By Kirk Petersen
The White House announced February 4 that Reuben Brigety, the former vice chancellor and president of Sewanee: The University of the South, will be nominated as the U.S. ambassador to South Africa.
The announcement comes two months after Brigety abruptly resigned after 18 months on the job at Sewanee, citing news reports that the nomination might be offered. The nomination will require confirmation by the United States Senate.
Sewanee is owned by 28 southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and is located in Sewanee, Tennessee. In addition to being the home of one of 10 official Episcopal seminaries, it is a liberal arts college with more than 1,600 undergraduates.
Brigety announced his resignation on December 1, 2021, effective three weeks later, at the end of the academic term. Provost Nancy Berner has been serving as acting vice chancellor and president during a search to fill the position permanently.
Brigety, a former ambassador and State Department official in the Obama administration, was the first Black person named to lead Sewanee, which was founded in 1857.
The founders were three Episcopal bishops, all of them slaveholders, one of whom became a lieutenant general in the Confederate army, according to the university’s Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at the University of the South.
“The University was the only institution of higher education designed from the start to represent, protect, and promote the South’s civilization of bondage; and launched expressly for the slaveholding society of the South,” according to the website of the project, a six-year effort of Sewanee faculty, staff, and students begun in 2017.
Brigety said in March that about 3 percent of the student body is Black. This compares to Black representation of 12 to 13 percent nationally among undergraduates, according to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute.