“There’s no price tag that I could put on my education and Sewanee experience, but I can show my gratitude by giving a small amount monthly.”

Kat Chappell with her husband, Will.

For new graduates, summer offers the perfect excuse to kick back and take a well-deserved break—but life continues to be a whirlwind for the Rev. Kat Chappell, T’23. Right after receiving her M.Div. in May, Chappell started as Curate at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Signal Mountain, TN. She and her husband, Will, are also house hunting, and they’ll welcome their first child in September. Plus, their 3-year-old coonhound, Roscoe, recently developed epilepsy, after surviving cancer only last year. “Every trip to the vet, I’m like, ‘You can have no problems today, Roscoe. I will accept nothing,’” she jokes.

For better or worse, Chappell is used to navigating change and uncertainty. She and Will married in February 2020, one month before the COVID-19 outbreak escalated to a global pandemic. A few months later, she enrolled at the School of Theology. “Looking back, it was a strange time,” she says, “but it felt so normal. Really, I was just excited to be in class.”

Chappell says that the pandemic forced her and her classmates to “create our own community.” She notes, “We had to come in [to the academic year] and figure out how to connect online and in person and six feet away. It was such a unique experience, and I’m grateful for it.” Growing up in Chattanooga, Chappell says, she had loved traveling to Sewanee for Lessons and Carols. She also heard stories about her grandfather, Lamar Cantelou, C’49, and his time at the University. “Sewanee always had a piece of my heart,” she shares. As she discerned her path to ministry, she adds, “It was absolutely clear that Sewanee was where I needed to be.”

Despite the unusual start to her three years on the Mountain, Chappell quickly immersed herself in graduate school life. She was elected president of the St. Luke’s Community (the seminary student body), served as sacristan, and, with classmates Shari Harrison, T’22, and Audrey Jordan, T’23, even organized a friendly football rivalry. “Every week during the SEC playoffs, I’d send out a Google form, and people picked who they thought would win the game,” she says. The winner got to display a yard sign that Harrison created. “I think people thought I knew a lot more about football than I actually did,” Chappell laughs.

The Rev. Thomas Becker, T'23, Myra Corcorran,
C'91, T'24, and the Rev. Kat Chappell, T'23.

In early 2022, she received a William A. Griffin Scholarship to study in the Holy Land, and she visited Israel and Palestine last summer. She also engaged in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, GA—the hospital where her husband was born. “CPE was tough,” she shares, “but I think it’s one of the best things that we are asked to do as we prepare for ministry.”

With the exception of her time in CPE, Chappell mostly lived apart from her husband as she pursued her studies. “Will’s employment never opened up for him to live in Sewanee,” she explains. “So, I lived in Sewanee during the week, and then I went home [to Dalton] on the weekends.” As the gas and grocery bills multiplied, Chappell says she felt deeply grateful for the generosity of School of Theology donors. “In appreciation and respect for gifts we received, my husband and I wanted to give back,” she says.

In the Advent semester of her first year at Sewanee, Chappell established a monthly gift to support the School of Theology’s most pressing needs. “It was important to me to set that up,” she shares. “Serving as St. Luke’s president, I began to appreciate the need for flexible funding. Students can have unexpected medical bills or car issues. Or there might be a death in the family and they need to get back home, which could involve an expensive plane ticket. All of those things add up, and living in a community that can take care of those needs is such a gift.”

The Rev. Casey Perkins, T’22, who serves as Director of Annual Giving for the School of Theology, echoes Chappell’s thoughts on unrestricted giving. “Sometimes it’s hard to predict the financial needs of our seminarians, and of our community as a whole,” he says. “Especially during this time of transition, as Hamilton Hall is undergoing renovations, we’re grateful for funding that can be used for multiple purposes.”

Chappell says she sees her monthly gift as “an investment in the longevity of the church.” She notes, “Sewanee is raising up quality, formed church leaders at a time when we truly need them.” Reflecting on her time on the Mountain, she adds, “There’s no price tag that I could put on my education and Sewanee experience, but I can show my gratitude by giving a small amount monthly.”

The Rev. Derrick Hill, T'11, the Rev Kat Chappell, T'23, and the Rev. Taylor Dinsmore, T'05 at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Signal Mountain, TN.

Though things may be slightly chaotic at the moment, Chappell shares she’s looking forward to her ordination to the priesthood in July. At St. Timothy’s, she serves with fellow alumni, the Rev. Derrick Hill, T’11, and the Rev. Taylor Dinsmore, T’05. “We shared a lot of the same professors at Sewanee, so that’s really special,” she says. She also appreciates the way the University has prepared her for the road ahead. “I’m preaching on Sunday, and I’m pulling from resources and experiences that came from the School of Theology,” she explains. 

Later this year, Sewanee will play a particularly significant role in one of the Chappell family’s milestones. “I’m extra excited because I believe I’ll have the opportunity to baptize my own baby," she says. “The School of Theology is going to help me, in that sense of bringing this child into their life in Christ. Every time I think about it, I start tearing up.”

To learn more about supporting the School of Theology with an individual or parish gift, please contact the Rev. Casey Perkins, T’22, Director of Annual Giving, at casey.perkins@sewanee.edu or 931.598.1316.