Doing Something Good for Sewanee

A $1 million gift from a leading figure in the Diocese of Tennessee has provided momentum for the School of Theology’s move back to central campus. “I am friends with the dean, Neil Alexander, and when I met recently with the vice-chancellor, I was impressed with his sense of balance and integrity, and his interest in the School of Theology,” says Fred Dettwiller. “My conversation with them really energized me to do something good for Sewanee.”

Dettwiller is a second-career churchman, having spent much of his working life as a business person, owner of DET Distributing, a Nashville-based beverage distributor. At age 70, he was called to ordained ministry following a conversation with the bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee at the time, the Rt. Rev. Bertram Herlong, T’59, H’93, P’81.

Dettwiller was ordained through a process laid out by Canon IX of The Episcopal Church, which allows a candidate to “read for Holy orders,” under the supervision of a committee of priests. Just as the process was about to be finished the Church eliminated Canon IX, but this distinguished grandfather was grandfathered in. Today he is canon for special projects, assisting the Rt. Rev. John Bauerschmidt. Dettwiller served on the search committee for the call of Bauerschmidt and, as is customary, tendered his resignation, which was refused. “Later on, I put my resignation in writing, and he was about to tear it up. I told him he should hang on to it in case he needed it. I’m now 85 and I still have enthusiasm for the work and think I will keep serving the Church until I die.”