Concerned by the failure of the Episcopal Church to establish a successful institution of higher learning within the southern states, ten Episcopal dioceses agreed in 1856 to cooperate in creating a single university. Responding to their bishops’ invitation, clergy and lay delegates from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas met at Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee, on July 4, 1857, to name the first board of trustees.
The University of the South is governed by the Board of Trustees, most of whom are elected from the 28 constituent dioceses, and the Board of Regents, which acts as the executive board of the Trustees. Its chief executive officer is the Vice-Chancellor and President. The Chancellor, elected from among the bishops of the constituent dioceses, serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and, together with the Vice-Chancellor, is a member of the Board of Regents, ex-officio.