Crabtree addresses Convocation: “Live with your eyes and hearts open”

crabtree speaking at convocation

Winter Convocation was held Friday, Jan. 19, in All Saints' Chapel. The service opened the University’s Easter Semester on a sunny afternoon, though patches of snow remained on the ground from a snowfall earlier in the week.

In the University’s traditional Latin ceremony, Nancy J. Berner was installed as Provost of the University. Dr. Joseph DeLozier III, C'77, chair of the Board of Regents, presented Berner to the chancellor and vice-chancellor. Berner was named the eighth provost of the University in July 2017. She taught in Sewanee’s biology department for 20 years before becoming associate provost in 2012, and holds the William Henderson Professorship in biology. As provost, Berner is the chief operating officer of the University.

Berner announced new members elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and the creation of a new distinguished chair in humanities: Chris McDonough, professor of classical languages, is the first Alderson-Tillinghast Chair in Humanities.

Costume designer Toni-Leslie James, associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree. The Rev. David Crabtree, an award-winning broadcast journalist as well as an ordained deacon, gave the Convocation address and received an honorary doctor of civil law degree. Read more about both honorary degree recipients here.

Crabtree is a news anchor and reporter for WRAL-TV in North Carolina and an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. In addition to 15 Emmys and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters 2014 Anchor of the Year, he has been awarded the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for his work focusing on migrant workers’ living conditions, and the Gabriel Award from the Catholic Press Association for reporting that uplifts and nourishes the human spirit. Crabtree was ordained in 2004 as permanent deacon in the Diocese of North Carolina, with a focus on hospice care and North Carolina’s death row.

Crabtree’s address began by referencing both the confession from the Book of Common Prayer (“by what we have done, and by what we have left undone”) and the lesson for the day, from Genesis (“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.”) He said his own upcoming retirement is an opportunity to chase those things left undone, and asked the audience to follow their callings.

His career in journalism was shaped by a lifetime of people’s stories, and Crabtree noted three in particular that left their mark on him. The first was a man on death row whom Crabtree ministered to and then befriended, listening closely and opening his heart. The second was the experience of covering the First Gulf War, where he gained empathy for other cultures and sought God in an effort to make sense of the killing. The third was seeing Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Saint Matthew” in a small church in Rome, and being told by Pope John Paul II, “American journalist, be generous.”

Crabtree will now pursue his second calling with the Episcopal Church; he said he is ready, with open ears and an open heart, and pledged that, “I will be generous.”

students with gownsFollowing the address, President of the Order of the Gown Hadley Montgomery presented more than 100 students to Vice-Chancellor McCardell to be awarded academic gowns. As the students were admitted into the Order by the vice-chancellor, professors, other students, and family members gowned the new members amid a burst of applause.

See photos from the day here