Events beyond our control impact even the best-made plans. It is perseverance that creates success. Such is the case with the University of the South, whose founders laid the school’s original cornerstone on Oct. 10, 1860.
During the mid to late 1850’s, the Episcopal dioceses of the southern states came together to establish a religious university. After years of planning, obtaining donations and purchasing land, the founders of the university, along with 5,000 attendees, dedicated the six-ton marble cornerstone, marking the physical birth of the school.
With Abraham Lincoln’s election in November and the increasing clouds of war, the building program slowed and eventually stopped. Like most of the South, the Civil War impacted Sewanee and the University. In July 1863, an Illinois regiment destroyed the first University building and smashed to pieces the original cornerstone.
The war devastated the South. Yet, the dreams of the founders did not die. In spite of financial challenges of the era, they gathered sufficient funds to begin anew. Almost eight years after the original founding, the first Opening Convocation was held. The University of the South had nine students and four faculty members.
Over the next several years, the University faced financial stresses and an uncertain future. However, it persevered.
Now, after 150 years, the University of the South is firmly established. With an approximate enrollment of 1,500 undergraduate and numerous fields of study, many consider it one of the premier universities not only in the South but throughout the nation.
David Schmidt is an avid history buff. He and his family moved to Chattanooga several years ago. He has fallen in love with the community and its history. You can contact him directly at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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