Alumni Spotlight – Patricia Flynn

Rhodes College 1977 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Recipient   Tell us about your path and how you got to where you are now. I grew up in New Orleans and, if you know anyone from New Orleans, you know they are very close to their family. I was really at a crossroads in life my […]

Alumni Spotlight – Nate Copeland

Shenandoah University

1985 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Recipient


What do you remember most about receiving the Sullivan award? Were you surprised?

I was very surprised! I didn’t know much about the award at the time but I felt so honored to receive it as a student. I am not exactly sure who nominated me for the award but I am pretty sure it was Dr. Brandt. He was a great professor that I really looked up to during college.

What do you do now?

I am president of a defense contracting company that focuses on intelligence. After college, I joined the Air Force as an Imagery Intelligence Officer and fell in love with it. I had no idea what I was doing but they Air Force trained me and I really learned to love what I do. I worked for some big firms after the Air Force and was excited to come on board at my current firm and build it to the company it is today. We went from having just five employees in 2012 and we will have close to 190 by the end of this year.

What do you do outside of work? What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about helping the special needs community, specifically in our hometown. My wife and I started the EMBRACE Special Needs Ministry at our church a few years ago and I am sit on the board for Joni & Friends of Ohio. Our daughter is pursuing a career in social work and really inspired us to be more involved with organizations that help those with special needs and people with disabilities.

If you could give one piece of advice to young people now, what would it be?

Life has to be more than work! We need to pick a slate of “Life Electives” and have those balance the work.

Alumni Spotlight – Meghan Freeman

Washington and Lee University

2007 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Recipient


What do you remember most about receiving the Sullivan award? Were you surprised?

I was very surprised. Receiving the Sullivan award really made graduation feel extra special.

You grew up outside of Los Angeles, California. How did you make your way to Washington and Lee?

I knew I wanted something very different than what I was used to. I wanted a smaller school but also knew I couldn’t handle weather any colder than Virginia. I applied before I visited campus but I knew it was the right fit for me. It was the best decision I could have made for myself.

Can you share a little about your time after graduation ant how you got to where you are now?

I actually married my husband the day after graduating college. He was a member of the Marine Corp and we soon moved to San Diego.  I received my masters in social work from San Diego State University.

I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field, helping my community and helping with people’s mental health. I was fortunate to get to work with military families and help them get adjusted to life in the service. It’s really a different world and life style to get used to so I was excited to be able to serve and help more families get more adjusted. My husband and I have four children so it was important to me to see these spouses of those serving and their children really thrive in a new environment. I also had the opportunity to be a part of the Marine Corp Relief Society to help families with any financial needs they may have encountered.

The Sullivan Foundation promotes positive social change in its programming and overall message. What are some key issues that matter most to you?

Mental health is very important to me, especially when working with college students. We now live in Virginia and are close to the campus of William and Mary. I enjoy getting to work with college students and help with this transitional period in their lives.

If you could give one piece of advice to young people now, what would it be?

Think of what you value in life and make decisions based on those values.

Alumni Spotlight – Ira Jackson

Rhodes College

 1987 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Recipient


You attended South Western at Memphis, now Rhodes College. Why did you choose this school?

I grew up in Atlanta but new I wanted to attend a smaller school. I think I needed that type of environment, something smaller and close-knit. I may not have known that at the time but, looking back, a smaller Liberal Arts school like Rhodes was what I needed to grow up. There were only about 1500 students at Rhodes when I started and I was able to be involved with a lot of different groups on campus. I really enjoyed being involved with student government and the Honors Council.

What is something that really stood out to you during your time that got you to where you are now?

Oh wow. There are so many things. One thing I think that really helped me to get to where I am now was the internship I had throughout college. I had a friend back home whose dad worked for a computer manufacturing company. My friend called one day and said his dad wanted me to come over for dinner. Now, you have to understand something. His dad was a little intimidating. He was quiet and reserved so you never really knew what he was thinking. I was a little nervous. Anyway, I went over for dinner that night. After we ate, my friend and his mom left me in the dining room with his dad. He looked at me and said, “Hey look, I want you to come work for me.” I was shocked. I didn’t know anything about computers!

He told me how he recently inherited this mentoring and internship program for the company and he wanted to do it his own way. When I asked him why he wanted me to be his intern, he said, “You’ve never come over to my house and disappeared without speaking. You’d always stop to talk and was able of carrying on a conversation. That isn’t something you can just teach.” So I showed up on my first day in the best “professional” outfit I had. I was excited to get started. I walked into his office feeling pretty confident. Before I could even sit down, he looked at me and said, “Where is your notepad? Always have a notepad when you walk into my office. You will learn something every time you come in here and it’ll be worth writing down.”

From that day forward, I never showed up without a notepad. I interned with that company every summer and really learned a lot. I was also thankful they were willing to hire me when I graduated from Rhodes. All these years later, I am still in touch with him.

Tell us about receiving the Sullivan award.

You know, I am not really sure why I was nominated or who even nominated me for the Sullivan award. I know there was a committee involved but I am not sure who added my name to the pot. I didn’t even know I was receiving the award until the graduation ceremony! I was really involved in student government and involved with the Honors Council. Maybe that is why I was nominated? I really didn’t serve in student government for the glory. I did it because I enjoyed it. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and that was my way of having that. I feel weird saying this but that was my highest honor in college.

You now own a printing business and are a very successful entrepreneur. How did you get started in printing?

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family but I never really had any interest in being a small business owner. I wanted to be a big shot in corporate America and work on Wall Street. My dad was an entrepreneur and planted that need in my head of creating a manufacturing business. He started looking at companies and vetting them. After a few years of looking, the printing think came up. I cancelled the meeting because I wasn’t interested. My dad went to the business anyway and wandered around before meeting the general manager at the time. He brought me this beautiful portfolio book this printing company created and I was automatically intrigued. It took a while but 5 months later, I purchased the company.

I had no idea what I was doing. I knew nothing and I am sure I was arrogant. Eleven months into owning this company, I think I kind of came to grips with my mortality in this industry and knew I needed to change some things to stay in business. It took me a long time but I finally got a clue and built a great team. I was very fortunate to have a lot of great people around me who were willing to teach me.

I’ve owned this company since 1991 and I think, starting out, I had this vision of getting to “this place” where I could kick my feet up on the desk, tell people what to do and leave whenever I wanted. Now, I can’t even think about retiring. I enjoy work too much and don’t want to ever be bored.

Any advice you can share with the next generation of entrepreneurs?

So much. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of great mentors so I always pass along a lot of what I was told. My dad always said, “Don’t work for money. Work for excellence in whatever you do. Do what you love and the money will come.”

I also had a mentor that always told me to “stay hopeful.”  You know, there is a real difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is based on data and facts. Hope is based on nothing other than your belief. Hope takes work.

Alumni Spotlight – Tammy Beasley

Auburn University

1984 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award


Tell us a little about your career and what you do for a living?

I am the Vice President of Clinical Nutrition Services at Alsana: An Eating Recovery Community and we are really growing. We have employees all over the country ranging from dietitians to chefs and we really broadened our scope and approach to helping those in need. We really focus on five different dimensions of care instead of just one or two. Helping people struggling with eating disorders is more than just counseling or putting them on a meal plan. There are so many other avenues to consider and we really strive to help the person heal in all areas of life.

You received the Sullivan award in 1984. Do you remember who nominated you?

I do! Dr. Sarah Strawn told me after I found out I was receiving the award that she nominated me from the College of Human Sciences. It is actually a funny story. There was a student in our class that had a lot of health issues and missed a lot. I kept notes from each class and would share them with him whenever he missed. I actually told Dr. Strawn one day that I must take great notes because that student had a better grade than I did! It’s crazy to me that she remembered that small act of kindness and nominated me for the Sullivan award. I didn’t think anything of it. I was just trying to help a fellow student.

I am still so honored to have received the Sullivan award. It sits on my bookshelf and I see if every day. I truly think about it often and how much it means to me.

What do you do outside of “work?”

You know, I really think my career is all about giving back and helping people. I go back to my alma mater twice a year and teach the juniors and seniors in the College of Human Sciences about eating disorder nutrition. There is so much more to it than anyone can teach in school and eating disorders aren’t really covered in the normal curriculum. I try and share some real life experiences with them and also teach as many people about this field and I do.

If you had one piece of advice to younger people, what you tell them?

Give more than expected. It will always come back to you. Give your time, give back in your field of study or work. There are so many ways to give back and when you do, you get more than expected in return.

Alumni Spotlight – Hope Adkins

Carson-Newman University Class of 2018

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Recipient


Tell us about your career and what you do now. How did you choose your career? Why did you go into this particular field?

My career is in education. I currently serve as the Alumni Relations Coordinator at Carson-Newman University and am working towards my Masters in Higher Education at Purdue University. I have been in my current position, serving alumni and friends of Carson-Newman (C-N), since June of 2019. The year following my graduation from C-N, I taught Family and Consumer Sciences at the secondary level. It wasn’t until I was in undergrad, that I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I found the passion and care with which my professors taught inside and outside of the classroom, contagious. I knew, through watching them, that I wanted to have a career where my job was more than just a job, but a calling. I found that calling in the classroom and although I loved my time as a high school teacher, I always knew deep within I wanted to work with college students. Everyone deserved someone who will be their champion, just like my professors and C-N community had been for me, and so through my hopeful career in higher education I will be able to champion other students to dream big dreams that make great impact on their campus and communities.

What do you remember most about receiving the Sullivan Award? Were you surprised? What do you think you did to receive the award?

I was so surprised. During the ceremony, I remember listening as the President talked vaguely about the recipient and I thought all of the things they were involved in sounded so familiar, but I was not putting two and two together. It wasn’t until after he said my name a second time that I realized what was happening. I knew very little about the award but was aware that it was an extreme honor and it was such a sweet day to share with my professors, friends and those that came to support me. As I have learned more about the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation and the other award recipients that came before and have followed me, I am still in awe. Receiving the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award was such a great way to end my senior year at C-N and it is something I am extremely grateful for and proud of.

Who nominated you for the Sullivan award? What was your relationship like with that person? What is your relationship like now?

I was nominated by various faculty and staff at Carson-Newman University. I think one of the most beautiful things about coming to C-N is the relationships you are able to build with faculty and staff. It really is a family and so I was extremely honored to be nominated by those who have taught, mentored and loved me. Now working on staff here, I pinch myself each time there is a “seat at the table” for me in meetings, conversations and events I attend with them. I hope I never take for granted their time, energy and help first in my undergraduate career and now in my professional career.

Are you involved in any community outreach now? What service opportunities have you been involved with in the past? What about now? How have these impacted you?

I currently am involved with various organizations and ministries through my church and the university. I also serve on the Advisory Board for the Carson-Newman Center for Community Engagement. When I was a student at C-N, I was a Faith and Justice Scholar and volunteered at various after-school programs and non-profits. Through each service opportunity I was reminded how grateful I am for a community that supports each other. I may have only been spending an hour volunteering and it didn’t feel like a great sacrifice, but those that were there were so grateful and made sure I knew my help mattered. I love seeing my community support its most vulnerable populations in ways that are helpful and uplifting. It made such an impact on the way I view those around me and causes me to be more intentional in helping and caring for others.

The Foundation promotes positive social change in its programming and overall message. What are some social issues that matter most to you today?

Over the past several months, I have found myself heartbroken over the racial injustice in our country. I want to be a voice for change and good in my community and so I am educating myself through reading and listening and believing the life experiences of people of color. I know that my life experience is much different and so I am learning to grieve with those grieve and walk alongside and consciously my friends of color. I know that change will not happen overnight and so I am committing myself to supporting positive social change and educating myself and others on the racial injustices of our world.

If pressed to give one piece of advice to younger people, what would you tell them? What have you learned that you hope they will learn?

If I had to give one piece of advice it would be that, it’s okay to not always know exactly what you want to do. There are so many people who believe in you and want to help you. You don’t have to carry the weight of the whole world on your shoulders. It’s okay to ask questions and make connections with people, especially during your time of need. There is a quote I love that says, “If I have seen further than others it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” And so that would be my advice, build a community of support around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on people as you learn, grow and advance in school and your career.

Alumni Spotlight – Mark Johnson

Shenandoah University

2010 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Recipient

Faculty Recipient


What do you remember most about receiving the Sullivan award? Were you surprised?

I was very surprised but it is actually a funny story. I was completely unaware I was getting the award. I usually never miss a graduation ceremony but, for some reason, we had a prior engagement so I was not able to attend that particular year. I only found out I was honored with this award when I checked my emails later that night. The pharmacy student who nominated me for the award and several faculty colleagues sent congratulatory emails.

You’ve been at Shenandoah a long time. What do you love most about your job?

I love to teach. I worked in a hospital pharmacy for a few years right out of school and enjoyed working with some of the interns and those participating in fellowships. When the opportunity to teach at Shenandoah presented itself in 1999, I knew it was the right move. I feel like, through teaching, I have opportunities to form more personal connections with these students. Teaching the next generations and giving back makes you feel like you really can make a difference in the world.

If you could give one piece of advice to young people now, what would it be?

Like what you do and have passion for it. That is what you’ll be best at and happiest doing.