ayres served on the Board of Regents until called upon to serve as the Vice-Chancellor of the University 1978-1988. He was also a member of the Board of St. Mary’s, directing and fundraising for the convent near the University.
“His leadership during a time of fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s and his continued generous support of the institution make him one of the ‘modern founders’ of the University of the South,” McCardell said in the release.
During the Homecoming weekend service, University Chaplain Tom Macfie (C’80) spoke on the story of Bartimaeus, the beggar whose blindness was cured by Jesus.
The crowds’ words to Bartimaeus, “Take heart, Jesus is calling you,” was the refrain of the sermon. Macfie outlined the call for all present alumni to return to the Mountain while emphasizing the Church and University’s mission to foster the growth of students through a Liberal Arts education.