Louise Cowan gives Convocation address

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Light snow flurries greeted visitors to Sewanee for the Opening Convocation for the Easter Semester, held Friday, Jan. 17, in All Saints’ Chapel. Distinguished educator Louise Cowan gave the Convocation address and received an honorary Doctor of Letters. The university awarded academic gowns to 108 students during the Convocation, including 17 students who had previously been inducted in absentia into the Order of Gownsmen. See photos from the day here.

Cowan’s address echoed a recurring theme of Vice-Chancellor John McCardell, asking what it means in today’s world to be the University “of the South.” In a talk that quoted poets Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom and T.S. Eliot, Cowan argued that the South’s view of poetry as “life heightened and made memorable” is central to the region’s identity.

The South evokes a warmer and more joyous life, said Cowan, especially in a time “devoted to information, to the naïve belief that data and statistics constitute truth.” She concluded with the thought that the South—with its eloquence, its humor, and its belief in the dignity of the individual—has much to contribute to modern statesmanship. Watch her address here, beginning at about the 28-minute mark, or read the text of her address.

Louise Shillingburg Cowan is a professor emerita at the University of Dallas, served as dean of the Graduate School there, founded the Institute of Philosophic Studies, and co-founded the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. A literary critic and author, Cowan is best known for her teaching and her impact on students. The curriculum she devised at the University of Dallas has been acclaimed for its advancement of learning in the liberal education tradition. She received the Charles Frankel Prize from President George H.W. Bush, was honored by Laura Bush for the establishment of The Teachers Academy at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, and has been named to a list of the 20 most brilliant living Christian professors.

 

Also honored during the Convocation was poet Marilyn Nelson, who received an honorary Doctor of Letters. Read more about both honorary degree recipients here.

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