Rob Pearigen Installed as Eighteenth Vice-Chancellor

Lizzy Donker 

Junior Editor

Rob Pearigen (C ‘76) was installed as Sewanee’s Eighteenth Vice-Chancellor this past Thursday, October 19. His installation was marked by a flurry of activity around campus, including an Installation Concert by the Sewanee Orchestra, a panel “Thinking Anew,” a lunch celebration on the quad, and of course, the official installation at All Saints’ Chapel.

Photo courtesy of Beylie Ivanhoe

The convocation for Dr. Pearigen’s installation, at noon in All Saints’ Chapel, began with a procession that included faculty, regents, trustees, bishops, and representatives from colleges and universities across America . The first half of the service resembled a traditional All Saints’ service. The University Choir sang many lovely hymns, and prayers and scripture readings were delivered by Pearigen’s brother, Paul Daniel Pearigen (C ‘83), and Pearigen’s son, Robert Wesley Pearigen Jr. (C ‘17).  

Photo courtesy of Beylie Ivanhoe

The Sewanee community then officially extended their greetings to the new vice-chancellor.

Faculty trustees, Robert Bachman and Julia Gatta, spoke on behalf of the University faculty. They asked the vice-chancellor to continue to make “the education and formation of students the central focus of this University.”

Student trustees Kristen Paul (T ‘24) and Pratham Singhal (C ‘24) spoke on behalf of the student body. They encouraged Pearigen to “be a visionary” who will guide students towards “academic excellence, innovation, and inclusivity” and to “be a champion for diversity and equity.”

Members of the staff partnership council, Sylvia Gray and Cari Reynolds spoke on behalf of the University staff. They urged Pearigen to be among staff as “a present, transparent, and decisive leader.” They also committed themselves to working in partnership with Pearigen, “to strengthen this community for a prosperous and flourishing future.”

Alumni members of the Board of Trustees and Regents Amber Camiul Singleton (C ‘11) and W.A. “Pete” Stringer (C ‘71) spoke on behalf of 14,000  University alumni. They urged  Pearigen to “listen to the diverse voices that make up the alumni,” and encouraged him to lead them to “an evermore diverse, equitable, and more inclusive vision of Ecce Quam Bonum.”

Members of the Community Council Evelyn Patton and Laura Willis spoke on behalf of the Sewanee community and municipal body. They encouraged Pearigen to “be among us as the chief executive of our community as a leader to the council members who represent the citizens of Sewanee,” and celebrated Pearigen’s return to the mountain as a beloved neighbor.

Speaking last, Carolyn Grace Pearigen (C ‘14), the vice-chancellor’s daughter delivered a touching and personal speech on behalf of their family. She recalled special moments growing up with her father Pearigen, such as him “always reading one more chapter in the Chronicles of Narnia,” cooking “fancy French [meals] that use every pot in the kitchen,” and continuing to fish “even after catching your own hand.” She also shared that as Pearigen’s family, they will continue to love and support him, and even remind him to “sleep occasionally.”

The vice-chancellor was then officially recognized and installed as Sewanee’s eighteenth vice-chancellor. Pearigen was vested in the Robe of Office worn by all former vice-chancellors, after which he knelt and the University’s Chancellor Rt. Reverend Jacob W. Owensby said the traditional prayer.

Pearigen was greeted with a standing ovation as he was  introduced by the chancellor as vice-chancellor and was invited to, for the first time, take his seat in the vice-chancellor’s stall.

After the singing of the Alma Mater, Pearigen delivered  an installation address that was both solemn and optimistic.

Before beginning his address, Pearigen urged those in All Saints’ to acknowledge and take a moment of silence and prayer for the heartbreaking and frightening conflict in the Middle East. He then called for “unity of spirit” for our University, and “sympathy,” as well as “love for others.”

He called for a “free, open, and honest exchange of ideas” in and outside Sewanee classrooms. He urged University faculty and staff to promote “freedom of thought and expression, to embrace the challenges of our time, and to be exemplars of civil discourse, even with views we doubt or oppose.” He identified Sewanee as a “place of the heart,” and remarked on the “heart and soul commitment students make to one another for a common cause.”

He then reflected on the unique place that is Sewanee, “our extraordinary beautiful, gothic village set within thirteen-thousand acres of forested laboratory playground and sanctuary we call the Domain,” or the Mountain.  On this domain, he said, we have the sacred opportunity to raise up the next generation of “informed, passionate citizen leaders that this world so desperately needs.”

Pearigen closed his address by embracing and giving thanks for the opportunity to “take this sacred task” as the eighteenth vice-chancellor of his alma mater. “To be a servant, leading the University forward to a new frontier, enriched by the old, and excited about the boundless potential of the new of our future.”

Photo courtesy of Beylie Ivanhoe

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