Sewanee chooses new president, vice chancellor

January 6, 2010

The Board of Trustees of the University of the South has appointed John M. McCardell Jr., president emeritus of Middlebury College, to be the school's 16th president and vice chancellor.

The trustees elected McCardell Jan. 6, following a national search that began in February 2009.

Sewanee, as the school is also known, has a long connection with the Episcopal Church, and its School of Theology is one of the 11 seminaries affiliated with the church. Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Neil Alexander currently is the university's chancellor and chair of the Board of Trustees.

McCardell, who will begin his Sewanee work July 1, succeeds Joel Cunningham, who will retire June 30 after 10 years as vice chancellor.

"John McCardell's record of achievement as a scholar, as the chief executive of one of America's finest liberal arts colleges, and as a respected national figure in the public discussion about higher education and student life extends the work of his predecessors and the pursuit of the vision of Sewanee's founders: to establish a national university located in the South," Alexander said in a Jan. 6 press release.

McCardell, 60, a professor of history at Middlebury College, served as Middlebury's president from 1992 until he stepped down in 2004. In addition to teaching, McCardell served the college as dean for academic development and planning, dean of the faculty, provost, and vice president for academic affairs before being named president, according to the Sewanee release.

As Middlebury's president, McCardell directed a comprehensive strategic planning effort and led a successful capital campaign, which exceeded its $200 million goal by almost $12 million. He presided over growth in both enrollment and faculty at the college, identified areas of excellence, and developed a plan for committing new resources to those strengths.

"The prospect of serving a unique institution whose history and traditions are so inextricably tied to the American South and to the Episcopal Church, and where the academic attainment of its faculty, students, and alumni is so distinguished, was one to which I felt particularly drawn," said McCardell. "I can't think of a better fit, nor a better time to seize this moment of great institutional opportunity."

McCardell served as chairman of the Division III Presidents' Council of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 2003-04 and led a reform effort. McCardell also founded Choose Responsibility, whose mission is to foster informed and dispassionate debate about the effects of legislation mandating a legal drinking age of 21, according to Sewanee's release. In 2008 he co-sponsored the Amethyst Initiative, a statement signed by 135 college and university presidents that challenges the effectiveness of current drinking-age laws.

McCardell will remain as president of Choose Responsibility through June 30, and will remain active in the issue, he said.

A lifelong Episcopalian, he has served on the vestry and as senior warden of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Middlebury.

He is married to Bonnie Greenwald McCardell, an advocate for quality childcare and education as well as eldercare and retirement communities. They have two grown sons.

His complete biography is available here.