The School of Theology. Sewanee: The University of the South

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2012 Founders’ Day Convocation

2012 Founders’ Day Convocation Highlights Service to the Church

The University of the South celebrated Founders’ Day with a convocation and the awarding of honorary degrees on Oct. 9 at the campus’ All Saints’ Chapel. Honorary degrees awarded during this convocation had a theme of service to the broad Episcopal Church. The University conferred upon Christopher Bryan, C. K. Benedict Professor of New Testament at Sewanee’s School of Theology, an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, and upon W. Brown Patterson, C’52, Francis S. Houghteling Professor of History emeritus, an honorary Doctor of Letters, and upon Jenny McConnachie, one of the longest-serving Episcopal missionaries in the Church’s history, an honorary Doctor of Canon Law.

Jenny McConnachie gave the convocation address. She recounted her story of how she and her husband, Chris, became missioners in South Africa. After numerous trips back and forth from the U.S. to Umtata, Eastern Cape, South Africa, they finally settled permanently and served at the Bedford Orthopaedic Hospital and the African Medical Mission, which she started with support from U.S. churches. The Episcopal Church took them on as missionaries after the family funds became perilously low. She credited the Church as providing both the financial and spiritual support that made it possible for them to stay in Africa. McConnachie mentioned several Sewanee student and faculty volunteers that had helped in South Africa over the years, a testament to the University’s commitment to service. She closed by urging the students to follow their dreams, wherever they might lead, and to try to not be “too sensible.”

Two faculty chair positions were announced for The School of Theology. The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander was made the Charles T. Quintard Professor of Dogmatic Theology, previously held by the Very Rev. William Stafford, dean emeritus. The Rev. Dr. James Turrell was made the Norma and Olan Mills Professor of Divinity, previously held by the Rev. Dr. Robert D. Hughes III, retired professor of systematic theology.

Honorary Degree Recipient Bios

Christopher Bryan is the C. K. Benedict Professor of New Testament at Sewanee’s School of Theology.  A native of London, Bryan attended Wadham College, Oxford, graduating in the Honour Schools of both Theology and English Language and Literature, and coming under the influence of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.  After studies at Ripon Hall Theological, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1961.  Bryan began his career as a tutor and then vice principal at Salisbury Theological College.  Before coming to Sewanee in 1983, he taught New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary, and was associate director of the Center for Continuing Education.  Here, Bryan has held the positions of professor of New Testament, interim chaplain, priest associate, and editor of the Sewanee Theological Review.  His scholarly books cover topics including the gospel of Mark, St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and the resurrection of Jesus.

The careers of doctor-nurse team Chris and Jenny McConnachie took them from London to Canada, to South Africa and to North Carolina, where they settled and began raising a family.  In 1981, the McConnachie family — now with five children — returned to South Africa for what became a lasting commitment.  They found an overwhelming demand for healthcare and other services, and in response started the African Medical Mission with support from U.S. churches. Jenny McConnachie launched a medical clinic for people living on the local garbage dump, a project that included a preschool, afterschool and nutrition programs, and other services.  The couple also adopted two African boys.  Jenny and Chris McConnachie have received honors including being named officers of the Order of the British Empire, and receiving the highest lay honor given by the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.  Jenny McConnachie is recognized as one of the longest-serving Episcopal missionaries.

W. Brown Patterson, C’52, is the Francis S. Houghteling Professor of History Emeritus and a former Dean of the College at Sewanee.  A prolific scholar, Patterson’s books include a definitive history of teaching at the University of the South, The Liberal Arts at Sewanee, and a history of the reign of King James VI and I of Scotland and England.  Patterson was the ninth Sewanee student to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.  He earned a second bachelor’s degree from Oxford University, master’s degrees from Oxford, Harvard University, and the Episcopal Divinity School, and a doctorate from Harvard.  He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1959.  Patterson taught history and humanities at Davidson College before returning to Sewanee as Dean and Professor of History in 1980.  As Dean he oversaw a curriculum review that resulted in strengthened academic programs and the institution of a new Humanities program.  He was named a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1999.