May 13, 2008

The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, concluded its yearlong sesquicentennial celebration with commencement and baccalaureate ceremonies for 40 School of Theology seminarians and 346 students from the College of Arts and Sciences. The ceremonies were highlighted by addresses from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond M. Tutu.

A video of the Presiding Bishop's address is available here. A video of Tutu's sermon is available here.

Commencement weekend opened May 9 at 10 a.m. in All Saints' Chapel with the School of Theology's service of commencement, Holy Eucharist, and presentation of St. Luke's Crosses. Tutu preached and honorary degrees were awarded to the Rev. Canon James G. Callaway, deputy for grants and outreach at Parish of Trinity Church, New York City, and a 1966 Sewanee graduate; the Rev. Dr. Marion J. Hatchett, professor emeritus of liturgics and church music and the former C.K. Benedict professor of pastoral theology at the School of Theology; and the Rt. Rev. Dabney T. Smith, fifth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida.

Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in abolishing apartheid in South Africa, urged the graduates to become partners and collaborators in serving the oppressed and marginalized. Tutu was making his second visit to Sewanee since receiving an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1988, and he held the packed crowd in thrall as he delivered his sermon.

Jefferts Schori served as concelebrant with Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley Jr., university chancellor. Dr. Joel Cunningham, university vice chancellor and president, and the Very Rev. Dr. William S. Stafford, dean of the School of Theology, presented the diplomas.

At the baccalaureate service on Saturday, May 10, Jefferts Schori invoked the epistle lesson for the day and told a packed crowd of university graduates and their families, faculty, staff and special guests in All Saints' Chapel that "provocation is the reason you came here...provocation that invokes love and good deeds." The Presiding Bishop quoted from the Letter to the Hebrews and urged the graduates to cultivate "undefended hearts" that are open to others and to the needs of the world as a way of taking leadership roles.

Her remarks followed the reading of the first part of a five-part poem, "Sewanee When We Were Young," by noted poet Richard Tillinghast of the Class of 1962, who received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the service. Jefferts Schori received an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

Following the service, the congregation filed onto the academic quadrangle between All Saints' and Walsh-Ellet Hall to join in the dedication of the Sesquicentennial Elm, planted in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Sewanee's founding.