The University of the South dedicated its newest residence hall, Patricia and Robert Ayres Hall, on Nov. 4 as part of Homecoming festivities. Alumni, guests, faculty, and staff gathered in the fall sunshine on the front terrace of Ayres Hall and spilled onto the lawn.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Marichal Gentry, C’86, welcomed the attendees. He noted that the residence hall approximately doubled the number of students living in its section of campus, close to academic buildings, McClurg Dining Hall, and duPont Library. The residence hall’s design incorporates both flexibility and accessibility of spaces. Gentry remarked on the building’s multiple porches as places “to enjoy both fellowship and the beauty of the Sewanee campus.”
Reid Funston, C’86, represented the Board of Regents and formally presented the building to the University. It was accepted on behalf of the institution by Vice-Chancellor John McCardell.
McCardell extended a special welcome to the Ayres family members who were in attendance. “It is almost impossible to overstate the impact Pat and Bob have had on the University of the South, the Sewanee community and indeed the Cumberland Plateau,” said McCardell. “But allow me an opportunity try.”
Patricia Shield Ayres, H’88, has been particularly concerned with the needs of children and has been active on both domestic and international levels, and has made a lifelong commitment to serving others, seeing us all as members of one human family. The service of Robert Moss Ayres Jr., C’49, H’74, to alma mater has been broad and deep. He has served as a trustee, as president of the Alumni Association, as chair of the Board of Regents, and even took a leave of absence from his investment firm to help invigorate Sewanee’s annual giving program.
In 1977, Ayres was asked by his fellow Regents to serve as acting Vice-Chancellor. A year later, Ayres agreed to become the University’s 13th vice-chancellor and held that position until 1988, leading the University through a challenging financial time.
McCardell concluded by quoting a passage from Sam Williamson’s Sewanee history book to put the Ayres’s contributions in context: “With [their] 11 years of service (and decades of service both before and after), this accidental vice-chancellor joined the ranks as one of the modern founders of the University of the South.”