From Our Dean

Sewanee is more than just a place.

Grace to you and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord!

“Sewanee is ... ” It is amazing how many different ways one might finish that sentence. Sewanee is beautiful. Sewanee is foggy. Sewanee is magical. Sewanee is small. Sewanee is southern. Sewanee is more than a place. Sewanee is an idea. Sewanee is demanding. Sewanee is caring. Sewanee is stimulating. Sewanee is unique. Sewanee is home.

And, of course, this tells only a small part of the story. When folks who have never been to Sewanee talk with me about it, they assume that we are remote, isolated, and not “the real world.” Nothing could be further from the truth. “Come visit,” I’ll say. “Then you will see the real Sewanee.” It is true we are on the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau and that may give the casual observer an impression of isolation. Not so. We’re within a short drive of major cities such as Nashville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville. And just a bit more will take you to Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham, and Knoxville. And that’s just a start. Why enjoy one place when you can explore a whole list of possibilities, each with their own character?

Sewanee is very much the real world. People are born here. People die here. People get sick here. People get well and heal here. People fall in love here. People break-up here. People find themselves here. People lose their moorings here. People discover their passions here. People meet life’s challenges here. Sounds like the real world to me.

Sewanee is a place. The 13,000 acres of the university’s Domain are a gift to those who love to hike and climb, get wet under a waterfall, or take a dip in one of our lakes. But it is also a great place simply to “get away,” soak in the quiet, and renew one’s spirit from the inside out. When one gets to know Sewanee, one discovers that “the gift of place” is one of the best reasons to be here.

Sewanee is also its people. Students. Faculty. Staff. Residents. Sewanee is made up of folks who just arrived yesterday, but also of folks who were born here and have lived here for a lifetime. Lots of us in Sewanee were born elsewhere, found our way here by many and varied paths, and hope never to leave. When life calls us away, as it often does, we find ourselves tethered to Sewanee and return as often as we can.

But let’s not forget, at the heart of this extraordinary place filled with amazing people is a church-related university comprised of an outstanding College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a School of Theology as fine as there is. At Sewanee, we’re about teaching and learning. We’re about research and scholarship. We are about spiritual formation and practical skills for the work before us. We’re about those things that are critical in the first half of the 21st century while honoring the diverse Episcopal heritage that continues to shape us every day.

We hope you will discover a clearer sense of our uniqueness and something of what makes us the people and place we are. It’s never been our hope to be like another School. We learn from other schools just as they learn from us, but being more like them has never been our goal. Instead, we strive every single day to be a stronger, truer, more faithful version of ourselves.

Ecce quam bonum!

J. Neil Alexander
Dean of the School of Theology