About the University

The University of the South consists of the College of Arts and Sciences and The School of Theology. It is owned by 28 dioceses of the Episcopal Church and is governed by a board of trustees, most of whom are elected from these dioceses, and by the board of regents, which acts as the executive board of the trustees. Its chief executive officer is the vice-chancellor and president. The chancellor, elected from among the bishops of the owning dioceses, serves as a chair of the board of trustees and, together with the vice-chancellor, is a member of the board of regents, ex officio.

The University is located at Sewanee, Tennessee, in southeastern middle Tennessee atop the Cumberland Plateau, approximately 90 miles from Nashville, the state capital, and 50 miles from Chattanooga.

Established with a donation of land from the Sewanee Mining Company at a place known to the Native Americans as Sewanee, the University and the community are popularly known as Sewanee.

History of the University

Concerned by the failure of the Episcopal Church to establish a successful institution of higher learning within the southern states, ten Episcopal dioceses agreed in 1856 to cooperate in creating a single university. Responding to their bishops’ invitation, clergy and lay delegates from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas met at Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee, on July 4, 1857, to name the first board of trustees.

On October 10, 1860, the ceremonial laying of a University cornerstone was completed, but plans were drastically altered by the Civil War, which erupted a few months later. After the war, the bishop of Tennessee and the University’s commissioner of buildings and lands returned to the campus in 1866 to re-establish the institution formally. But the money raised before the war was gone, the South was impoverished, and there was much to do before the University would open.

The first convocation of the University of the South was held on September 18, 1868, with nine students and four faculty present. The campus consisted of three simple frame buildings. Although years of struggle and adversity lay ahead, the University grew because many people, eager to participate in this challenging enterprise and willing to sacrifice for it, came to Sewanee.

The University’s history can be divided into several periods. The “second founding” in 1866 was followed by years of uncertainty during Reconstruction. But from the end of that period until 1909, the University experienced steady growth.

Rising expenses forced the University to close the departments of dentistry, engineering, law, medicine, and nursing in 1909 allowing it to maintain its basic departments — a preparatory school, college, and seminary. Although the academic strength and reputation of the University grew, it lived with constant financial hardships.

The University shored up its ailing finances, undertook much-needed renovations, and emerged from the eras of the Great Depression and World War II well-equipped and prepared to enter its greatest period of growth. From 1950 to 1970, the endowment increased from just over $1 million to more than $20 million. Old buildings underwent major renovations, new buildings were constructed, and the school became coeducational in 1969.

During the seventies and eighties a new student union and hospital were built and municipal services were modernized. These years were also characterized by a dramatic improvement in the financial condition of the University as well as a revival of religious life on campus. Moreover, the University’s three-year national capital campaign met and surpassed its $50 million goal.

From its opening in 1868 until 1981, the University included a preparatory school known successively as the Junior Department, the Sewanee Grammar School, the Sewanee Military Academy, and the Sewanee Academy. In April, 1981, the board of trustees voted to merge the academy with St. Andrew’s School on the St. Andrew’s campus, just outside the gates of the University Domain. St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School continues today to provide quality education in an Episcopal setting.

From 2000-2010, under the leadership of Vice-Chancellor Joel Cunningham, Sewanee saw extensive growth in the physical campus, expanding enrollment, and successful fundraising. Dr. Cunningham led an administration at Sewanee characterized by fiscal discipline and a strategic planning effort that touched virtually every area of the University’s operation. During his tenure, Sewanee enjoyed record applications to the College of Arts and Sciences, a comprehensive program of renovation and new construction for academic, residential and athletics facilities, growth in the influence and reach of The School of Theology, and increasing recognition as a leading national liberal arts university. Under his leadership, the University completed the historic Sewanee Call Capital Campaign in 2008, exceeding the $180 million goal by more than $25 million. The campaign was marked by over $40 million in endowment commitments for scholarships; extensive academic, residential, and athletics facility construction; the addition of 3,000 acres to the University’s landholdings; and significant support for faculty compensation and academic enrichment.

In July 2010 the University welcomed as its 16th vice-chancellor a nationally known educator and scholar of the American South. John McCardell, president emeritus of Middlebury College in Vermont and a scholar of the pre-bellum Southern nationalist movement, was unanimously elected by the Trustees in January.

The Domain

Located on the western face of the Cumberland Plateau approximately 50 miles west of Chattanooga, the campus, residential areas, the village of Sewanee, lakes, forests, and surrounding bluffs comprise a tract of 13,000 acres owned by the University and called the University Domain. Except for the campus and town, the Domain is preserved in a natural state as a wildlife preserve, recreational area, and site for scientific study. The unincorporated town of Sewanee, which is managed by the University administration, has a population of 2,500.

The Library

Website: Jessie Ball duPont Library

Library Collections

The duPont building contains the University library collections. The principal or “main” collection is found distributed throughout the four floors of the building. In addition there other collections as follows:

  • Fooshee collection (browsing collection of popular books) — main floor
  • Theology — main floor
  • Government documents — main floor
  • Archives and special collections — Archives and Special Collections Building, next door to library
  • Video, audiobook and children's collections — main floor
  • Ralston Room, CD and LP dollections — second floor

The library discovery tool, TigerSearch, lists books, periodical articles, government publications, and audio and video materials found in the library. It also includes online resources (e-books, e-journals and websites) with direct links that enable users to connect from any computer, either inside the library or elsewhere.

Circulation Services

The normal circulation period of books for college students is six weeks, and sixteen weeks for seminarians. Videos can be checked out for one week. Books may be renewed twice if there is no one waiting for the book. Renewals may be made by phone or online. Books already on loan to another person may have a “hold” or “recall” placed on them. A “hold” prevents a book from being checked out to someone else once it is returned; a “recall” sends a message to the current user that someone else would like to use the book. A student must have his or her University ID to check out materials at the circulation desk or at the self-check station near the front door. Reference books and periodicals may not be checked out.

Fines are assessed for failure to return or renew items at the end of the loan period. Fines vary for different kinds of materials and are posted at the circulation desk. Unless fines are paid at the time of return, they are forwarded to the business office at the end of each month. Replacement fees are charged for items that are lost or damaged. Taking library materials from the library without their having been properly checked out is considered a theft of University property and is a direct violation of the University’s Honor Code to which all undergraduate students agree.

Reserve Materials

Reserve books and photocopied materials are those which instructors have requested to be set apart to provide fair access for all students for a specific course and are located at the circulation desk. The loan period for most materials is three hours and is indicated on the material to be checked out. It is important that reserve materials be returned as soon as possible for others to use; for that reason the fine for reserve materials is considerably greater than for regular books. These materials are checked out using the student’s University ID card. All materials on reserve (books, articles, etc.) are listed in the online catalog by author, title, instructor, and course number. Theology reserve materials are available in Hamilton Hall.

Research Help

Librarians are available to give research assistance to students working on course assignments, papers, and projects. Help is available for research questions, citations, and much more. Students should make an appointment with a research help librarian for extended help in any of their information needs. Students may also visit the research help office in the library , room G25, or send their research questions via e-mail to research@sewanee.edu or via chat (931) 563.0198. Helpful research guides for each college course and for many research skills are available on the library website.

Government Documents

The library receives, through the Federal Depository Library Program, thousands of U.S. Government publications, mostly electronic, covering many areas of the curriculum as well as of general interest. The Government Documents Collection is located on the main floor in compact shelving. The library offers many print and electronic indexes and other resources to aid in the use of the library’s extensive collection of government information.


The library has over 4,000 print journals, and access to articles from over  22,000 online journals , which are available online from any computer connected to the internet. Electronic journals can be found in the journal finder which has both alphabetical and subject listings and provides direct links to online full-text articles or to the library catalog entry for locating print-only titles. Electronic indexes and databases doing topical research are listed by title and general subject area on the library website.

The library’s print periodicals are located in two places: the General periodicals collection is on the second floor and the Theology periodicals collection is on the third floor. Students are free to use either of the periodical collections. They are arranged by call number, and they generally do not circulate.

Interlibrary Loan Services

Interlibrary loan service is available to borrow books and articles from other sources. To request an item, go to research tools on the top menu bar and select borrow from another library (Sewanee ILL). Once an account is created, you may place, track, and renew requests online. Depending on item type and availability, it could take up to two weeks to obtain the material. Questions can be directed to ILS staff via email at sewaneeill@sewanee.edu.

Archives/Special Collections

The Archives and Special Collections building is located next door to the Jessie Ball duPont Library. The building is open to the public weekdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. except during school holidays, when it is open by appointment only.

Archives and Special Collections house many rich resources for student, faculty, and others for scholarly research. Particular strengths include southern and local history and southern agrarian literature, information on the Episcopal Church of Tennessee, and papers relating to the history of the University and the surrounding community. Classes visit the Archives and Special Collections to see anything from insects in amber and fossils in the building stone to papers on civil rights from the Highlander Folk School or entries from a french encyclopedia. They may come to view exhibits from our gallery or as a class project form their own curiosity cabinet in our front room exhibit space. The permanent collection of fine arts contains an eclectic array of material covering the liberal arts. Students can view works from Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt to Jonathan Green and Alexander Calder. Students, parents, and all others are welcome to come to do research or view our exhibits. A student ID or driver’s license is required to use research materials.

Learning Commons

The Learning Commons is located on the main floor and offers state of the art group study rooms that include can be reserved for student use.  The newly renovated area has comfortable seating, study tables, and computers for student use.  Both the Writing Center and the Center for Speaking and Listening offer hours for their services several days a week in this area. 

Academic Technology Center

The Academic Technology Center (ATC) provides a collection of twenty-first century resources. The main lab serves as the primary student computing facility with roomy carrels and open tabletop areas. Dell and Macintosh computers are available and loaded with a variety of specialized software used in academic disciplines. There are also several multimedia workstations equipped with multimedia editing software, flatbed or slide scanners, and video-capture peripherals.

The ATC also includes two classrooms equipped with desktop computers for students and an instructor’s station, a digital video editing classroom, a screening room and a courtyard with comfortable chairs and laptop tables. The ATC is equipped with wireless network access and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the library is closed, the lab is not staffed, and students must enter using their University ID.