Winter Convocation brings speakers, performances to campus

Ellen Lehman

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, North Carolina, as sub-dean at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, and as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Kentucky. 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.