Ruth Evans Handley was a recipient of the Sullivan Award in 1948 at the University of North Carolina. The alumni reception in Winter Park, mentioned in this letter, was cancelled due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew, much to Handley’s regret.
Receiving my first issue of Engage several months ago was a pleasant surprise. It sent me to the bookshelf holding treasures: books to save. One was a slightly-yellowed volume titled Algernon Sydney Sullivan. It had not been off that shelf for many years, but it was a special book. I explored it for the first time in years and re-read the inscription on the frontispiece:
“To Ruth Bannister Evans, May 19, 1948
From The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards Committee
U. of N.C.
Ernest L. Mackie, Chm.”
So, what was this Engage that sent me to the special bookshelf? It was a thin, glossy magazine marked ‘Issue 2, 2014 ‘. The sub-title in all caps read: SERVICE AND SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP. I had never before seen a copy of this publication. Then I noticed a blurb saying ‘Featured in this Issue’ a headline including magic words: ‘University of North Carolina’. I must explore any reference to my beloved “Carolina”, a place where I experienced two wonderful, life-changing years!
Inside back cover was a feature on Margaret Pickard Sirvis, a 90 year old who won the Sullivan Award at UNC in 1944! Here was a fellow Tar Heel with whom I share a special bond. Discovering her, AND the magazine, AND the Foundation, made for a complete surprise and a real thrill. That day I read through the entire publication. Then I placed it, along with the old, faded volume, up on the special bookshelf.
Yesterday, along came Issue 6 of Engage in a mailing which included an invitation to an Alumni Reception on October 6 in Winter Park, FL, a mere two-hour drive from my home in Sebring, Florida.
I immediately decided to attend…and then I began to consider a question I have been asking myself often in recent (shall we say ‘mature’?) years. Why have I spent so much of my time these last 68 years deeply involved in public education at all levels and in a wide variety of community projects? Was the Sullivan award the trigger?
Maybe so. During my two years at UNC Chapel Hill, (where, back then, women were not allowed to matriculate until their junior year) I was involved in many extra-curricular activities, especially the YWCA and student publications, as well as student government, a sorority, and several inter-collegiate activities, including a five-week leadership training program at the University of Chicago under auspices of the Intercollegiate Christian Council. There I was so powerfully exposed to social reform projects on race relations, international relief, human rights etc. that I never lost the sense of how urgent it is for individuals to work diligently at making the world a better place.
I have no doubt that receiving the Sullivan Award for SERVICE firmly stamped into my consciousness and my conscience the sense of obligation, a need to ‘pay back’ society… and God… for the numerous and continuing blessings that I have enjoyed throughout my life: deep family roots, a love of learning, good health, a strong faith and patriotic fervor nourished by being an ‘Army brat’.
My ultimate blessings have been 50 years of marriage to a wonderful man and our five children, each of whom is now employed in work that is a service role: one in international public health research, one an elected county governing official/ home builder, one an administrator overseeing exceptional education programs, one the executive vice president of a state association of food producers, and one administering a large Soil and Water Conservation District. Yes, being ‘service-oriented’ has been ‘a given’ throughout my life. The Sullivan Award helped to make it so.
Thank you so much for finding me, sending me the two magazines, and inviting me to the Reception. I look forward to October 6th in Winter Park
Ruth Evans Handley (Mrs. Frank)