The University Baccalaureate service—the second of three Commencement weekend ceremonies—will take place on Saturday, May 13 at 10 a.m. in All Saints’ Chapel.

The University Baccalaureate service will be held Saturday morning, May 13, in All Saints’ Chapel. Writer Margaret E. Renkl will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree and will deliver a baccalaureate address. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Jake Owensby, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, who was elected by the Board of Trustees in December 2022, will be installed as the University's 26th chancellor. Finally, the inaugural Sewanee Medal, an award given by the Board of Regents to individuals demonstrating extraordinary service to the University, will be presented to Reid Funston, C'86.

Margaret Renkl is the author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss (2019) and Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South (2021); The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year will be published in fall 2023. Renkl is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, where her essays appear each Monday. A graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Carolina, she lives in Nashville. Renkl calls herself a “Sewanee squatter,” after she began coming to the Mountain, in earnest, circa 2014, to the then-nascent Lost Cove retreat, Rivendell. In Sewanee, what would ultimately become her first book began to take shape. “Late Migrations wouldn’t exist without Rivendell,” Renkl says. “I fell in love with the Mountain—a holy place where I would not only make lifelong friends but find the peace and clarity to begin to see how my book fit together.”

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Jake Owensby, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana was elected the 26th chancellor of the University of the South by the Board of Trustees, succeeding the Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving, bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina, who served as chancellor from October 2018 to December 2022. Chosen from the 27 constituent dioceses for a term of six years, the chancellor is president, ex officio, of the Board of Trustees and a member of the Board of Regents. Bishop Owensby graduated from the School of Theology in 1997 and was elected bishop of the Diocese of Western Louisiana in 2012. A member of the University’s Board of Regents since 2019, he has served on the Mission Fulfillment Committee, the School of Theology Subcommittee, the ad hoc Governance Committee, and the Vice-Chancellor Search Committee. Owensby has served the Episcopal Church as a member of the Standing Commission on Governance, Structure, Constitution, and Canons; the House of Bishops Pastoral Development Committee; and the Task Force on the Opioid Crisis. He has also served as president of the Louisiana Interchurch Council and currently serves as vice president of Province VII and as a member of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice.

Reid Funston is the first recipient of the Sewanee Medal, an award given by the Board of Regents to individuals demonstrating extraordinary service to the University of the South. Funston is a 1986 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences. He has served the University as a member of the College Visiting Committee, as a member of the Board of Trustees, and as a member of the Board of Regents. In 2019, he was elected chair of the Board of Regents, serving during the outbreak and the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, working closely with the administration to keep the University open with in-person classes. In the fall of 2021, at the end of his six-year term as a member of the Board of Regents and his two-year term as chair, he was elected to serve an additional one-year term as a non-regent chair of the board. It was during this time that the University received the unexpected resignation of Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety so that Brigety could be available for appointment as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of South Africa. Funston led the University during this uncertain period of transition, which led to the appointment of Provost Nancy Berner as acting vice-chancellor. Funston’s calm demeanor, steady hand, and confident manner provided exceptional leadership and service to Sewanee during an unprecedented and demanding period in the University’s history.