Sewanee turns 150

October 10, 2007

The University of the South, more popularly named Sewanee for the town beside which it stands, just celebrated its sesquicentennial with honorary degrees, a ceremony conducted in Latin, and no doubt some life-affirming toasts of bourbon and branch water.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press chronicled the proceedings, which culminated with a Founder’s Day address by Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek magazine, who said, “Let us be bold and tell it straight. Some of our founders were not the men we may have wished them to be. But then are we, you and I, the people we wish to be?”

Well, we aren’t slaveholders and people who wage war on our own country, but nobody’s perfect.


One of the interesting facets of Sewanee is its affiliation with playwright Tennessee Williams. Williams died in 1983, and when his will was probated, he made a curious bequest, leaving about $10 million to Sewanee yet putting the fund under the control of the “chairman of the creative-writing department of Harvard University.” The problem was that Harvard had no “creative-writing department.”

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Appalachian Trail Alternative

October 7, 2007

The New York Times’s “Escapes” section had an interesting article on a new 290-mile alternative to the Appalachian Trail (AT) from the southern terminus of the AT entirely through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Benton MacKaye Trail was given the name of the man who originally proposed the AT in a paper he presented in 1921.


Source of map: Benton MacKaye Trail Association

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Opining on Fisk

October 4, 2007

I’m in today’s Tennessean with an op-ed piece on Fisk University and its sad efforts to sell the Steiglitz Collection of art to an opportunistic Wal-Mart heiress. The piece makes the point, expressed here earlier, that Fisk should get out of the business of being a college, sell the art for $100 million or so, and use the proceeds to support the work of up and coming African-Americans in a wide variety of fields.

When I began teaching at Harvard in 1979, female students were still admitted in name only to Radcliffe, although none of the ones in my classes in any way thought of themselves as “Cliffies.” During the time I was there, Radcliffe grew into the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and, last year, its president  became the first female president of Harvard.


Roadtripping David Byrne on Dolly Parton and Elvis

October 4, 2007

Jack Neely, writing in Metro Pulse, points readers to a blog entry by David Byrne, written after a drive with his daughter, Malu, across Tennessee.

Byrne, the former front man for the Talking Heads, took his daughter to Dollywood and has some interesting comments on Dolly:

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