At St. Andrew's-Sewanee School we value our traditions, but we are constantly asking what works now and for the future. Some of our treasured traditions, such as our Honor Code, have a long and storied past that dips way back through our 149-year history. Others, such as our Earth Day celebration, are quite a bit younger.
Here are just a few of the traditions of St. Andrew's-Sewanee School:
Today, proctors are rising seniors who are respected for their engagement with the community and their leadership skills. They are elected by students and teachers.
Boarding and day students sign up for 30-minute shifts of prayer and meditation beginning at 10 p.m. after the Maundy Thursday service. Proctors wake boarders during the overnight hours and escort them to the chapel. A brief Eucharist service at 7 a.m. in the Lady Chapel concludes the watch.
Before World War I ended, the women in a small Episcopal church in Morristown, N.J., began collecting money to send chocolates to American soldiers overseas. When the war ended, they decided to allocate the balance of their "War Time Chocolate Fund" to some other worthy cause. Through one of their parishioners, they heard about St. Andrew's School, an Episcopal boarding school in Sewanee, Tenn., which had recently completed building a chapel but lacked money for bells in the belltower. The churchwomen sent the money for three bells as an Armistice Thanksgiving and asked that the bells be dedicated to three archangels— Uriel, Raphael, and Michael. In return, the school agreed to ring the bells for 11 minutes on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 11:11 a.m. every year in memory of those who died in World War I and as a prayer for peace. This is the 100th year the bells have rung out over the fields and forests of the 550-acre mountaintop campus on this day of celebration.
When Armistice Day arrives, students gather to meet at the appointed hour and walk to the chapel for the ceremonial ringing. International students are often a part of the group, and they are always intrigued with the story.
His camera was manufactured in 1905, the same year St. Andrew's School was founded, and for close to 45 years, Edward St. John has been bringing it to the Mountain to chronicle the beginnings and endings of Sewanee's schools. Each year he takes panoramic shots of the entire school population at St. Andrew's-Sewanee School, and the freshman and senior classes at the University of the South.The process for taking the photos is complicated. Get 300 people or more together on risers set at just the right curve and try to keep everyone in place while the camera's gears turn the camera from left to right to record the image on a 10-inch long piece of film. At one time the Cirkut Camera was the only way to take this type of photo. Now photographers can do a series of digital shots and stitch them together with a photo editor, but the experience isn't the same as watching Mr. St. John don his head cover as he ducks behind his ancient camera.
St. John has spent most of his life in Coffee County, working as a school teacher and for 54 years as photographer. Over his career he recorded more than 3,700 anniversaries and weddings. In his younger days he would haul his camera, and his inimitable wit, to more than 75 schools each year, now he is down to just 10.
Since 1982, SAS has suspended regular classes for one full day each April for learning and fun in celebration of the environment.
The annual festivities include a film festival, a bike-in, guest speakers, mini-classes, field trips, a noontime feast, a special Earth Day Creative Expression Assembly, and an afternoon celebration of ice cream and music.
Past mini-classes have included yoga, indigo dyeing, cooking, bouldering, watercolor painting, dance and choreography, photography, outdoor Shakespeare performance, and poetry writing, pottery, and kite design. Field trips have ventured to factories, environmentally-designed homes, and to area trails.