John M. McCardell Jr., vice-chancellor and president of the University of the South, announced Tuesday that the Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, has been appointed dean of the university’s School of Theology. The announcement follows a national search that began last fall. Alexander’s appointment will be effective August 1.
Mr. Alexander had previously announced his intention to step down this year after 11 years as bishop. He succeeds the Very Rev. William S. Stafford who retires as dean of The School of Theology effective July 1.
Mr. Alexander currently serves as chancellor of the University of the South. He will step down as chancellor, and the chancellorship will transfer to the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson (John) Howard, bishop of the Diocese of Florida, until the next election by the university’s Board of Trustees.
“I am delighted to be able to continue my working relationship with Bishop Alexander in this new role,” said Mr. McCardell. “The years we have served together as chancellor and vice-chancellor have been enormously productive for the university, and his numerous strengths are a perfect match for The School of Theology, which is poised to grow and embrace future challenges.”
Mr. Alexander has a long record of service to Sewanee, including serving on the university’s Board of Regents since 2005 and as a trustee since 2001. As chancellor, he served as counselor and advisor to the vice-chancellor and the Board of Regents. During his tenure the university made bold moves, first reducing the 2011-12 tuition in both the college and The School of Theology and then freezing tuition rates for four years for the college class of 2016 and for three years for M. Div. students. He was the Norma and Olan Mills Professor of Divinity at The School of Theology from 1997 to 2001, and received an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2002 from the university.
He earned a master’s of divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and a doctor of theology from the General Theological Seminary. Mr. Alexander was ordained bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta in 2001.
"This is an excellent appointment for Sewanee,” said the Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt, bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee. “Bishop Alexander's experience in both the academy and the church equips him uniquely for leadership at The School of Theology, a pivotal institution for theological education in our church. I am delighted that he has been persuaded to serve."
Mr. Alexander has served in a variety of parish settings and taught at the General Theological Seminary, Yale University, Drew University, and Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. He has been a board member of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation and a faculty member and chaplain of the Preaching Excellence Conference of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation. He also has served as president of the Board of Directors of the College for Bishops.
A prolific author, Mr. Alexander has written numerous journal articles, several books on liturgical studies and pastoral care, book reviews, and essays in liturgics, homiletics, sacramental theology, and pastoral practice. Alexander has led pilgrimages and mission trips to dioceses in Africa, South America, and the British Isles.
During Mr. Stafford’s tenure as dean, The School of Theology launched a new D.Min. in Preaching program and is preparing to offer new master’s degrees in Religion and the Environment and in Theology and Literature. Mr. Stafford hired new faculty members in New Testament, Church History, Christian Ethics, Homiletics, Pastoral Theology, and Systematic Theology. He leaves the school on solid footing financially, academically and theologically.
“Bishop Alexander brings the exact qualities that The School of Theology needs to win national stature and recognition and the wide support of the Church, for which it is so ready,” said Mr. Stafford. “I enthusiastically welcome Bishop Alexander to this new position on the Mountain. I delight in his appointment and look forward to years of grace in the future.”