The letters below were sent on December 1 to the Sewanee community from the University's vice-chancellor and Board chairs.


December 1, 2021

Dear Sewanee Community:

As you have heard by now, stories have circulated in the news media that President Joe Biden intends to nominate me to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Republic of South Africa. Having concluded that I would accept this nomination if it were offered and that it would be unfair to prolong any uncertainty at the University, I have informed the Board of Regents of this decision and tendered my resignation as vice-chancellor effective at the conclusion of this semester, on Dec. 21. 

I know that this news comes suddenly. I have been profoundly honored to serve as the 17th vice-chancellor of the University of the South, and I had expected to serve Sewanee for a long time to come. Yet I also know that I would not decline my obligation to serve my country if asked by the president of the United States. The motto of my graduating class from the U.S. Naval Academy is non sibi, sed patriae: “not for self, but for country.” It is a principle that has guided my entire adult life. Should I be nominated by the president and confirmed by the United States Senate, I would return to government service to assume this ambassadorship.

By protocol and tradition, the commencement of the confirmation process that would begin with the president’s public announcement of such a nomination precludes the candidate’s speaking publicly on most related matters prior to the Senate’s rendering its advice and consent at the end of the confirmation process. Out of deference to the president’s decision-making process, I do not intend to speak further about these matters and therefore want to share with you now the following reflections. 

Though my tenure as vice-chancellor has been far shorter than I had planned, I will always be grateful for the confidence the Trustees and Regents had in me. I am deeply proud of the work we have done together during a consequential time at the University. We have stepped together through one of the most challenging years in Sewanee’s history, confronting a global pandemic amid the most profound racial reckoning in America in a generation. We have articulated a strategy to meet the realities of the future focused on student success, diversity, and developing new sources of institutional revenue. The first-class team of new and seasoned Sewanee leaders that we have built has inspired us with their deep dedication to Sewanee, its mission, and the work necessary to guide the University to its next stage of excellence. Leelie and I will be watching and rooting for them, and for Sewanee, in the months and years to come with affection, respect, and appreciation.

I also am blessed to have helped the University cross an important historical marker as its first African American vice-chancellor. Sewanee’s story is an American one, of vital ideals calling it forward, of profound challenges and stronger determination. Leelie and I will forever be grateful for the kindness, generosity, and graciousness shown to us by the Sewanee community, and for the many new friends we have made across the “Sewaneeverse.” Ecce Quam Bonum

We will commend the future of Sewanee to the outstanding leadership of the Trustees and Regents, the skilled leadership team on campus, the profound talent and idealism of our students, the extraordinary devotion and ability of our faculty and staff, and the alumni, parents, and friends whose love and support continue to raise up this vital University. For the rest of our days, we will hold the Mountain in our hearts. May blessings be with you all.


Reuben E. Brigety, II

Vice-Chancellor and President

Letter from Board of Regents Chair Reid Funston and Chancellor of the University and Chair of the Board of Trustees the Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving

Dear Sewanee Community,

In concluding that he would accept the nomination by the president of the United States should he be invited to become the next U.S. ambassador to the Republic of South Africa and therefore that he must resign, Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety has made a decision that saddens us even as it only increases our respect for him. He has simultaneously put service to Sewanee and service to his country first, accepting the risks of national decision-making even as he honors Sewanee with candor about his decision and allows the University to transition to new leadership. We are grateful to him and hope that he is nominated and, if so, that his confirmation is successful.  

Reuben’s pending departure initiates a transition in the life of the University that comes far too soon. For the past 18 months, Reuben has led the University through an extraordinary time. He has guided Sewanee through the significant challenges posed by a global pandemic in a manner that allowed our students a safe return to the Mountain for an on-campus experience in a year unlike any other, even as many other institutions were unable to achieve that goal. We celebrate his being our first African American vice-chancellor and his powerful example of change and possibility. He has established a bold vision for student success, diversity, and economic development that charts an ambitious and sustainable path for Sewanee’s future. As Regents, we have been proud to embrace and support his vision and initiatives, and we remain fully committed to a path forward that will best position the University to thrive in the future. In building a leadership team in whom all of the Sewanee community can have great trust and confidence, he has established perhaps his greatest legacy. 

We appreciate that Reuben has met head-on a difficult decision—whether to continue serving the university he was asked to lead, where he and Leelie have made their home with their family and to which they have been so devoted; or whether he would accept a call from his country to serve as an ambassador in support of one of its key international relationships. In the end, Reuben has chosen service to our country, which has been a bedrock of his life’s work going back to his days at the U.S. Naval Academy. As he prepares for a potential confirmation process, we want him to know that all of us across the Sewanee community stand with him. 

Amid such unanticipated changes, the University’s governance protocols are our guide. The Ordinances of the University specify that should the vice-chancellor vacate the office, the provost will be named vice-chancellor pro tempore. Accordingly, Provost Nancy Berner will assume the office of vice-chancellor pro tempore effective with Reuben’s specified date of resignation, Dec. 21. 

The Regents have every confidence in Nancy, who has served as provost since 2017, who served five years as associate provost before that, and who has been a faculty member in the Department of Biology for more than 25 years. We are grateful to Nancy for agreeing to step into this pro tempore role. She and Reuben will be working together and with other University leaders in the weeks ahead to ensure a smooth transition.

As we contemplate our transition planning beyond this decision, the Regents will consult carefully with the broader Sewanee community and establish a plan that will lay out thoughtfully and deliberately the next best steps for our University, including the appropriate steps to identify a search process for our 18th vice-chancellor. We will keep the University community informed as we resolve these matters. 

Finally, we ask for your continued support of our vice-chancellor in these concluding weeks of his tenure and as he enters the next phase of his career. At every step ahead, we know he will carry with him the pride and support of our University community, as he and Leelie will always have our gratitude and affection.

Thank you.