Reserve Now for Lessons & Carols

For more than 50 years, people have been coming to the University of the South campus to attend the Festival of Lessons and Carols. The 54th Annual Festival of Lessons and Carols will take place at 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, and at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8, in All Saints’ Chapel. The service is based on one that has been sung annually since 1918 at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England.
The University is making an effort to improve the experience for everyone who attends Lesson and Carols. This year, guests are encouraged to reserve seats for their preferred service. It is hoped that this process will eliminate the need for guests to wait outside the chapel before the service begins.


More information and links to reserve tickets for the services may be found at <life.sewanee.edu/believe/festival-of-lessons-and-carols>. The online ticket reservation site went live on Aug. 20. Based on previous years’ experience, each service is expected to be filled close to capacity.

Sewanee Dog Park Dream Is Now a Reality

After years of planning, fund-raising and organizing, the Sewanee Dog Park is now open to the public, humans and dogs. The grand opening will occur some time in the early fall. 
Located adjacent to Lake Cheston, off of Breakfield Road, the Dog Park is a .8-acre area that is set aside for dogs to run freely and play. There are two segments in the park: one for dogs under 20 pounds and elderly dogs, and a more spacious area for larger dogs.

Phil White, a Sewanee Community Council member who has spearheaded this project, said he is very pleased with the final result.

“In the two days the Dog Park has been open, I have already met three very nice people I probably would not have had the chance to get to know,” White said. “Things can only get better for Sewanee when more community members become acquainted with one another and share ideas. And the dog park is a natural place for that to happen.”

Anyone is free to use the park at any time. Pet owners must use poop bags from the dispenser to pick up after their dogs. The rules for the park are clearly posted at the location.

When White was mowing the large lot on Aug. 19, some patrons were running their dogs in the small-dog area. 

“When I stopped mowing, they praised the construction and appearance of the park very highly. They found the materials blending in beautifully with the setting, and thought that the location is excellent,” he said.


There is still work to be done to complete the effort, White said. Grass will be planted later, and a rain shelter for pet owners and other additions to the park are planned. 

“Thanks again to everyone who has donated time and money to this much needed addition to the campus, and thanks to all the University officials who granted the space and spent so much time and money clearing and running the water lines,” White said. He also thanked Kay Rhodes, Tim and Mesha Provo, Caroline Shoemaker, Carolyn and Richard O’Connor, Marney Babbit, John Vineyard and Nate Wilson.

The exercise ramp donated by the Girl Scouts will be completed soon, and Eagle Scout candidate Mack Lindau will be building an attractive kiosk for announcements.

Because of the generosity of donations from community members, White said, “The park is built out of such high quality materials that it should outlast our children and probably our grandchildren with minimum maintenance.”

In his initial proposal to the Community Council about the park, White said, “Regular dog park visitors report that in parks their dogs become socialized—learn how to behave around strangers and other dogs. They often report that after a few visits to a dog park, their dogs no longer bark at every dog that passes their house.”

Sewanee Welcomes Record-Size College Class of 2017

The College Class of 2017—expected to be 494 young people—will be on campus by Saturday, Aug. 24, for the official start of orientation. About 130 of them arrived on campus on Aug. 21, for the PRE-Orientation Outing Program, joining the 105 freshmen who participated in the Finding Your Place program.

Orientation will acquaint all new students with the school’s programs, services and faculty and staff, and help make the transition to Sewanee easier. It will conclude with a 4 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 27 event in All Saints’ Chapel for the entire campus community to “launch the new year,” with remarks from Vice-Chancellor John McCardell and student leaders. College classes begin Aug. 28.

The Class of 2017 includes 10 students with dual citizenship, 73 first-generation college students, and almost 400 from outside Tennessee. Eighteen of the incoming students are already familiar with campus because they have participated in the Sewanee Environmental Institute, the Bridge Program, or the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference.


The new class represents a variety of interests and accomplishments including a student who has already published journal articles on herpetology; a beekeeper; traditional Scottish, Korean and Irish dancers; talented artists; a long-distance kayaker; an environmental award winner; and students who have taught and volunteered around the world.

New College Students Finding Their Place

“Finding Your Place,” a new program offered to incoming freshmen, is in full swing on campus and in the surrounding areas. The program comprises both a full-credit course, “Discovering a Sense of Place—Upon and Beyond the Domain” and co-curricular activities led by the Office of Student Life. With goals of enhancing the first-year experience and helping students feel at home at Sewanee more quickly, it is a rigorous program of academic, social and geographical exploration led by seven faculty members.

The course offers 106 new students the opportunity for amazing Sewanee experiences earlier in their college careers than usual. In their first week on campus, these students might walk a cemetery with religion professor Gerald Smith, visit the Highlander Folk School with philosophy professor Jim Peterman, walk the Mountain Goat trail with biologist Deb McGrath or hike Shakerag Hollow with geologist Bran Potter. They have met the merchants of downtown Sewanee and will engage in community service with MountainTOP Ministries.

In a story about the program on its website, Inside Higher Ed described Sewanee’s Finding Your Place program as “the next generation” of first-year programs. “While some colleges are trying to integrate their various seminars, orientations and bridge programs, Sewanee’s seems to be an ‘intentional evolution’ of the first-year experience,” said Jennifer R. Keup, director of the University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Sewanee admissions counselor Josh King said, “This is not about college readiness, at least not in the traditional sense. It is piecemeal of what you would find at other first-year programs, but when you combine that with the sense of place, you can really understand how community works.”

The coursework in Discovering a Sense of Place will require the skills of reflective writing, close reading and synthetic thinking. The sections are “Your Place, or Mine? The Tension of Place in Narrative and Storytelling” taught by English professor Virginia Craighill; “Here and There, Now and Then” with classics professor Chris McDonough; “The Mountain Goat Trail: A Journey in Community Health,” Deb McGrath; “Honor and Justice,” Peterman; “Walking in Place,” Potter; “The Seen and the Unseen: Maps, Memory, and Our Common Life in Sewanee,” Smith; and “A Landscape for Memory,” historian John Willis.

Craighill described it this way:“They’re both understanding their landscape—where they are— but also understanding where they are in the world, what their place is here in the community of Sewanee and then understanding at a deeper level what this place has been in history.


 “We’re hoping that they get to see a subject matter—such as a place—through all of those lenses so that they understand there is more than one way of looking at that place, and through that broad perspective that they’ll approach their academics,” she said. All of these experiences will help students find their own places as well as their places in the community of Sewanee and of other communities in the future.

The Culprits Return to Perform in Sewanee Aug. 23

The Culprits are back from adventures around the globe and ready to play for a hometown audience at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 23, in Angel Park in downtown Sewanee.

“We are super excited to be back in our hometown of Sewanee!” said band member Zach Blount. “We hope to see everyone out, as this will be our first show in America in over a year.” University Avenue will be closed for the event, and local restaurants will have food and beverages for sale.

The Culprits offer a retro-indie-Brit-pop sound. The band’s members all grew up in Sewanee and graduated from St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. Nick Evans is a rising senior at Davidson College and is just returning from a year abroad in Germany and a solo tour through several European capitals. Zach Blount is a rising sophomore at Davidson. Will Evans is a rising sophomore at the University of Virginia. 


In April 2013 the band released their first album, “Alive Enough,” produced by John Keane (who has worked with the bands R.E.M. and Widespread Panic). They had previously released two EPs. The Culprits have played concerts, parties and festivals in Tennessee, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Franklin Co. Schools Cited as “Needs Improvement”

by K.G. Beavers, Messenger Staff Writer


The Tennessee Department of Education released district-level accountability statuses on Aug. 6, based on results from the standardized testing. Franklin County has been designated as a district that is “in need of subgroup improvement” in three areas: a students, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students.


School districts in Tennessee are held accountable on achievement and gap-closure between subgroups. According to the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), districts in need of subgroup improvement may have successfully attained their goals in achievement, gap closure or even both, while experiencing declines among particular groups of students. Ninety-six districts in the state were designated as in need of subgroup improvement. 

Districts can be designated by TDOE as exemplary for raising proficiency levels, narrowing achievement gaps and seeing growth within the subgroups. Five districts in the state achieved exemplary status for 2013–14.

Districts can have an intermediate status if they meet achievement goals but not gap closure, or met gap closure but not achievement. Thirty-two districts in the state were identified as intermediate.

Districts that do not meet their targets in achievement and gap closure are in need of improvement. Three districts were designated as in need of improvement, including Franklin County.

There are specific annual measurement objectives (AMOs) to achieve on testing each year because of the waiver Tennessee received from the federal No Child Left Behind. These AMOs include achievement benchmarks to be reached in third-grade math and reading/language arts, seventh-grade math and reading/language arts, and third- through eighth-grade aggregate scores in math and reading/language arts. Franklin County met its achievement goals except for grades 3–8 in both math and reading/language arts.

There are also specific benchmarks to reach in Algebra I, Algebra II, English II and English III. Franklin County declined in English II and English III. 

Achievement gaps between subgroups should also lessen in grades 3–8 math and in grades 3–8 reading/language arts, Algebra I and II, and English II and III.

Franklin County as a district closed the gap and met its black/Hispanic/native American (BHN) subgroup gap in all areas except for English III. For the economically disadvantaged (ED) subgroup, the gap was not closed in Algebra I or English II. 

As a district, Franklin County did not meet its ED subgroup target. For students with disabilities (SWD), the gap was closed in English II, English III and reading/language arts 3–8 aggregate. Franklin County met it SWD target in English II and English III.

For subgroup improvement, Franklin County improved for the white student subgroup in Algebra I and Algebra II. It declined in English II, English III, math in grades 3–8 and reading/language arts in grades 3–8. 

For ED students, Franklin County improved in Algebra I and Algebra II, but declined in the rest. For SWD, Franklin County improved in English II and English III, but declined in grades 3–8 math and grades 3–8 reading/language arts.

Those districts categorized as intermediate, need of improvement or in need of subgroup improvement have to have a strategic plan in place with TDOE by November. These plans include key strategies to achieve goals, implementation and desired outcomes.

For more information go to < www.tn.gov/education/>.

Sewanee Community Chest Requests Due Sept. 13

The Sewanee Community Chest Fund Drive is gearing up for its fall campaign. Sponsored by the Sewanee Civic Association, the Community Chest raises funds for local organizations. Funding applications are now being accepted. The deadline for submission is Friday, Sept. 13.

Each year the Community Chest raises funds for organizations that serve the common good. Sponsored by the Sewanee Civic Association, the Sewanee Community Chest supports youth sports, outreach, community and educational programs across the Plateau.

 Please send an email to <sewaneecom​munitychest@gmail.com> to have an application emailed or mailed to your organization. 

Through the generous commitment of the community last year, the Community Chest was able to help 25 organizations with funding. 


Donations to the Community Chest are accepted at any time at P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375.

Learn More about New Timebank on Plateau

South Cumberland Plateau Timebank (SCPT) is hosting a summer open house and information session, 4–6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Blue House, 400 University Ave. There will be games and refreshments. 

In November, Folks at Home in Sewanee received a grant from the Community Fund of the South Cumberland Plateau to establish a timebank. 

The vision of the SCPT is “to promote cohesive communities across the South Cumberland Plateau where people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities interact with each other on an equal footing and with mutual respect and understanding. Timebanks value people, their contributions and encourage connections with communities and neighborhoods.” 

“A timebank is a community of members who share resources in exchange for an alternative currency called time dollars,” said Susan Holmes, director of SCPT. “Everyone has something to give. Every hour is equal. Everyone benefits from the inherent gifts of giving and receiving.”

Holmes offered a number of reasons to join SCPT: to share skills and learn from the expertise of others; to give back to the community; to tap into a network of resourceful people; to get help for a project you might not be able to afford; and to expand your circle of friends and acquaintances.

“It does not matter what your age, education or skill set is. Your hour is worth the same as another. Everyone’s time is valued equally,” Holmes said. 

“We have the potential to change the way we work and help. Everyone has something they can offer,” said Holmes. “This is a way to grow a volunteer base for all organizations in the community.” 


For more information contact Holmes via email, <plateautimebank@gmail.com>, or call 598-0303 or (423) 280-1480.

SES Open House Tuesday


Sewanee Elementary School and the SES Parent-Teacher Organization will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the newly renovated school at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 20. The event will be followed by an open house that will include tours of the building and grounds, opportunities to meet the teachers and staff, learn more about the PTO and see what’s new for the 2013–14 school year. There will also be refreshments.

St. Mary’s Sewanee Names Runkle its New Executive Director

St. Mary’s Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development announced on Aug. 6 that the Rev. John Runkle has accepted the board of trustees’ call to become the center’s third executive director. 

Runkle takes over following a very successful period in the life of St. Mary’s Sewanee, including increased and expanded programming, the completion of Phase I of the View and Vision Campaign, a new lodging facility and the McRae Meeting Room, vast growth in the Annual Fund, and more. St. Mary’s Sewanee has also recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. 

“After several weeks of careful consideration and many conversations, the board of St. Mary’s Sewanee is delighted to welcome John back to the Mountain during this exciting transitional time for the center,” said Dale Grimes, board president.

As an Episcopal priest, he has served a number of parishes in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee since being ordained in 1999. Most recently, Runkle has served on the staff of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Va. A licensed architect, Runkle has also served as the Canon for Architecture and the Arts in the Diocese of Washington. From 2005 to 2010, Runkle served as the  cathedral conservator at Washington National Cathedral.

A prolific writer, Runkle’s book, “Searching for Sacred Space: Essays on Architecture and Liturgical Design in the Episcopal Church”is a collection of thought-provoking essays that focus on liturgical space and its proper support of common worship. 

A popular speaker at lectures, conferences and retreats, he also teaches at Virginia Theological Seminary and Wesley Theological Seminary on the theology of sacred space and history of religious architecture. Runkle is a licensed presenter with Contemplative Outreach and has served on the staff of four Centering Prayer retreats at St. Mary’s Sewanee.

Runkle is a 1999 graduate of the School of Theology at the University of the South. He also earned degrees at the University of Tennessee and Mary Baldwin College. He and his wife, Harriet, a schoolteacher, have one grown son. They enjoy hiking and art. 

“St. Mary’s Sewanee has been instrumental in the spiritual lives of numerous people. For me, it’s bedrock—the prayerful retreats, lasting relationships and the beauty of this place have shaped me to be who I am,” Runkle said. “Truly, it’s a privilege to be called back to serve here and help build on the ministries and traditions of this sacred place.” 


He will begin his duties on August 26. For more information about St. Mary’s Sewanee and its programs, visit <www.stmaryssewanee.org>.

Youth Soccer Deadline Aug. 10

Sewanee Youth Soccer has merged with the Franklin County Soccer Association. To play soccer this fall, children must sign-up with the Franklin County Soccer Association by Saturday, Aug. 10. Indicate you wish to play on a Sewanee team by writing “Sewanee” on the registration form. The registration fee is $55 per child.

Registration forms with instructions can be picked up at the Blue Chair in Sewanee, or register online at <www.fcsoccer.org>. 

Children in the under-6 and under-8 age groups will both practice and play in Sewanee. 

Children in the under-10 and under-12 divisions will practice in Sewanee and play most games in Winchester. 

There is no need for Sewanee players to attend the evaluation mentioned on the flyer. Coaches and other volunteers are needed. 


For more information, email Ty Burnette at <burnette@blomand.net>.

Morris Leaving for Call in Texas

St. Mary’s Sewanee Executive Director Thomas Morris has recently accepted a call to become the next chaplain at All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler, Texas. 

“We are sad to see Thomas go, but we’re excited for him, Hadley, and Jack. Thomas has had a huge impact on St. Mary’s Sewanee’s programs and management over the last five years. We are grateful,” said Dale Grimes, board president.


During Morris’s five years at St. Mary’s Sewanee, the center has advanced tremendously. Programming has strengthened and expanded, Phase I of the View and Vision Campaign was completed, the new lodging facility and the McRae Meeting Room were completed, and the Annual Fund has more than doubled. Thomas also provided strong leadership during the center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, including a record-breaking year of fund raising and the successful completion of the 25 for 25 Challenge.
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