​Historic County Commission Vote Approves Middle Schools

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 15 meeting, in a historic 14 to 2 vote, the Franklin County Commission overwhelming approved allocating $48 million for the construction of two new middle schools.
“It’s a great night for Franklin County,” said District 5, Seat A commissioner Johnny Hughes. “I’m so proud of my fellow commissioners who voted for it. The kids and the parents are the winners tonight, the future.”
More than three years ago, the school board authorized the capital building planning committee to engage an architectural engineering firm for advice on renovating the middle schools. Long debate followed with public opinion and the board ultimately favoring building over renovation, and two schools over a single large consolidated school.
In July of 2018, the county commission allocated $1.8 million for drawing up design plans, but uncertainty about whether the commission would allocate the funding for construction left the project in jeopardy.
Chief among problems at the 52-year old middle schools are chronic roof leaks, resulting from the flawed design of those buildings.
Echoing the sentiments of other commissioners, District 4, Seat B commissioner Chuck Stines said, “The problem started in 1968. It’s not the fault of any commissioner here or any school board member and not the fault of the officials who authorized the construction of the buildings in 1968. They didn’t intend to leave us a problem. We’ve kicked the can down the road for 51 years. We need to decide. There will be a property tax increase. Will we be the commission that does the right thing, or will we sit here and bang our heads against the wall?”
District 4, Seat A commissioner Greg King pointed out repairing the leaking roofs on the schools would cost $5 million each. King acknowledged operation costs would be less for one school, but stressed the delay and expense in drawing up a new design “would eat up the savings.” King also expressed concern the delay might result in a lawsuit or court ordered closing of the schools, which are infested with mold.
King also recommended “holding the line on the county budget spending, including raises until the new high school is paid off to minimize the property tax rate hike.”
Five commissioners spoke preliminary to the vote. All advocated authorizing $48 million for construction of two new schools.
Following comment by the commissioners, Commission Chair and County Mayor David Alexander asked, “Are there any tax payers that want to speak?”
Nearly every seat in the courtroom was filled. No one came forward.
Following the vote, the audience rose in a standing ovation.
“I think it’s significant that in a packed room, there was not a single person who came up to speak against it,” said District 5 School Board Representative Adam Tucker.
“It’s been a team effort,” said Director of Schools Stanley Bean. “The school board has been solid in support of the project. If not, the county commission wouldn’t have confidence in us. That’s what made the difference, everyone sticking together.”

​Why Two Middle Schools, Why Now

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The Thursday before the Jan. 15 County Commission vote on funding for two new middle schools, South Middle School (SMS) Assistant Principal Holly Eslick met with community members at Sewanee Elementary to talk about why a “yes” vote was so desperately needed. The Sewanee Parents Organization sponsored the event.
Leaking roofs top the problem list at the 52-year-old schools, Eslick said. Lacking sufficient receptacles to catch the water, teachers and administrators take up mops. The students shrug and say, "We’re used to it."
Thousands of dollars spent on the roofs have failed to eliminate the problem, which results from obstructed drains at the expansion joints between the pods, Eslick explained. Correcting the problem would require “ripping out everything,” and the problem would recur since the root cause is the connected-pod design.
Mold proliferates inside the schools. “Just looking at it makes your lungs hurt,” Eslick conceded expressing special concern for “fragile” special needs students. Two SMS teachers have been diagnosed with chronic pulmonary lung disease according to special education teacher Ruth Jordan.
The school system has spent $1.3 million on routine maintenance at the schools since 2009. Replacement and repair parts for the 1960s heating and air conditioning units are no longer available. The gyms have no air conditioning.
The schools have an excessive number of entrance doors—40 at SMS—creating a security risk by making it easy for outsiders to infiltrate the schools. In the design for the new schools, classrooms can only be accessed from within the building and a sprinkler system eliminates the need for fire escape doors.
Attempting to meet 21st century computer age standards, exposed wires run along the ceilings and teachers string together extension cords resulting in citation by the fire marshal.
There are no rooms for art instruction, technology labs, and individual musical instrument practice, and no rooms for ESL and speech therapy classes.
Currently only SMS offers Comprehensive Development Classes forcing many special needs students to travel long distances to attend school.
Excessively long travel would become the norm for far more students if the county addressed the middle school crisis by building a single middle school, County Commissioner Johnny Hughes stressed. “It’s a big county.”
“We already have kids that are exhausted by the time they get to school,” Eslick agreed.
Hughes argued parents’ increased transportation costs in a one school scenario could exceed the small property tax increase they’ll pay in a two-schools scenario—$27 on a $100,000 home.
Speaking in favor of the smaller school environment, Eslick said, “We’re people to the kids, not just a figure or a title. Kids are comfortable talking with us.”
Hughes pointed out that smaller schools also offered more opportunities for students to participate in activities like team sports and band where limited spots were available.
Acknowledging that maintaining one school would cost less, District 5, Seat B County Commissioner Helen Stapleton asked, “Are we going to do it the cheapest way or do what’s best for our kids?”
“We can’t afford to wait,” Eslick said. “The cost of construction will increase, and we’ll end up putting band-aids on band-aids just to survive the next couple years.”

​School Board Approves Sherwood Property Deed Change

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 14 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved amending the deed that granted the Sherwood community use of the old elementary school site for a community center. The school board also authorized use of $100,000 in budgeted funds to begin construction of a bus garage.
In December, Don Spanos, plant manager at Lhoist, a Sherwood crushed stone manufacturer, addressed the board about Lhoist taking the lead in refurbishing or rebuilding the Crow Creek Community Center located at the former Sherwood Elementary School site. The building’s leaking roof made it unsuitable for community use. The deed stipulates the Sherwood community can use the property only for a community center and if the community failed to properly maintain the site Franklin County Schools could take the property back.
Lhoist’s attorneys recommended removing the paragraph about revoking permission to use the property if the site wasn’t properly maintained.
“That could mean something minor as the grass not being mowed after we spent a lot of money fixing it up,” Spanos speculated. But Spanos acknowledged, “I’m not that concerned about the school board taking it back. If we don’t get the change in the deed, that won’t stop me. I want to get the building usable for the community.”
Thirty Sherwood area residents attended a Dec. 18 meeting to discuss the community center’s future. Opinion leaned toward tearing the building down and using the foundation for a new structure, Spanos said.
“The community center board voted six to zero in favor of tearing the building down,” said District 5, Seat A commissioner Johnny Hughes, who represents the Sherwood area.
The school board agreed to the deed revision, and authorized Director of Schools Stanley Bean to sign the document so the project could move forward.
“We want to get moving on it as soon as the weather improves,” Spanos said.
The board also approved Transportation Director Mark Montoye’s request to begin construction of a bus garage with the $100,000 allocated for that purpose in the 2018-2019 budget. Montoye estimated the total cost at $200,000-$250,000.
“Having a bus garage will save us money in the long run,” Montoye said. “We have to sub out our oil changes and all our mechanic work.”
The 5,600-square-foot prefab metal building will have two bays and be located on the old Franklin County High School lot.
By “doing the work ourselves” rather than hiring a contractor, Montoye projected the school system would save $50,000 or more.
Updating the board on the proposed new middle schools, Bean said he recently consulted with school principals about furnishing the STEM labs, bus traffic, and location of security cameras.
Addressing a question about security at the new schools, construction manager Gary Clardy said, “All the main doors will allow access only by entry card or FOB, no keys. There will be plenty of security cameras. The courtyards will be boxed off, and you’ll only be able to access the main part of the school by coming through the office. There are no classroom doors to the outside, since the buildings are fully sprinkled for fire protection. The new schools will be far more secure than anything else you have in the county.”

​François Clemmons to Give Concert Jan. 20

François Clemmons, founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and a professionally trained operatic tenor, will present a concert at 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20, in Convocation Hall on the Sewanee campus. Clemmons is perhaps best known for the role of Officer Clemmons, a friendly neighborhood policeman, on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning children's television show “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.” He learned traditional spirituals from his mother, who sang as she worked around the house.

After earning a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University, Clemmons joined the company of the Metropolitan Opera Studio, playing more than 70 classical and opera roles around the world. Clemmons has performed his favorite role, Sportin’ Life in “Porgy and Bess,” more than 200 times, earning a Grammy award for his recording of the role. He founded the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble to showcase the spirituals he first learned as a child. It is dedicated to “preserving, sustaining and commissioning new and traditional arrangements of American Negro Spirituals for future generations.” Clemmons retired a few years ago as Artist in Residence at Middlebury College, and continues to perform regularly in America, Europe, and Asia.

​MLK Day Community Celebration

The 34th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Community Celebration will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 21, in Upper Cravens Hall, 435 Kentucky Ave. The program celebrates the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Everyone is invited to bring their favorite dish and join the annual community potluck dinner.

Vice Chancellor John McCardell will share opening remarks. Students will host the program and share poetry and dance. The School of  Theology Choir, under the direction of Kenneth Miller, will share musical selections. The Sewanee Praise Choir, under the direction of Music Professor Prakash Wright, will perform selections from their songbook.
François Clemmons, an African-American singer, actor, playwright and university lecturer, will attend the gathering. He has agreed to help lead us in song.
The evening is a great community celebration. Join us for good company, inspiring music, and nourishing food. Remember to bring your favorite dish.
The Sewanee Black Student Union, the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace, the School of Theology, the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs, and the Office of Student Life are the co-sponsors. The event is free, open, and everyone is invited.

​Rev. Hutton Retires from St. James


by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
After nearly 20 years at St. James Episcopal Church in Midway, Rev. Linda Hutton is retiring. At the beginning of January, former director of St. Mary’s Sewanee, the Rev. John Runkle assumed the role of part-time vicar.
Hutton, who has been in ministry for 43 years, said she started at St. James when she was in seminary in 1996. After five years, she became priest-in-charge.
“St. James has just been awesome. For a little over a month, they’ve been surprising me with gifts. They gave me a beautiful Amish quilt design and a couple rocking chairs that everyone had written messages on. I’ll still be active in the Midway community — we definitely don’t plan to go anywhere. This is home, even though I’m the only member of my family that has left the west coast. I really love it here and the people. We have an awesome community,” she said.
Runkle said near the end of 2018, he was approached by the church’s search committee and asked about his interest in becoming the next part-time vicar.
“I was feeling that I wanted to get back involved in parish ministry more than I’d been in the last few years. It’s a small congregation that does a lot of good things in Midway and on the Mountain, and they’re a rock solid group of people. Linda has provided a strong foundation to keep that going, and she’s said she’s happy to help me with whatever I feel like I need help with. I look forward to joining in with them and continuing in the work they’ve been doing,” he said.
As for what’s next for Hutton, she will continue facilitating a caregivers group with Folks at Home. She also said she will keep busy with her horses and donkeys and in seeking new opportunities as a lifelong learner.
“It’s a whole new thing, I’m still kind of settling into, ‘Okay, so what do I do now?’ with not having deadlines,” she said. “I’ve been thinking back to Mr. Spock on Star Trek, who was always so concrete, but he’d still say there are always going to be possibilities. And for me, I’m always open to possibilities.”

​GAAC Sculpture Competition

The Grundy Area Arts Council (GAAC) and the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance (MGTA) are pleased to announce the Old Roundhouse Park & Mountain Goat Trail Sculpture Competition for 2019. The GAAC and the MGTA seek proposals for site specific sculpture from Tennessee and regional artists. The goal is to provide an opportunity for regional artists to create a public work and to enhance the trail with sculpture of exceptional quality and innovation.

The Mountain Goat Trail is a rail-to-trail community outdoor recreation project to convert an abandoned railroad right-of-way into a multi-use recreational corridor between Grundy and Franklin Counties on the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee.
The Mountain Goat Railroad was constructed in 1853, as a spur of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. It carried coal from the mines of the Mountain, beginning in Sewanee and then extending to Tracy City, Coalmont, Gruetli-Laager, and Palmer. It also functioned as a passenger railroad. The Mountain Goat was decommissioned in 1985. The Mountain Goat earned its name in part due to the climb up onto the Cumberland Plateau from Cowan. This was at the time the steepest slope in the world for a railroad line.
The location for the sculpture will be visible from the Mountain Goat Trail in the newly developing Old Roundhouse Park. The 2019 approved site will be central to the proposed completed trail. Works can be in any media, must be suitable for outdoors, must be “sit-able” and should be permanent. Entries should incorporate elements of the story and culture of the Mountain Goat and the Plateau region it served. The selected work will be announced in March 2019 and the finished work will be celebrated in June 2019.

This project is made possible with an Arts Builds Community Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. Proposals are due Feb. 15. The full application can be found at https://www.mountaingoattrail.org/2019-sculpture-c...


For more information email grundyareaarts@gmail.com


​St. Olaf Choir to Perform at All Saints’ Chapel


For more than a century, the world-renowned St. Olaf Choir has set a gold standard for choral singing, and the ensemble’s 75 singers and conductor Anton Armstrong will travel from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Miami, Fla., during their 13-city 2019 Winter Tour. The St. Olaf Choir’s National Winter Tour includes a concert at All Saints’ Chapel in Sewanee, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.
General admission tickets, priced at $30 for adults and $10 for students, are available at <stolaf.edu/tickets> or by calling 800-363-5487 (a $5 transaction fee will be added to all phone orders).
Over the span of 99 years, touring has played an important role in the life of the St. Olaf Choir, sharing its artistry and beauty of sound with audiences across the United States and around the world.
“Hearing the St. Olaf Choir in concert is more than just a musical experience,” says Anton Armstrong. “Our singers, performing at the highest artistic level, convey a message of hope. Our music provides a bridge to what can unite us at a time when the world is so divided.”
Armstrong said, “We often hear from concertgoers who tell us they are not only struck by the sound and uniformity of the St. Olaf Choir, but also by the earnestness of what comes through the voices of our young singers. The St. Olaf Choir performs at the highest artistic level, focusing on body, mind, spirit and voice. Our singers touch the hearts and souls of listeners, and our audiences leave transformed.”
Founded 107 years ago by F. Melius Christiansen at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., the St. Olaf Choir is internationally recognized as a creative force behind America’s a cappella choral tradition.
Now in his 29th year as conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, Armstrong is only the fourth conductor in the ensemble’s history, beginning his tenure in 1990. In addition to his role as a professor of music at St. Olaf College, he is in demand in the international choral scene as a guest conductor and lecturer.
Joining the St. Olaf Choir and Armstrong on their tour is organist Catherine Rodland, whose playing has been described as “transcendent” (The American Organist). She is Artist in Residence at St. Olaf College. She is a prizewinner in several competitions including the 1994 and 1998 American Guild of Organists Young Artists Competition, the 1994 Calgary International Organ Competition, and the 1988 International Organ Competition at the University of Michigan for which she received first prize. She concertizes throughout the United States and Canada.

​Village Update: Housing Hot Topic


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Frank Gladu, who oversees implementation of the Sewanee Village Plan, opened the Jan. 8 update meeting inviting questions from those attending. The plan encompasses 45-acres in the downtown Sewanee vicinity. Housing, one of five priority projects, dominated much of the discussion.
“What will be available to nonemployees?” asked John Greeter, a former resident who hoped to move back to Sewanee.
Gladu said a request for proposals issued to developers specified “single and multi-family homes that can be sold, but there’s no decision yet on who can buy them.”
The decision fell to the University, Gladu said, but he speculated the developer-built residences would be offered first to employees and, if not purchased, offered to full-time residents. Although University policy stipulates only employees can build, Gladu cited the exception of Parson’s Green where a full-time resident can build, and a similar standard for lots recently released by the University. If unclaimed by employees by April 1, the recently released lots will be open for lease and building by full-time residents. Several of the lots are within the Village boundary.
“Aside from the just released lots, is there any provision in the Village for owner-developed lots where a resident could hire their own contractor?” asked Sewanee architect and resident Patton Watkins.
“We don’t have that situation currently,” Gladu said. “We’re trying to identify sites that could create more than one house. We’re looking for developers to build two, three, four, eight, 10 units on a site.”
“Is that what the market wants?” Watkins asked. “Usually market forces dictate inventory. There’s a man here who wants to build a house and can’t. It seems like the Village Plan isn’t addressing the current need.”
Gladu pointed to the Provost’s housing study group that recommended smaller, more affordable housing to meet employees’ needs and a market demand study that projected a need for 20-30 single-family units.
“Most people want a small bungalow, single-family detached home, but I think we should also pursue creating an inventory of townhouses and duplexes because it fits the affordability and makes other living spaces available,” said Gladu.
“A house that would cost $100,000 anywhere else costs $350,000 here,” observed Melissa Watkins, a Montealge resident with longtime Sewanee connections.
In his update on the other priority projects, Gladu said progress on the new bookstore was “lagging.”
“The hold up is selecting a contractor that can produce a building within the budget framework of the University,” Gladu said.
“This kind of thing happens all the time,” said architect and Sewanee resident Clayton Rogers. “You either change the design to fit the budget or increase the budget.”
Gladu agreed. “University Director of Design and Construction Sarah Boykin is in the process of revaluating the project.”
Addressing the proposal to narrow Highway 41A to calm traffic, Gladu said the recently completed Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) right-of-way plan called for narrowing the highway to two lanes between Kentucky Avenue and Kennerly Road with turn lanes in the middle. Gladu anticipates TDOT will host public meetings to provide more information.
In discussing the mixed-use specialty food market and apartment building proposed for the corner of Lake O’Donnell Road and Highway 41A, Gladu said the site had some water and fill issues and the cost of addressing these would fall to the developer.
Rogers speculated that would result in “high rent” for the apartment units.
“Could be,” Gladu said, “but right now Sewanee has no new apartment inventory.”
For the Tuesday, Feb. 5 village update, Gladu will host both 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. sessions.

​Highlander Folk School Restoration


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Restoration underway at one of Grundy County’s most important historical resources will soon make Highlander Folks School eligible for the National Registrar of Historic Places.
“Highlander Folk School is a ‘Who’s Who’ of civil rights movement leaders before they became legends,” said restoration project coordinator David Currey. Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Andrew Young, Diane Nash, and Martin Luther King Jr. all spent time at Highlander.
The question “Who is democracy for?” underscored Miles Horton’s founding the school in 1932. In the early days, Highlander focused on teaching local mountain people literacy and financial management skills and training them to unionize to lobby for better wages, job site safety, and a better standard of living. Highlander even offered a nursery school providing childcare while parents worked.
In 1954, Horton hired recent Highlander student Septima Clark to direct literacy workshops. The workshops expanded into citizenship training offered throughout the South. African-Americans not only learned the skills needed to pass literacy tests so they could vote.; they also learned about their rights as citizens.
Clark’s citizenship training evolved into Highlander’s focus on training for non-violent protest. In 1961, fearing the growing momentum of the Civil Rights movement, the state revoked Highlander’s charter, the first and only time in the state’s history a school’s charter has been revoked.
The state sold the property and buildings. The library, the primary structure, underwent significant alteration by subsequent owners. The alteration disqualified Highlander for recognition as a historic site.
A few years ago, Tennessee Preservation Trust (TPT) learned the property was again up for sale and decided to undertake the restoration challenge. Since 2013, TPT has acquired the library, several cabins, and most of the school property.
The library restoration requires removing an addition, replacing the roof, and reorienting entrance doors to their original 1950s location. The $1 million dollar project has attracted benefactors from Grundy County, Chattanooga and Nashville.
“We’re half way there,” Currey said. Major supporters include Carrington Montague and Greg Vital from Chattanooga, Nashville music industry icon Pam Lewis, and Grundy County’s Howell Adams.
The Gessell Trust funded by the estate of Sewanee social justice champion the Rev. Jack Gessell has assisted with financing property acquisition and removing the library addition.
Plans also call for cabin restoration, a walking trail, and a visitor and interpretive center. Currey estimates the final cost at $3-$4 million.
Other pro bono assistance has come from contractor Michael Lee who has significant preservation and restoration work experience. On three occasions Marine Corp and Army veterans have pitched in to help with clean up, erecting fences, and removing the library addition foundation.
When the state closed Highlander Folk School, the staff reincorporated as the Highlander Research and Education Center now located in New Market, Tenn. The Center has addressed health and safety in the coalfields of Appalachia, environmental issues, and the negative impact of globalization.
“By restoring Highlander Folk School we’re helping to save the Center’s history,” Currey said.
Highlander founder Horton consulted with social reformer Jane Addams and modeled his program after Addam’s work addressing the plight of the immigrant and poor population in the Chicago area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“Highlander is an important historical resource regardless of your politics,” Currey stressed. “Highlander reminds us of who we once were. We need to know who we were to know where we’re going.”
Donations can be made to Tennessee Preservation Trust, P.O. Box 24373, Nashville, TN 37202. Please note Highlander Restoration in the memo line. For more information, contact Curry at <historichighlander@tennesseepreservationtrust.org> or (615) 423-9249.
Curry will host a tour at 9 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 19. The Highlander Folk School site is located on 120 Old Highlander Ln., just off Highway 41 between Monteagle and Tracy City. A historical marker on Highway 41 assists visitors in finding the location.

​Grundy County Clothes Bank’s Housing Woes


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Three months ago, Grundy County Clothes Bank coordinator Ruth Alexander learned the clothes bank’s home and base of operations had been condemned.
“Everything had been running smoothly,” said Alexander, who, 13 years ago assumed responsibility for coordinating collection and distribution of the clothes and assorted housewares offered by the clothes bank.
For the last three months the clothes bank, officially Grundy County Clothes, has been closed.
To resolve the charity’s need for a building, the town of Tracy City agreed to let the clothes bank operate out of a house located behind the old Grundy County High School on property the city purchased from Grundy County. At the previous site, then owned by the county, the county paid the water and electric bills.
Alexander asked Tracy City for help paying utilities at the new site, but the city lacked funds to assist the charity.
Worse still, all the wiring had been stripped from the house the city offered to let the clothes bank use.
“We worked ourselves near to death scrubbing and painting,” said the 74-year-old Alexander. Alston Sanders donated his services rewiring the building. For the building to pass inspection, though, a volunteer is needed to install the breaker box recently donated to the charity.
Alexander and the two volunteers who assist her also need help moving the many racks of clothing and other items to the new site.
The clothes bank doesn’t screen clients. “We welcome everybody and anybody,” Alexander said. “We tell people ‘Take what you can use.’” But Alexander stressed, “It’s not for your yard sale,” scolding those who might consider reselling clothes bank offerings.
In addition to clothes, the charity distributes dishes, silverware, food, and even a few furniture items. Normal hours of operation are 8 a.m. to noon, Thursday and Friday.
Joyce Parsons assists Alexander with sorting and racking, and Bill Brooks helps with maintenance. Teen Challenge, a local youth group, distributes off-season clothes to individuals in need when the inventory exceeds the space available.
“We have a donation box,” Alexander said, “but we’re lucky if we get $10 a month. People begged me to get the clothes bank open again before Christmas.”
Alexander is a fighter who has survived breast cancer and lovingly welcomes the challenges of raising her five-year-old granddaughter. She’s offered to pay the clothes bank’s utilities bills herself to get the effort up and running again, but the unresolved electrical concerns need to be tackled first.
Grundy County Clothes could also benefit from help in addressing nonprofit status issues.
“We don’t have a bank account,” Alexander said. “We’re not a business. We’re just two old women and an old man giving back.”
In operation nearly 20 years, Grundy County Clothes wish list is for folks to step forward and help the charity get back on its feet. To offer time and skills to the big-hearted effort, contact Alexander at (931) 924-2484 or (423) 260-2656.

​Winter Convocation to Be Held Jan. 18

The University of the South’s Winter Convocation will be held at 4 p.m., Friday, Jan. 18, in All Saints’ Chapel. Honorary degrees will be presented and more than 100 new members will be inducted into the Order of the Gown. During the service, the Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving will be installed as chancellor of the University.

Ellen Lehman, the founding president of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, will give the Convocation address and will receive an honorary degree. Honorary degrees also will be conferred upon François Clemmons, a professionally trained operatic tenor and founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble; the Rt. Rev. Brian Cole, bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee; internationally acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon; and Alice Parker, a renowned composer, conductor and teacher.
The Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving, bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina, was elected the 25th chancellor of the University of the South on Oct. 12, 2018. He will be installed during the Convocation. A native of Ontario, Canada, Bishop Skirving was ordained and consecrated as East Carolina’s eighth bishop in 2014. He has been a member of Sewanee’s Board of Trustees since 2014 and of the Board of Regents since 2017.
Several special events around Convocation will feature some of the honorees.
François Clemmons is a professionally trained operatic tenor perhaps best known for the role of Officer Clemmons, a friendly police officer on the television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He learned traditional spirituals from his mother, who sang as she worked around the house. He played more than 70 classical and opera roles around the world as a member of the company of the Metropolitan Opera Studio. Clemmons has performed his favorite role, Sportin’ Life in “Porgy and Bess,” more than 200 times, earning a Grammy award for his recording of the role. He founded the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble to showcase, preserve, and sustain American spirituals, and performs regularly in America, Europe and Asia to support this effort.
The Rt. Rev. Brian Cole was ordained and consecrated as the fifth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee in 2017. He previously served as the vicar of Church of the Advocate, a worshipping community for the homeless in downtown Asheville, N.C., as sub-dean at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, and as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Ky. He served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church from 2006 to 2012.
Ellen Lehman is the founding president of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. A graduate of Nashville’s public schools and Harvard University, she earned master’s degrees from both the London School of Economics and Harvard Business School, a background that uniquely prepared her for her current role. Since 1991, the Community Foundation has grown from an idea to an organization that oversees more than 1,200 charitable funds. In the past 27 years, the foundation has made grants totaling more than $926 million to nonprofits. Lehman encourages those around her to address old needs with new creativity and a new approach.
Paul Muldoon is an acclaimed poet who has been awarded both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T.S. Eliot Prize. He is the Howard B. Clark Professor at Princeton University and founding chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. A former producer for the BBC in Belfast, he is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry including Moy Sand and Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. Other awards include the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry, the 2004 Shakespeare Prize, and the 2006 European Prize for Poetry. In the New York Times Book Review, Roger Rosenblatt described Muldoon as “one of the great poets of the past hundred years.”
Alice Parker, a renowned composer, conductor, and teacher, studied composition and conducting at Smith College and the Juilliard School, where she began her long association with Robert Shaw. The many Parker/Shaw settings of American folksongs, hymns, and spirituals from that period form an enduring repertoire for choruses around the world. Her list of published compositions includes more than 500 operas, song cycles, cantatas, choral suites, and individual anthems. In 2013, she received the Robert Shaw Award from the American Choral Directors Association and earlier was named Composer of the Year by the American Guild of Organists.

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