Sewanee celebrated Founders’ Day Oct. 16 with the traditional Convocation and the induction of more than 250 new members into the Order of Gownsmen. Four honorary degrees were awarded by the University, and journalist Judy Woodruff delivered the Founders’ Day Address. Members of Sewanee’s Board of Trustees were honored guests at the Convocation.
Academic awards and prizes were announced by Provost John Swallow.
The University conferred honorary degrees upon Woodruff, who received an honorary doctor of humane letters; George E. Core, longtime editor of the Sewanee Review, who received an honorary doctor of letters; Jeanie Nelson, founding CEO and president of the Land Trust for Tennessee, who received an honorary doctor of civil law; and Samuel F. Pickering Jr., C’63, professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut and author of more than two dozen books, who received an honorary doctor of letters. Read more about the recipients here.
Judy Woodruff is the co-anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. She has covered politics and other news for more than three decades at CNN, NBC, and PBS. Woodruff has received the Cine Lifetime Achievement award, the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism, and the University of Southern California Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, among others.
In her address, Woodruff took note of some of the University’s cherished traditions and shared her appreciation for Sewanee’s curriculum, prominent alumni, and global reach. After warning the audience that she would speak about politics, Woodruff issued a call for citizens to engage with politics. She stressed the importance of politicians who will participate in healthy debate about the challenges the country faces, rather than insulting others’ character or questioning their motives. “We should care about restoring a body politic that respects both principle and compromise,” Woodruff said, citing the examples of Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan.
Woodruff named Harry McPherson, C’49, as one of her heroes. McPherson became a lawyer to fight against McCarthyism and was an early champion of civil rights; he served as counsel and chief speechwriter to President Lyndon Johnson. She closed by echoing the Baccalaureate address given by David Brooks to the Class of 2013, urging each Sewanee student to engage in a lifelong pursuit of bettering his or her character. (See the text of Woodruff's address.)
Following the address, Alec Hill, president of the Order of Gownsmen, spoke of the gown’s place in Sewanee history and tradition, and its meaning today. He encouraged the new members to wear their gowns regularly and to hold themselves daily to the standard the gown represents. (Read Hill's address here.)
Hill announced the names of new members as each stood to be recognized before being admitted to the Order by the vice-chancellor and receiving his or her gown. Because Founders’ Day was celebrated at the beginning of Family Weekend, many parents were in attendance to celebrate the achievement, and an overflow crowd watched the service from Guerry Auditorium.
The Convocation concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater and the university hymn, and the bells of the Leonidas Polk Memorial Carillon sounded above as the attendees spilled out of the Chapel into the sunshine.