Sewanee has new vice chancellor


The University of the South announces the selection of John McCardell as its 16th president and vice chancellor. In all likelihood not coincidentally, McCardell is an expert on binge drinking by students.

Sewanee’s statement, in full:

The Board of Trustees of the University of the South has elected a distinguished historian and national leader in liberal arts education to be the University’s 16th president and vice chancellor.

Jan. 6, 2010–The Trustees today elected John M. McCardell Jr., president emeritus of Middlebury College, following a national search that began in February 2009.

McCardell’s appointment is effective July 1. He succeeds Joel Cunningham, who will retire June 30, 2010, 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,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Chancellor of the University and Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Here is his defense for lowering the drinking age to 18 as made on the Colbert Report:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
John McCardell
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

“He is an inspirational leader who will strengthen Sewanee’s historic commitment to excellence in the liberal arts and service to the Episcopal Church. We are delighted that he has answered this call to service.”

McCardell, 60, a professor of history at Middlebury College, served as Middlebury’s president from 1992 until he stepped down in 2004. A Maryland native and 1971 graduate of Washington and Lee University, he pursued graduate study at The Johns Hopkins University and then at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in history in 1976. He joined the history faculty of Middlebury the same year. 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.

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.

“I look forward to working with the entire Sewanee community to advance what I consider one of the true gems of American higher education,” said McCardell. “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. I can’t think of a better fit, nor a better time to seize this moment of great institutional opportunity.”

A prolific writer specializing in 19th-century U.S. history, McCardell is the author of The Idea of a Southern Nation, developed from his Ph.D. dissertation, as well as many essays, chapters, articles, and book reviews.

McCardell served as chairman of the Division III Presidents’ Council of the NCAA in 2003-04 and led a successful, comprehensive reform effort. Three years ago McCardell founded Choose Responsibility, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage the public in informed and dispassionate debate about the effects of legislation mandating a legal drinking age of 21. 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 be succeeded by Barrett Seaman, author of Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and Excess and a founding board member of Choose Responsibility. Though he will be stepping down as president of Choose Responsibility, McCardell will remain active in the issue, he said, continuing to serve on the organization’s board and maintaining a leadership role in expanding the Amethyst Initiative in higher education.

McCardell is active in civic and community affairs and serves on numerous civic, professional, and corporate boards, including the National Bank of Middlebury, the American Civil War Center, Vermont Public Radio, and as co-chair of the Addison County United Way campaign. 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, John and James.

“I extend my thanks and appreciation to the search committee and its chair, Joel A. Smith III, C’67, for their diligent service in bringing this search to a successful conclusion,” Bishop Alexander said.

Follow this link for a video statement by McCardell and more links.

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Doug Williams
Doug Williams

Binge drinking is a problem on ALL college campuses. According to a 1998 survey, over 40% of college students could be classified as binge drinkers.

Regardless of whether you agree with his approach, John McCardell deserves considerable praise for helping to focus attention on the nation-wide problem of binge drinking.

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Ann Fontaine

Sewanee has a huge binge drinking and just plain drinking problem. I have been on campus on weekends when it is just one loud party with lots of drunk students.

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