Chip Schane, chief of Sewanee Police Department, dedicates his service to the Mountain

Silas McClung   
Contributing Writer

From the time Chip Schane was old enough to remember, he wanted to be a policeman or firefighter. “I wanted to fight fires and go help people from three years old on,” Shane says. He moved to Sewanee with his family when he was six. His father served as a priest at St. Mark’s, a street across from Otey Parish. 

Schane grew up with eight other kids his age, and they all went to the Sewanee Elementary School and Saint Andrew’s -Sewanee (SAS) together. They would get up in the morning, ride their bikes around all day, run around in the woods with camouflage, play in Abbo’s Alley, catch crawfish, and go home for dinner. 

It was a good experience for Schane. He says, “Everybody’s dog ran around town, and you’d see a dog hanging around Guerry and know who owned it. In the wintertime, when it snowed, the fire department would spray down University Avenue. Parents would get a big 55-gallon drum, put some wood in there, light it on fire, and kids would sled down North Carolina avenue. It was a little Norman Rockwell.”

When Schane graduated from SAS (C’91), he said, “I was not a get out of high school straight to a college guy. I was a terrible student.” But his senior year of high school, Sewanee offered an Emergency Medical Training (EMT) program to students and community members from the region. The EMT program had a feeder class to an ambulance service (similar to the current Sewanee Fire Department program), where 12 students ran EMS calls for the whole area. Schane said, “I got permission from the state to take the class, and when I graduated from high school, I got my EMT license. The following year, I went to a paramedic school in Alabama. That was my childhood.” 

Schane’s first EMT job was in warm and sunny Pensacola, Florida. Fast forward three decades of experience later, and Schane has served as a firefighter, police officer, paramedic, and United States Marine. His life has come full circle back to the Mountain, where he grew up and now serves as the University’s VP for Public Safety, mentor for the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD), and Chief of the Sewanee Police Department (SPD). 

Schane sees the SPD’s primary responsibility to provide a safe environment on campus and in the surrounding area. “I think probably one of the most unclear aspects of this department for most people is that we are actually a police department. We are not campus security. Most schools do not have a no-kidding police department. We are commissioned sheriffs deputies with Franklin County,” Schane explains. 

He says, “The goal is not to make life difficult for people. The goal is to keep them safe. That’s the concept that I push to my officers…That comes in a lot of forms that people don’t like. I think that when you’re dealing with a situation or a result of a citation, it’s hard to see the rationale behind why.”

Schane’s improvements to the department include hiring four new security officers, including two women, and purchasing two new police cars in addition to utilizing new technology. His job now is more administrative, but that does not confine him to the office all day. Schane said, “I don’t like being in the office. I like going here, going there. I went on a fire call this morning. On the weekend, a lot of the time but not every weekend, l will get out and work with the patrol officers.”

“I enjoy the interaction with students. That’s a cool part of the job, to be able to interact with the younger generation and hopefully provide some kind of positive influence and positive role models.”

Students can join Chief Chip Schane and representatives from various federal agencies and learn more about what they do this upcoming Monday, March 28th, signing up on Sewanee Career Readiness. Schane encourages students to call (931) 598-1111 in non-emergency situations if they need the police department and 911 in emergencies.