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Trustees at Sewanee: The University of the South named a university president Wednesday to succeed Joel Cunningham, who led the campus for more than a decade.

John McCardell is a former president of Middlebury College, a top-ranked, liberal arts college in Vermont. He will take office July 1 as the 16th president and vice chancellor of Sewanee, an Episcopal liberal arts college.

"I look forward to working with the entire Sewanee community to advance what I consider one of the true gems of American higher education," Dr. McCardell said in a statement.

"The prospect of serving a unique institution whose history and traditions are so inextricably tied to the American South and to the Episcopal Church, and where the academic attainment of its faculty, students and alumni is so distinguished, was one to which I felt particularly drawn."

Dr. McCardell, 60, served as Middlebury president from 1992 until 2004. He has worked as a historian specializing in 19th-century U.S. history and advocate to lower the legal drinking age from 21 to 18.

In 2006, Dr. McCardell founded Choose Responsibly, which promotes debate about the effects of a legal drinking age of 21. Two years ago he co-sponsored the Amethyst Initiative, a statement signed by 135 college and university presidents that challenges drinking-age laws.

"He is an inspirational leader who will strengthen Sewanee's historic commitment to excellence in the liberal arts and service to the Episcopal Church," university Chancellor J. Neil Alexander said in a statement. "We are delighted that he has answered this call to service."

Dr. McCardell earned his undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in 1971 and did his graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University, where he earned a doctorate in history in 1976.

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