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October 21, 1987 - Image 48

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-10-21

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Southern Gothic Style

Tradition and learning
blend on Tennessee's
Sewanee mountaintop
The school's official name is the Univer-
sity of the South, but it's known among
friends as Sewanee. The nickname has
nothing to do with the Swanee River cele-
brated by Stephen Foster and Al Jolson;
rather, it represents the 2,000-foot moun-
tain in rural Tennessee on which the
college stands and the community that
grew around it. The university literally
owns the town as well as a splendid 10,000-
acre domain of forest, lakes, bluffs, water-
falls and trails. In spring dogwoods ruffle
the campus in pink and white; in the fall
poplars, maples and black-gum trees blaze
yellow, orange and deep red.
With its Gothic spires often wreathed in
fog, Sewanee looks more like Oxford than
any university in or of the South. The re-
semblance is intentional. Founded by the
Episcopal Church in 1857, then destroyed
during the Civil War, the school was re-
opened after Tennessee Bishop Charles
Quintard raised funds in England, and Ox-
ford and Cambridge donated 1,800 books.
Sewanee has maintained a prideful Eng-
lish heritage ever since. Here is preserved
the Oxonian tradition of the Order of
Gownsmen: 20 percent of the nearly 1,100
undergraduates earn grades high enough
for membership, which entitles them to
wear academic gowns to class, take unlim-
ited class cuts and enjoy first priority in
housing and registration. Sewanee also
preserves the "Matron System," in which
an older woman presides over each dorm,
and a haphazardly enforced dress code that
requires women to wear skirts and men to
wear ties to class.
No nerds: The most notable of Sewanee's
traditions are academic. It strictly enforces
an honor code. Its graduate school of theol-
ogy has trained 11 percent of the Episcopal
clergy in the nation. The undergraduate
college of liberal arts has produced 21
Rhodes scholars and such alumni as White
House chief of staff Howard Baker.
"There's a lot of support for -doing your
work here," says senior English major Jen-
ifer Bobo, editor of the student newspaper.
"You're not a nerd if you do well." The most
popular major at Sewanee is English, not
surprising for the home of the 95-year-old
Sewanee Review, the nation's oldest liter-
ary quarterly. Circulated in 65 countries,

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Prideful English heritage: All Saints Chape
beckons beyond the classroom, outing clui

16 NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUSO

OCTOBER 1987

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