Did You Know? – The Death of Algernon Sydney Sullivan

Before the Sullivan Foundation and New York Southern Society, Sullivan’s legacy was maintained by a group of his friends

The modern Sullivan Foundation has many functions—running retreats and conferences, starting initiatives on member campuses, sponsoring faculty service projects—but the Foundation is still best known for the one thing it did when it all began.

The Sullivan Award has been honoring students since 1925—the first being presented only at the George Peabody College (now a part of Vanderbilt University) in Nashville.

The award memorializes Algernon Sydney Sullivan, of course. But Sullivan died in 1887, a full 38 years before his namesake award came into being. How was the desire to remember him so strong even so long after he was gone?

Sullivan succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 61. He had never enjoyed particularly good health, so his death was not much of a surprise to those that knew him. It was, however, a cause for unanimous public grief. In New York City, where Sullivan lived out the latter half of his life, the New York Times even ran a full tribute, saying:

The announcement that Algernon Sydney Sullivan is dead will prove a great shock and a cause of honest regret not only to his friends and acquaintances, who are many, but to the public at large, for he was looked upon as a man of great ability, of a kindness of heart that could not be measured, of never-ending desire to promote such projects as were for the benefit of the people, and more than all, he was considered a politician who was absolutely pure.

The Times wasn’t the only paper to memorialize him—many other New York papers ran their own tributes, along with others as far away as New Orleans. The world didn’t want to forget Sullivan, so a group of his friends, associates, and admirers formed the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Memorial Committee in order to ensure his memory would live on.

Over the course of some three-and-a-half decades, the committee did a number of different things to remember Sullivan. In 1906, they erected a public horse fountain bearing his portrait at Van Courtlandt Park. It is one of only a very few horse fountains still in existence in New York—and it still works. The committee also gave a bust of Sullivan to his college fraternity. They presented memorial plaques to New York law schools and other civic institutions.

EACA31 Van Cortlandt Park Bronx New York

None of these remembrances would do what the committee had set out to do, however—make sure Sullivan would live on long after all of them were gone. In 1925, they found their solution, and the Sullivan Award was born.

The committee partnered with the New York Southern Society to get the award off the ground, and a year later—their work finally done—the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Memorial Committee was disbanded.

Five years after that, in 1930, Sullivan’s wife, Mary Mildred, and son, George, secured the charter for the Foundation, to ensure the Award would go on even after their own deaths. Nearly 90 years later, it appears they succeeded.

Knowing How We Live

Sullivan Faculty Fellow Pradip Malde uses art to inform and to transform his students and the world

Pradip Malde is an artist, professor, and world traveler. His photography is held in collections at the Museum of the Art Institute in Chicago, Princeton University Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Yale University Museum, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, among others.

But, for Malde, art is about more than creating beautiful objects. It is inextricably linked to social action.

“I believe that art-making stands to put into a shared place our most personal attitudes and most enduring concerns, and in doing so, is essentially a social practice,” he says. “It follows then, that I am less concerned by art as a self-expressive practice and more interested by the way it helps create bonds and connections.”

That socially conscious artistic approach brought Malde, who is a professor of art at Sewanee, to be selected as one of the Sullivan Faculty Fellows for 2016-2017. He is using his fellowship to design a program of study that includes courses in documentary photography and environmental studies.

“Students begin to consider how an understanding of environmental and social relationships can lead to resilient and innovative communities, and from there to community-based action,” says Malde. “The course requires students to spend a majority of the time outside of traditional classroom spaces, with extensive field trips and home visits.”

A course in engagement

Students in the program, which is now fully planned and is beginning enrollment, will spend three weeks in Haiti and three in rural Grundy County, Tennessee, which is adjacent to Sewanee and has a poverty rate well above the national average.

As Malde puts it in the course’s description, “students will understand the significance of the day-to-day in relation to larger environmental issues, and vice versa, and learn to glean concerns that persist and are shared by communities as different as those in Haiti and Tennessee.”

Malde specializes in documentary photography, and much of the work he and his students do is about contextualizing communities, particularly those in need or suffering a loss. Photography, he believes, is especially capable of doing that contextualizing work.

“Photography is a widely accepted and highly readable expression,” says Malde. “Its ‘language’ is easy to access. It stands as evidence of events and establishes histories. Not to be confused with truth, but certainly aligned with authenticity, the use of photography by communities can establish pathways for social action.”

An art born out of loss

That loss is a constant theme of Malde’s work likely comes, he thinks, from where he started in life. His family was forced to flee his hometown of Arusha, Tanzania, on short notice as political turmoil took hold there in the 1970s. While they were never homeless or starving, he recalls the feeling of having lost everything his parents had worked for and not knowing what the future held.

“The story has a happy outcome, of course, but experiences like that leave deep imprints,” says Malde. “Vulnerability, not belonging anywhere, being afloat with no control over one’s fate—these feelings help me engage as much as I can with wherever I am. Photography is about full engagement, and has always been in my life.”

The happy outcome he mentions is, of course, a long and prolific career as a professional artist, many opportunities to teach—he’s been at Sewanee for 27 years now—and a host of awards and fellowships.

Turning experience into knowledge

The Sullivan Faculty Fellowship, which he received in August of 2016, is a distinction Malde is honored by. Most important, though, is the opportunity it has afforded him to have an impact on art students who wish to actively engage with the communities they document.

While the details are important, Malde sums up his hopes for his students in the broadest, most hopeful terms.

“I want students to know how we live,” he says, “and why things may be the way they are, and where small changes in our lives may lead to larger transformations.”

Sullivan Superstar

Berry College’s Elly Rusia takes advantage of all the Foundation has to offer and uses it to make a difference

When recent Berry College graduate Elly Rusia thinks back on her experiences with the Sullivan Foundation, she has a little trouble remembering exactly how it all started.

“It’s hard to pinpoint,” she says. “The whole thing just felt so natural.”

Her best guess is a workshop she attended on the Rome, Georgia, campus earlier in her college career. Spud Marshall, the Foundation’s Director of Student Engagement was there along with Alan Webb, a frequent facilitator at the Foundation’s “Ignite” retreats. The purpose of the workshop was introducing students to social entrepreneurship and filling them in about the ways the Foundation could help them.

One of Rusia’s advisors encouraged her to go to Ignite. She took the advisor’s advice… four times over. Rusia attended four retreats over the next couple of years and took the things she learned back to improve her campus, serving as one of the Foundation’s Campus Catalysts. The Catalysts’ goal is to create a team of students that work to make their campuses more dynamic places to learn about social innovation. It all started with Ignite!

“The retreats that Sullivan hosts are so amazing,” Rusia says. “They build this community in a short weekend, and I really come back feeling recharged and ready to take on the world.”

Reaching out and branching out

Her work as a catalyst and status as a retreat attendee are plenty to make Rusia a superstar in terms of her engagement with the Foundation, but it doesn’t end there. After her Junior year, she really wanted to do something unconventional instead of the same typical internships most students seek.

“I didn’t want to be in a place where I had to be in an office or corporate America,” she says.

She’d pinpointed where she wanted to be—Latin America—and how she wanted to get there. The nonprofit Social Entrepreneur Corps program sends students to Latin American countries to work as consultants with other local nonprofit agencies. The only problem for Rusia was that she didn’t have the funds to go. Sullivan had done so much for her in the past to further the goal of social engagement, so she decided to reach out.

She wrote an essay detailing her passion for the work and the good she thought it would do for her as well as the good she could do while there learning. She was given a grant, and was on her way.

“I can’t fully express how thankful I am to the Sullivan Foundation and how they’ve impacted me and encouraged me throughout my time with them,” she says.

Bringing it back home

Resources spent on Rusia have turned out to be a great investment for Sullivan. In addition to her work abroad, she enriched the Berry campus with several projects that helped bring the Foundation directly to the students.

With the help of a team she assembled at Berry, Rusia organized an ongoing series they call “Changemaker Chats,” which she describes as a sort of mini-Ignite retreat where likeminded students can get together, share and critique ideas, and build a true social innovation community.

From there, Rusia’s team dove into a second project—the Social Impact workshop. The workshops are designed to give participants a toolkit to help them get started with social ventures, teaching practical skillsets from interpersonal communication to business models.

The workshops center on particular social issues. The first one was called “Stigmas of Mental Illness.” The team put lots of effort into the preparation, but Rusia had no idea how much interest there would be.

“We didn’t plan for the amount of people that actually did show up, and there was a lot of talk on campus,” she says. “We had to get extra chairs.”

A maker of changemakers

Rusia is a perfect example of the kind of changemaker the Foundation hopes to mold, and now, she’s a maker of changemakers herself. Less than a year out from graduation, the road ahead for her could go just about any direction. She’ll always remember where it started, though.

“I’m so thankful to the people that have really invested in me,” Rusia says. “People like (retreat facilitators) David and Spud and Alan and Chad and Alexis. They do so much prep and they work so hard to have a wonderful, packed, amazing weekend. I’m also thankful for (Foundation president) Steve McDavid. I know he works hard to oversee all the operations behind the scenes. It’s truly been a wonderful time that I’ve had with them.”

Sullivan Flashback – Robert Gates

Robert Gates is a household name for most Americans, given his tenures as United States Secretary of Defense and as head of the CIA. Most people don’t know, however, that his political career has been interspersed with work in academia. He spent most of the nineties as a lecturer—at such storied colleges as Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, and his own alma mater, the College of William and Mary. He even served for a time as president of Texas A&M University, just before returning to government when he was appointed to the cabinet by President George W. Bush.

Gates would go on to serve under both the Bush and Obama administrations before retiring in 2011. He is the only Secretary of Defense ever to serve under presidents of different parties, owing to the wide bipartisan respect he cultivated in Washington. His nomination to the post was confirmed by the Senate 95-2.

President Barack Obama presents Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Secretary Gates at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., June 30, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Upon Gates’ retirement, President Obama bestowed on him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That medal is the highest award that can be received by a civilian in the United States. The first major award Gates won, however, may have been a sign of the career to come. When he graduated from William and Mary in 1965, Gates

received the Sullivan Award.

What’s more, this storied Sullivan alum is now back where it all began, serving as chancellor of William and Mary, where he has said he gained “a calling to serve—a sense of duty to community and country that this college has sought to instill in each generation of students for more than 300 years.”

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates awards the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service to First Lady Laura Bush at the Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell to the President at Fort Myer, Va., on Jan. 6, 2009. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

As an undergraduate, Gates was an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, among the most well-known college service organizations, where he worked to promote service-based leadership and community development. He even led the chapter during his senior year.

Gates made the most of his college years, mixing his service work with work as a dorm manager and an orientation aide. He also managed the William & Mary Review, a literary magazine.

While his return to William and Mary has lent a satisfying symmetry to his career, the college has never been far from Gates’ heart—he has returned for commencement speeches and other appearances over the years, served as a trustee, and been active in the alumni association. The college has even recognized his work with both an honorary doctorate and the Alumni Medallion, the alumni association’s highest honor.

At age 73, and with such a long and varied career already behind him (in addition to his academic and government work, he’s been president of the Boy Scouts of America and written three books), retirement might seem like the next logical step for Gates. His drive to serve his country, his college, and his community, however, points toward the possibility of a long road yet to go for this dedicated servant leader.

What He’s All About

2017 Sullivan Award recipient Dr. John Kline builds a legacy of service at Troy University

The path to academia was not a straight one for John Kline. Today, he is a professor as well as the director of the Institute for Leadership Development at Troy University in Troy, Alabama. He got his professional start, however, on a farm.

“I was a farmer in Iowa, where I grew up, for six years after high school,” says Kline. “I was told I wasn’t college material.”

Obviously, he proved the nay-sayers wrong. Not only did he go on to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor, he distinguished himself as an excellent teacher and mentor to countless students and a devoted community servant both on campus and in his community. Now, his 17 years as a vital asset to Troy have been honored with a Sullivan Award.

As a professor of communication and leadership, teaching has always been a major passion for Kline—he’s won plenty of awards for it. The recognition for service, however, was a new high point in his career.

“I thought I’d received the best award I would ever receive, and that was the classroom teacher award,” says Kline, referring to Troy’s Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, the university’s highest teaching honor. “This means more, though. It really does. It’s for service, and service is what I’m all about.”

An unexpected life

After his stint as a farmer, Kline eventually found himself at Iowa State University, a half decade older than most of his peers, and at first felt ill-prepared.

“I got a 16 on the English portion of the ACT. I go off to college and get a ‘C’ on my first paper,” Kline says. “I told my teacher, ‘I don’t talk good and I don’t write good.’”

He turned things around quickly and majored in English and speech education. After finishing his undergraduate work, Kline went on to get both his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Iowa. He completed all three degrees, astonishingly, in a total of six and a half years.

Kline found work after graduate school, serving as a professor at the University of New Mexico and at the University of Missouri-Columbia, before opening the next major chapter of his life. A mentor suggested he apply to the United States Air Force Air University. He thought he had no chance at getting the job. A surprise was in store for Kline.

“Dog-gone if they didn’t hire me,” he says.

He became a professor, teaching communication and leadership, and spent the next 25 years with the Air Force, rising to the top civilian position as University Provost and Chief Academic Officer.

A teacher of leaders

The Air Force had brought Kline to Alabama, and it turned out he was destined to stay. His next job was at Troy, where he cultivated a reputation as an attentive and astute teacher, as well as an excellent example for his students of how to be engaged with a community.

As director of Troy’s Institute for Leadership Development, whose stated mission is to facilitate “development of ethical, responsible leaders who want to use their leadership abilities at school, on the job, and to serve society,” Kline fosters what he calls “Servant Leaders” through conferences, courses, and campus partnerships. Citing his religious faith, he says the greatest servant leader who ever lived proclaimed 2000 years ago that he “came not to be served but to serve others.”

The impact of his work has left a lasting impression on many students. Sam Moody, a Troy student majoring in Risk Management Insurance with a minor in Leadership Development, has been profoundly impacted by Kline. For Moody, he exemplifies the Sullivan spirit.

“Dr. Kline has maintained a level of integrity, honesty, and servitude that far surpasses anything I have seen from another professor,” he says. “I have never had another professor that genuinely cares as much about the well-being of his or her students.”

And Kline’s service involvement goes far beyond his care for his students. He is active in his church, teaching Sunday school and holding other leadership positions. He works with the Special Olympics and the state’s Youth Leadership Forum for High School Students with Disabilities. He served as president of Montgomery, Alabama’s Partners in Education program for three years. And for many years both Dr. Kline and his wife, Ann, have been volunteers at the Wesley Gardens Assisted Living Facility in Montgomery.

A radiating impact

These are only a few of the service efforts that make Kline a worthy Sullivan Award recipient. After 17 years at Troy, not to mention the rest of his tremendous career and the years still to come, the impact he’s made on his students and the larger communities where he’s lived and worked, is impossible to measure.

His biggest legacy, however, may be in the many Servant Leaders he has helped form, whose impact will radiate out into the world from the Troy campus and continue impacting the world long after he retires.

“Dr. Kline has played such an instrumental role in my time at Troy,” says Moody, a junior and the Vice President of Campus Activities for the Student Government Association. “I know that our relationship is something that will help me grow for years to come.”

A Match Made in Service

Laura Young and Nick Ruxton, both 2014 Sullivan Award recipients, marry after seven years together

On August 5, 2017 Laura Young and Nick Ruxton were married at Westhampton United Methodist Church, the culmination of an eight-year courtship that began in high school, weathered four years of separation as the pair attended different colleges, and included a very special surprise when they reunited.

On May 10, 2014, Ruxton received a Sullivan Award at his graduation ceremony at Shenandoah University. Just a few weeks later, Young did the exact same thing, at Randolph-Macon College.

“I had to send him a message to let him know because he was abroad and we could not talk on the phone,” Young says. “I said to him ‘I know you have always wanted to name our first dog Sully, and now we really will have to, because we are both Sullivan award winners.’”

Living apart, living fully

Young and Ruxton began dating the summer before their senior year of high school, while serving on a church youth council that planned retreats and other youth group activities.

“We began talking as friends and it went from there,” Ruxton says. “We have never broken that text chain since we began talking.”

There was bound to be some difficulty, as the couple planned on going to different colleges while continuing to date, so they made a pact to stay together while still getting the most of their respective experiences.

“One commitment we made to each other was that we would not hole ourselves up in our respective dorm rooms and go visit each other every single weekend,” Young says. “We both decided we would get involved in school and soak up our college experience, while still making time to see each other when we could.”

That commitment meant that Young and Ruxton would often go stretches of 4 to 6 weeks without seeing each other in person, but they agree it provided the best experience possible.

“For both of us to win the Sullivan Award really said to me that we kept our commitment to each other and to ourselves to be active in our school and community, and that is something I am really proud of,” says Young.

An honor earned

Ruxton kept his promise to Laura from his first day at Shenandoah, located in Winchester, Virginia. He helped with meal time at the local Salvation Army, delivered food to homeless shelters during cold months, and, along with his friend Emily Howdyshell, led a mission trip to the Bahamas to work for Bahamas Methodist Habitat, which does home repair and disaster relief work.

Young, meanwhile, dove into campus life, finding her place as a leader among Randolph-Macon students. She served in student government as president of the class of 2014 all four years of her college career.  She also served as president of the college’s chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society, which emphasizes service to others as one of its five pillars. Through her sorority (for which she also served a term as president), she participated regularly in service projects.

A match worth waiting for

Their engagement, carefully orchestrated by Ruxton, took Young by surprise with the help of a little innocent trickery. Ruxton, who works as a videographer for the United Methodist Church, brought her along to an ecumenical center where he claimed to have work to do. The plan made sense, as they were going out to dinner with Young’s parents immediately afterward.

Little did Young know her parents weren’t the only ones planning to attend the dinner. Employing a fake text message, Ruxton claimed a co-worker inside had warned him to wait before coming in to avoid interrupting a prayer. How would they kill the time? There happened to be a beautiful overlook, offering a vista of the city of Richmond below, right nearby.

The moment they reached the overlook, Young knew she’d been duped, but couldn’t have been happier. Ruxton’s brother Stephen and sister-in-law Karley were hiding around a corner to capture the proposal. Afterwards, the Young and Ruxton families went out for a celebratory dinner.

Just over three years after that fateful May when Young and Ruxton received their Awards, they made it official. Their passion for service even shone through at the wedding reception where, in lieu of favors, donations were made to charities of importance to the specific guests at each table.

An attitude of gratitude

Neither Ruxton nor Young have forgotten the feeling of being recognized for their dedication, despite all the other exciting life changes since their Sullivan Awards.

At Shenandoah, the recipient of the Award isn’t even revealed until the ceremony, at the very moment it’s bestowed, so Ruxton was truly in for a surprise.

“I was in shock when my name was read at graduation,” he says. “I knew this award was given out at graduation and those who had won it before me were very influential members of the Shenandoah University community. I never thought my name would be listed with theirs.”

For Young, it was a validation of the commitment she and Ruxton had made in high school, to stay committed while not letting a long-distance relationship diminish what college could be.

“There are so many students at Randolph-Macon who are involved and dedicated, and to be recognized among them was very humbling,” she says. “I have always seen college as being about so much more than the grades on your transcript, so to be recognized for being a well-rounded student with a heart for service was really special to me.”

As individuals, Young and Ruxton have bright futures ahead of them. As a pair, the Sullivan spirit will shine even brighter within them, perhaps just as it did for Algernon Sydney and Mary Mildred Sullivan when they married more than 150 years ago.

Cooking Up Social Change

Campbell University nurtures students to become changemakers of the highest order

Campbell University, a growing campus that has anchored Buies Creek, North Carolina, since its 1887 founding as Buies Creek Academy, didn’t have to become a Sullivan School to lead its students into lives of service. The institution’s mission is “to graduate students with exemplary academic and professional skills who are prepared for purposeful lives and meaningful service.”

But Campbell’s focus on civic responsibility converges perfectly with the Sullivan Foundation’s support of changemakers intent on improving lives and outlooks.

Campbell’s more than 6,200 students prepare to be servant leaders in disciplines from business to medicine, sports management to engineering, divinity to homeland security, to name just a few. The student body logs an average of 80,000 service hours yearly in projects such as an annual spring Inasmuch Day of Service and a Mustard Seed Community Garden that donates produce to a local food pantry.

Ready to ignite

Campbell’s longtime focus on service today aims directly at the needs of underserved communities–globally, nationally, and especially in rural areas. Intent on building on Campbell’s history with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, the office of its president, Dr. J. Bradley Creed, last August issued a University-wide memo calling on all undergraduate deans to nominate their most promising changemakers to attend the October 2017 Ignite retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Not surprisingly, Kelly Fuqua and Daphanie Doane, the president and vice-president of Campbell’s Social Entrepreneurship Club, respectively, were among the 11 Campbell Camels who attended the retreat. Both were attending Ignite for the second time. They went to Ignite the first time to define social entrepreneurship for themselves.

“Last year I attended the Ignite retreat to truly get a better understanding of what social entrepreneurship is and what it means to be a social entrepreneur,” says Doane. “It really opened my eyes into the world of social change and what I could do to better my local community.”

This time around, Fuqua and Doane went to Ignite to hone their skills at organizing, networking, fundraising, and promoting social change programs on campus. Involved in myriad projects and carrying hefty course loads, both name Campbell SOUP as their “pet project” and want to boost student participation for the next event.

Hungry for innovation

Based on a Detroit SOUP community peer-to-peer funding model launched in 2010, Doane describes Campbell SOUP as “a micro-granting dinner that provides the opportunity for local start-ups, non-profits, or anyone with an idea to win funds to support their project.” Attendees pay $5 at the door for a meal of bread, salad, soup, a drink, and a voting ballot. They listen to presenters’ five-minute pitches, then vote to fund the most deserving, winner-take-all project.

SOUP at Campbell was started in 2016 by the Social Entrepreneurship club’s then-president Diane Ford, who also attended two Ignite retreats, including one with Doane and Fuqua. After hosting successful events in November 2016 and April 2017, Ford graduated in May and handed over the reins of the club, and the SOUP, to her friends.

Attendees of the most recent SOUP came to Campbell’s Lynch Auditorium and voted Buddy Backpack of Angier the winner, providing the organization with the proceeds of the evening, matched by the Campbell Office of Spiritual Life. Buddy Backpack provides low-income elementary schoolers with nutritious food over school-year weekends and holidays, and the Campbell event is funding this for one student for more than a year.

Finding inspiration in service

2019 BBA/MBA candidate Fuqua is driven by a desire to see renewed hope and faith carried out in action. She volunteered with New Hanover County Teen Court all through high school, an experience that influenced her chosen career path.

“I want to pursue juvenile justice, among other things,” she says. “To change the way younger generations view legal systems, authorities, and general respect.”

Doane’s changemaking resolve was strengthened last summer working as a mentor for the Campbell Youth Theological Institute, which focused on social change. She worked with the Five N Two food pantry in Harnett County as well as the Metanoia Community in Charleston, South Carolina.

“It was amazing to see the projects they had set in place and had accomplished to better their community,” says Doane.

Before the spring Ignite retreat in Raleigh, North Carolina, Doane and Fuqua will accompany Professor Scott Kelly, Instructor of Business & Entrepreneurship, to the 19th Annual Social Enterprise Conference presented by students at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. And then there’s program planning–including a beefed-up Campbell SOUP–for the University’s 12th annual Business Week event April 2-6, 2018. Fuqua and Doane were instrumental in shaping the Social Entrepreneurship theme of the weeklong event.

What You Really Need in Life

2015 Sullivan Award recipient Deterrian Shackelford uses education, celebrity status to impact children’s lives

Sullivan Awards are given to two different types of people: graduating seniors and community members—people on the college’s faculty or staff or even friends of the college with no official affiliation. Deterrian Shackelford (better known to friends and fans as “D.T.”) received his Award in 2015 in sort of a gray area between the two. He was a student at the University of Mississippi at the time, but he’d already finished undergrad three years earlier and had since earned a master’s degree with an eye toward a doctorate.

And while Shackelford certainly exemplified the humble servant’s heart recognized by Sullivan, he had a hard time keeping a low profile. He had been a starting linebacker for the university’s beloved football team and spent many Saturdays playing on national television around the Southeastern Conference.

Shackelford’s accomplishments came even as he missed two years of football with a torn ACL requiring two separate surgeries. He filled the void left by football by finding ways to serve others. Using his local celebrity status in Oxford, Mississippi, he brightened people’s days at a local nursing home and a children’s hospital. He volunteered to read to young children in schools and worked in a food pantry. He even spread the servant spirit among his teammates, leading them on mission trips to Panama and Haiti.

Once his football career ended, Shackelford knew his real work had only just begun. He started a career with the university’s athletics foundation. But Shackelford’s passion was still service, and he’s continued in that work by speaking to student groups to motivate them to do good work and build good character.

“A lot of these kids are attracted to the sport of football,” he says. “It’s just popular. But I want to show them that once you’re done with your athletic career, you can continue to be impactful in people’s lives. That’s something that sticks. A lot of them want to know how you played and who you tackled and who you sacked, but more kids look at what you do once you’re done with that, and, for me, that’s what matters the most. I don’t care about how many tackles I had. That doesn’t matter now. What matters are these kids. They are the now.”

Shackelford’s talks encourage kids to building strong character, overcome adversity, and develop kindness and empathy. He both discourages bullying and teaches kids how to respond to unkind words or actions. He travels all over Mississippi and to neighboring states to spread his positive message. It requires a lot of time and effort on top of the demands of his job, but he feeds off the energy in the room.

Ole Miss Football vs Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl on November 29th, 2014 in Oxford, MS.

“At one point, somebody was able to instill in me morals and values and character and the things that you really need in life,” says Shackelford. “For me, this is about giving back. The money, the popularity, I’d trade all that stuff to be able to come in here every day and speak to these youths and really make an impact on their lives.”

All that practice, as well as his special gift for connecting with children, has made him excellent at his chosen second vocation.

“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Shackelford says.

When it comes to caring, Shackelford sets a high bar with his example.

A Treasure in King’s Crown

A 1980 Sullivan Award Recipient reflects on seven decades of service

For 66 years, King University in Bristol, Tennessee, has had a treasure in its crown. Fittingly, her name is Jewel.

Enter through the front door of the King Building, which houses the library and administrative offices, and you’ll find Jewel Bell peering over her desk, likely smiling. Don’t be deceived. Come to see the president without an appointment? She’ll be pleased to make a first-time acquaintance, or delighted to see you if you’re an old friend—but nobody gets into the president’s office without her approval.

Not much gets past this 88-year-old executive administrative assistant for communications. She has navigated personal and professional challenges with a generous and dignified heart, the kind of spirit often recognized with a Sullivan Award. Bell was nominated for and received the award in 1980 and has continued to exemplify its principles by constantly uplifting others.

Last year, King University celebrated its 150th anniversary, along with the inauguration of a new president, Alexander Whitaker. Whitaker is the ninth president Bell has welcomed to campus.

“He says I’m like sunshine to him,” she says.

In true form, however, Bell has made it known that the present location of her desk—a spot she’s occupied since 1990—is where she’d like it to stay.

“I said if you all move me again, I’m just going to roll on out of here like a basketball,” she says.

From Maid to Matriarch

Bell’s strong work ethic was instilled in her by her mother, Hattie Howard, who worked for 89 of her 95 years. Bell herself started her first job at age 11, babysitting. She began her career at King in September of 1952 as a temporary maid in Bristol Hall, which at the time was a women’s dormitory.

That initial, two-week job became permanent, following an offer by then-president R.T.L. Liston. When a new telephone switchboard was installed on the campus in 1961—in the midst of the civil rights movement—Bell was asked to take charge of it.

“In 1961, several men came to campus to oversee the finalization of the switchboard,” she says. “When they finished, their supervisor asked the dean of women who would be operating it. She told him I would. He looked over at me in surprise and said, ‘We don’t have negroes operating switchboards.’ She told him, ‘Mrs. Bell will not only be an operator, she will be a supervisor. We are a private Christian institution, so we do as we please.’ And that was that!”

After training on the switchboard with the United Telephone Company, Bell moved to Parks Hall, the university’s new women’s dorm, where she served as the supervisor for both the switchboard and the building. Her understanding of King and the Bristol community, as well as her prime location in the dorm’s lobby, offered her the opportunity to interact with—and keep an eye on—King’s students. She worked to raise her own young children while simultaneously serving as mother and mentor to dozens more, offering comfort and guidance where needed.

Throughout her tenure, the world has seen numerous changes and upheavals. But Bell’s steadfast attitude and loving heart has remained steady. Today, she has three grown children, seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. She can also claim thousands of students who have come to her for advice, assistance, support and encouragement.

“Last year, the students who graduated in 1958 returned for Dogwood Weekend and invited me to attend the dinner with them,” says Bell. “They felt like I was a part of their class. Although I couldn’t attend classes in those days, the girls who worked for me on the switchboard and the kids all treated me as if I was the same. One precious young man who’s now a lawyer came back and gave me a hug. He told me, ‘I wanted you to go to class with us.’ I didn’t know that. You never know what’s in someone’s heart.”

Although Bell never participated in classes at King, her son, Lawrence Jr., became the first African-American student to attend in 1966.

“Whatever problems the students have had over the years, I’ve tried to help them,” she says. “One girl locked her keys in her car and called me at midnight. I took care of that. Another young woman who worked for me became pregnant and needed maternity clothes. I took care of that. A brand-new freshman took the bus all the way from Florida to come to King. He arrived at midnight with no way to get to campus and called our answering service. The call came to me and I took care of that, too. He told me, ‘I’d never been to Bristol and I don’t know if I’d have made it here without you!’

A Lifetime of Service from a Tennessee Colonel

The King community, along with residents of the region, can attest to the positive difference Bell makes. For decades she has devoted her time and efforts to the American Red Cross and the Slater Community Center. She has worked at Healing Hands Health Center since the clinic first opened its doors. She has served on the YWCA Bristol’s board of directors since the 1960s, lending her voice and the strength of her experience to the empowerment of women and the elimination of racism. While her children were in school she served on the PTA, and also served as the first African-American PTA council president. She continues to volunteer at the American Red Cross and is a longtime member of Lee Street Baptist Church.

Her unwavering dedication to King’s students, along with her longstanding devotion to her work, have earned her multiple awards. In addition to the Sullivan Award, she is an honoree of the YWCA’s Tribute to Women Program, has a lane on the King campus named after her, and was honored with the establishment of the Jewel H. Bell scholarship in 2007. The fund goes to help students who, as she describes it, “have fallen through the cracks and need a little extra help to stay in school,” a purpose that’s dear to her heart.

Most recently, she received the university’s first-ever Lifetime Service Award, presented during alumni weekend in spring 2017. At the same time she was also declared an Aide-de-Camp by Governor Bill Haslam, an honor that carries with it the title of Tennessee Colonel.

President Whitaker, who before his career in higher education was an active-duty Navy captain, says Bell outranks him.

“She is senior to us all in years and stature and in the affection with which she is held,” he says.  “Jewel Bell is the one person who more than any other—including the president—represents the university to its students, alumni, faculty, staff and members of the community.”

A Legacy of Love

As King enters its 151st year, Bell continues to serve as a guiding voice for the students, faculty and administration alike.

“To see where this school started and where we are today, it’s mesmerizing,” she says. “We have had so many moments of rich history and we are truly blessed to have come this far.”

Her mission of caring for others remains as strong as ever, and she’s grateful for the community that cares for her in return.

“My husband, Lawrence, and I were married for 50 years until his death,” says Bell. “My own children left years ago to pursue their careers, but this is still my home and the students are my family. Some of my family call me Gran, some call me GG, JB, Miss Jewel, plain Jewel, Mrs. Bell or Ma Bell. I prefer the young people and I love them. I feel like God has enabled me to be here so long because of them, and I believe I’ve made an impact.”

Did You Know? – Grover Cleveland

In between his two terms in office, President Grover Cleveland helped start the Sullivan Foundation

Most Americans have at least heard of President Grover Cleveland. Many are probably aware that he served as both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States—the only holder of that office ever to serve two nonconsecutive terms. Fewer still know that he presided over the admission of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington into the union as states or that he is the only president ever to be married while in office, inside the White House.

What even fewer know about Cleveland is the tiny footnote to his story that he was among the 77 men on the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Memorial Committee.

Cleveland, a Democrat, won his first term in 1884, defeating Republican James G. Blaine. In his 1888 reelection campaign, however, he lost the electoral college to Benjamin Harrison (though he can lay claim to popular vote victories in all three of his presidential runs). Upon leaving the White House, First Lady (and Cleveland’s still-new wife) Frances Cleveland said to a staff member, “Now, Jerry, I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again.” When asked when she would return, she responded, “We are coming back four years from today.”

Frances Cleveland was right. Cleveland won his second term in 1892, defeating Harrison handily in both the popular vote and the electoral college. But what does a president, expecting to return to office after a four-year hiatus, do with his brief stint as a private citizen?

According to history, the answer for Cleveland is a little bit of private law practice, a great deal of fishing, and serving, beginning in 1890, on the Sullivan Memorial Committee, the forerunner to what is now known as the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation.

Time well spent.