Commencement ceremony concludes the academic year

Graduating seniors savor a memorable Commencement Weekend


The University of the South's 2017-18 academic year came to a close Sunday, May 13, with the Commencement ceremony for the College and the School of Letters. The School of Theology’s Commencement and the University Baccalaureate Service were held earlier in the weekend. (Read about Baccalaureate.)

The sound of bells marked the start of the ceremony as the procession of faculty walked into the service. The Convocation was held in All Saints’ Chapel as in the past; this year the presentation of diplomas took place on the Quadrangle, in order to accommodate the increasing number of graduates. Families and guests seated on the Quad all could see the conferral live, and the entire service on closed-circuit TV.

Zsanett Péter, a biology major from Szeged, Hungary, gave the traditional salutatory in Latin, addressing the vice-chancellor, faculty, and the audience before concluding with the University motto “Ecce Quam Bonum.”

Provost Nancy Berner announced the awards and honors, including fellowships for two members of the faculty. Katie McGhee, assistant professor of biology, and Kate Cammack, assistant professor of psychology, were awarded Kennedy Fellowships, given to support professional development of faculty members early in their careers.

The provost then asked Brandon Iracks-Edelin and Lauren Newman to come forward to receive the 2018 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion for character, leadership, and service to the University and the Sewanee community. Iracks-Edelin, from Maryland, and Newman, from Washington, D.C., received loud applause, cheers, and a standing ovation from the faculty, their classmates, and the audience in the Quad as Vice-Chancellor John McCardell presented the awards.

See the complete list of 2018 awards and prizes.



In her valedictory address, Paige Klump, an economics major from Golden, Colorado, recalled being suddenly struck by Sewanee’s beauty one morning during her freshman year, and telling a friend, “I hope I never forget it.” She did, however, get used to the beauty and forgot to soak it in, overtaken by the busyness of college life. Recalling that earlier conversation toward the end of her Sewanee experience, Klump said she rediscovered the sense of gratitude and sense of place that had been temporarily overlooked.

Klump told her classmates that Sewanee is not separable, after all, from the “real world,” and asked whether they could make the rest of the world more like Sewanee. “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone promised not to lie, cheat, or steal?” she asked. “Wouldn’t it be better if we could all disagree constructively?” She encouraged her fellow graduates to take a piece of “this beautiful, unique, sometimes weird place” out into the world with them. (Read the text of Klump's address.)



The University’s School of Letters granted 10 Master of Fine Arts degrees and one Master of Arts degree.

‌The University awarded 409 baccalaureate degrees, and before reading the University's charge to the "chosen and now honored youths," Vice-Chancellor John McCardell spoke to the graduates.

As they join the long line of the University’s “saints” great and small, McCardell asked the members of the Class of 2018 to take with them not just the memory of Sewanee, but also other qualities that form character. In remarks that echoed those of Baccalaureate speaker Condoleezza Rice, McCardell cited humility as one of these virtues, “an acknowledgment that truth can never be fully revealed, but, in fragmentary moments, it may at least be sensed, hinted at.” Reciting Daniel Webster’s now-familiar quote about self-restraint, the vice-chancellor asked the graduates to choose their own courses wisely, even as society struggles to keep its balance.

In addition to demonstrating selflessness, he encouraged them to recognize life’s unpredictability; their education has prepared them for uncertainty. “May you continue to discern the better angels of your own nature, and remember that you caught your first glimpses of those angels here,” concluded McCardell. (Read his Commencement remarks.)

The traditional recessional took the new graduates of the Class of 2018 through the faculty lining the sidewalk outside the Chapel and into an outpouring of applause and cheers. The graduates, families, and guests mingled and the celebration continued during a picnic luncheon on a warm, sunny afternoon on the Mountain.

See video of the Commencement ceremony here.

See photos from the weekend events here