Letter from the President

As always, thank you to our students, to our faculty, to our alumni, and to our friends for taking a look at the new issue of Engage. This marks our tenth edition and our fifth year of producing this magazine, and I hope it’s been as enjoyable for you to peruse as it has been for us to create. Nothing brings the staff at the Sullivan Foundation more pride than digging into what our schools are up to in service and social entrepreneurship.

As I scan through the pages in this issue, I notice a trend. Building community is a crucial part of creating a better world, and our schools are working hard to create supportive, innovative communities that serve on their campuses and in their communities.

At the same time, the Foundation is at the dawn of a new day in which we hope to broaden our own community building efforts—expanding our media outreach, increasing our programming, and strengthening the ties between Sullivan Award and Scholarship recipients, alumni, and friends. We all work better when we work together. The stories in this issue are an inspiration for us as we continue to improve and become an ever more beneficial presence in the lives of students.

I’m also proud to feature several schools in this issue that we’ve never written about before. It’s amazing that we can fill ten magazines with stories and still have more schools left to write about.

But that’s the nature of the Sullivan family. Thanks for reading, and please stay in touch,

Stephan L. McDavid,

The world inside a house

Sullivan school Washington and Lee combines international dialogue and service for a unique student experience


A Service House student chops meat while working at the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee, a project that reuses food that would otherwise go to waste. The CKWL is a primary service project for house residents.

During a snowball fight last year at Washington and Lee University’s Global Service House, the camaraderie of students could be heard in their laughter.

“It was really exciting, because a lot of us had never played in snow before,” says Sofia Sequeira, a native Costa Rican and the house’s former resident adviser. “It really made us bond and become close friends.”

A novel idea

Students goof around while carving pumpkins

The facility opened in fall 2012 and houses 17 students—approximately 60 percent international students and 40 percent domestic students.

In addition to bringing international and domestic students together, the house unites students that care about service. When Larry Boetsch, director of W&L’s Center for International Education, was researching the university’s Global Learning Initiative, he discovered that a high percentage of international students volunteer in the local community.

“What satisfies me the most is that the students themselves have really taken the initiative to make this work,” says Boetsch. “They’re a terrific group of students, and they understand exactly what we are trying to do. We haven’t set any rules or guidelines with regards to the way the house functions; the students have done it on their own. So they are responsible for its success.”

Bringing it all home

Sofia Sequeira

The experience of living there is as illuminating for domestic students as it is for international students.

“I have learned more about the cultures of other students and about the world than I ever thought I could without actually leaving the United States,” says New Jersey native Maya Epelbaum.

Trevin Ivory from Oklahoma City agrees. He and his housemate, Mohammed Adudayyeh, who is a Palestinian from the West Bank, have formed a friendship and started a dialogue.

“Mohammed and I have had many discussions about the differences in our cultures,” he says. “He’s Muslim and I’m Christian, so we’ve talked about the differences between our two religions. We all know each other and we all like each other, so it’s a very fun time. It also allows me to interact with people I wouldn’t normally be able to, such as students from Brazil or Germany.”

Serving side by side

In addition to learning from each other and serving together, students in the house find time to have fun

The students have provided their peers with new opportunities by introducing each other to their personal volunteer projects.

“A lot of students are really committed to community service, and they invite other students to their activities, such as volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, recycling, or tutoring children in Lexington,” says Sequeira.

The facility is, in fact, a tangible manifestation of W&L’s Global Learning Strategy.

“The students in the Global Service House today are a special group,” Boetsch says. “Honestly, I think it is an achievement of which we should be very proud and something which, in terms of the whole global learning initiative, is absolutely essential.”

This article is an edited version of a piece that appeared originally on W&L’s website. For more W&L news, visit columns.wlu.edu.

Sullivan Flashback

The Sullivans were art collectors and donators, and their collection lives on at Vanderbilt University

George and Mary Mildred Sullivan in 1906

After the death of Algernon Sydney Sullivan in 1887, Mary Mildred Sullivan and the couples’ son, George, went through a long period of bereavement—Mary Mildred Sullivan barely made it through the funeral, and went on to wear black for the rest of her life.

As was the family tradition, however, the mother and son team eventually began looking for ways to serve the public. Perhaps, in addition to their natural inclination to serve, pouring themselves into work was a way of coping—doing exactly what Algernon Sydney Sullivan would have done.

Mary Mildred Sullivan was a southerner, and her continued concern for the recovery of her home after the Civil War led her to find ways to contribute to its wellbeing.

Seated Woman, a 19th century oil painting by French artist Jules Adolphe Goupil, was donated to Peabody College by the Sullivans and remains at Vanderbilt University as part of the Sullivan Collection

Among her many endeavors, she supported and solicited donations for the Southern Industrial Education Association, established to aid so-called industrial schools, which provided basic education in areas in the South where public education still didn’t exist.

At the same time, George Sullivan had been building a vast art collection, visiting galleries in between his periodic illnesses (George, like his father, had poor luck with health). He collected prints, artworks, rare books, and historical documents.

While the Sullivans may have been great lovers of art for themselves, they were more interested in how their collection could be of service to others, and they did not hold it privately for long. They began disbursing their holdings in gifts to colleges and libraries.

Mary Mildred Sullivan in her black mourning attire after the death of Algernon Sydney Sullivan

The first major donation was to the George Peabody College for Teachers, which still exists today as part of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. A friend of Mary Mildred Sullivan’s who was also a graduate of the school told her that art teachers there were in need of a study collection. The Sullivans talked it over and quickly agreed, with George proclaiming, “we have found a splendid outlet for our desire to aid students.”

All told, the Sullivans donated some 10,000 works of art to various institutions.

Peabody College flourished into one of the finest schools of education in the nation in the early part of the 20th century. Its on-site high school, where aspiring teachers did their student teaching, was among the first Southern high schools to be desegregated in the early 1960s.

Peabody College’s main library as it appears today

By the late 1970s, however, Peabody had fallen on hard times, with a financially untenable situation. Fortunately, a solution was found as the school merged with its across-the-street neighbor, Vanderbilt University, where it remains to this day as the Peabody College of Education and Human Development.

It is routinely cited by U.S. News and World Report as the top graduate school of education in America.

The Sullivan Collection lives on at Vanderbilt today as well, with 86 catalogued pieces of art (curators believe there are many more that have yet to be catalogued). George Sullivan even followed up he and his mother’s art donation with another gift in 1937, for the construction of painting storage racks.

The racks are still in use.

Planting the SEEDs

Sewanee’s social entrepreneurship intern program exposes students to new worlds


Michael Benjamin with founder of Grameen Bank Dr. Muhammad Yunus at the 2010 Africa-Middle East Regional Microcredit Summit held in Kenya

Since 2007, students from Sewanee: The University of the South have been leaving their mountaintop campus in Tennessee and crossing the globe in search of new experiences and a world-class education in social entrepreneurship. Through the Social Entrepreneurship Education Program (SEED), summer internships take them to places like Bangladesh, China, and Indonesia, as well as some places at home in the U.S.

The SEED program is a crucial part of a surge in social entrepreneurship education at Sewanee over the last decade, which has included the introduction of new social entrepreneurship academic tracks as well as heavy student participation in the Sullivan Foundation’s Ignite retreats.

Michael Mansfield and Taylor Triplett in a Bangladeshi village with a borrower who used her loan to buy a cow

SEED is a fully immersive, 8-week program that combines the internship with a 1-week intensive pre-business training course where students get an introduction to finance, accounting, and entrepreneurship through

lectures and workshops with faculty and alumni.

Axton Reilly carrying a 32-kilogram wheat bag for a World Food Program beneficiary

Participants in SEED get to work as interns at some of the most innovative and successful socially-conscious companies in the world. For instance, in Bangladesh, students work with the Grameen Bank, which describes itself as the “Bank for the Poor.” It provides credit to the poorest of poor Bangladeshi citizens with the aim of lifting them out of poverty. Despite requiring no collateral for their loans, the bank has an amazing 97% repayment rate.

“Microfinance” organizations like Grameen Bank have been the focus of most of the internships, but students also get to work with more traditional, well-known institutions, like the United Nations World Food Program, the world’s largest humanitarian organization.

Students receive a special certificate for completing the program, but the biggest thing they get is exposure to a new way of thinking that sends many of them on to careers making a living by making life better for others.

Thanks to Sewanee for their help preparing this article and providing photos.

A bridge to the community

Newberry College’s Muller Center brings Lutheran philosophy to community service and individual growth

The 2017-2018 class of Muller Student Research Fellows: Sarah Johnson, Benjamin Herring, and Mariah Lee

On the second floor of Newberry College’s Keller Hall stands a bridge that links the 161-year-old institution to the rest of Newberry County, South Carolina, and beyond.

Though not a physical bridge, the Muller Center brings together faculty, staff, students, and the community for service in the Lutheran liberal arts traditions of civic engagement, ethical deliberation, and vocational exploration.

It’s the kind of community-college connection that has been a successful model at so many Sullivan network schools. And one of its most recent student research fellows happens to be a Sullivan Award recipient.

Going beyond volunteerism

Benjamin Herring, 2018 Sullivan Award recipient and Newberry College Muller Student Research Fellow

A major purpose of the Muller Center is connecting faculty, staff, and students to community organizations in and around Newberry, so that they may greaten their impact, give back to the community, and expand their understandings of vocation, ethics, and civic engagement.

Dr. Krista E. Hughes, the Center’s director, says that the Muller Center’s three central tenets, vocational exploration, ethical deliberation, and civic engagement, go beyond simple volunteerism or activism.

“Volunteering in the community is fundamental, but the center emphasizes the importance of doing the work, reflecting on what one’s values are, and on how one has changed self and community through the work,” says Hughes.

The college’s AmeriCorps VISTA works out of the center to cultivate long-term relationships with community partners. The AmeriCorps VISTA program, or Volunteers in Service to America, is a federal program designed to alleviate poverty through volunteerism.

Research and reflection

Mariah Lee uses part of her fellowship to study microbiology

Since its inception, the Center has provided not only chances to volunteer with local community partner organizations, but also opportunities to independently work, research, and deliberate.

These initiatives include the Sojourners Initiative, a program engaging second and third-year students in self-reflection and community service projects; as well as the Muller Student Research Fellowship, which guides and funds select student service projects to connect coursework and research to civic and community needs.

The Center also works with the College’s civic engagement courses, offers travel grants for off-campus service coursework, and provides a fellowship for faculty and staff, along with a host of other current and future programs.

“We connect people,” says Hughes. “It’s what we do.”

One of Sullivan’s own

As part of her fellowship, which she used to study literacy in early education, Sarah Johnson shows a young student how to use a “Little Free Library” box

Among the most recent batch of student research fellows is Benjamin Herring, a Hopkins, South Carolina native, who also had the distinction of receiving a Sullivan Award at his recent graduation.

A summer internship in Quito, Ecuador was the foundation for his project. Combining on-the-ground experience with research, Herring sought to develop a strategic management system specifically for international non-governmental organizations. Locally, he worked to educate about the global aspects of civic engagement.

The types of projects students can use the fellowship for are wide-ranging. Sarah Johnson and Mariah Lee, the other two members of Herring’s fellowship class, worked on vastly different topics. Johnson focused on early literacy in education while Lee conducted microbiology research and studied vaccination rates among the elderly in Newberry County.

Vocation in the Lutheran tradition

Newberry is a Lutheran school, and that Lutheran philosophy is central to the Muller Center’s mission. The center was founded in January 2015 with funds bequeathed by John D. Muller to support students pursuing ministry to church and world.

“[Martin] Luther understood vocation as being something that everyone has,” says Hughes. “A lot of people hear the word ‘vocation’ and they think about a tech school or a trade school, or if they’re Roman Catholic, they may have associations with people who are in the clergy, but for Luther, he really felt like all people have a calling.”

Hughes, also an associate professor of religion at Newberry College, says that one’s calling by God is “where one’s own gifts and talents meet the world’s needs in a unique way.”

As the Muller Center enters its third full year and a bright future ahead, more and more students will discover just what their gifts and talents are, and where the world needs them.


This article was adapted from a piece by James Salter that originally appeared in The Newberry Observer. To read the original, visit newberryobserver.com. Additional reporting comes from Newberry College. To learn more, visit newberry.edu/news.

The buzz about social entrepreneurship

George Mason’s Honey Bee Initiative promotes sustainability, teaches future entrepreneurs

Students and faculty work at the apiary on the George Mason campus

George Mason University has a vision for itself. That vision? To be “the best university for the world.” It’s a bold goal—the kind of thinking that makes a great Sullivan school.

Sometimes, achieving big things means encountering small ones. Small creatures, in this case: bees. Since 2012, the GMU campus in Fairfax, Virginia, has been host to an apiary as part of its Honey Bee Initiative.

Since the ribbon cutting on that first apiary, the initiative has expanded to 50 apiaries across Northern Virginia. It has three primary goals: conducting applied research to combat colony collapse, providing hands-on teaching about sustainable beekeeping practices and social entrepreneurship, and establishing collaborative partnerships to improve the security and sustainability of the Northern Virginia ecosystem.

Going global

Germán Perilla works with students at the apiary

The decline of honey bee populations is an ecological crisis that affects not only the United States, however, but much of the world.

That led Germán Perilla, who is the director of the initiative, and Lisa Gring-Pemble, Director of Social Entrepreneurship and Global Impact at GMU’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, to think about taking their project global. Thus, a new course was born: Social Impact and Entrepreneurship. The immersive course takes students to South America for 10 days during spring break to get a granular look at local businesses that not only make a profit, but also help people and the environment.

Francis Fuller, a senior accounting major, took the course this spring along with 14 other students. Once she arrived, she found herself in a very unusual, and at least a little uncomfortable, position: she had never been around so many bees.

But there she was, in a beekeeper’s suit, in the Santander region of Colombia, hearing the insects buzzing around her head.

“To be around that many bees and not running from them was an experience,” says Fuller.

The Honey Bee Initiative has provided about 180 beehives to the Santander region through its social entrepreneurship outreach, making it a natural fit for the course.

An immersive ten days

In addition to touring some of those hives and speaking with the beekeepers—mostly women looking to create a sustainable livelihood that meshes with family and household obligations, according to Gring-Pemble—students visited businesses that produce honey, chocolate, brown sugar, and coffee, and explored their business models.

They also met with bankers and mayors, and administrators from the Universidad Industrial de Santander, all of whom are helping to finance and advance these initiatives.

“We’re reading about these abstract concepts about social entrepreneurship, using business to create a better world, and it all sounds really wonderful,” says Gring-Pemble. “But when [students] meet a business owner who says I’m willing to pay above what the market sets as a wage because it’s the right thing to do, and I’m making a profit and doing it in a way that’s sustainable, then they take notice.”

“They were able to see the whole picture of what social entrepreneurship is,” says Perilla, who also teaches beekeeping classes at Mason. “It’s one thing to create case studies. It’s another thing if you can go see the complexity of it.”

A personal experience

Germán Perilla

Seeing how beehives have been incorporated into the lives of locals was especially impactful for Fuller, who came to the United States from Cartagena, Colombia, in 2010.

“The trip allowed me to understand the importance of learning about problems and the communities before attempting to generate a solution, which is necessary to create sustainable change,” says Fuller. “That was a key concept throughout the class before going on the trip, and was also very much present through our time in Colombia.”

“Beyond that,” she says, “I have a much deeper appreciation for bees.”


This article was adapted from a piece by Damian Cristodero of George Mason University.

Did You Know?

Sullivan was educated by his father, then helped educate the state of Indiana

Algernon Sydney Sullivan at the age of 23. This photograph, taken in 1849, is the earliest known image of Sullivan.

When Algernon Sydney Sullivan was growing up in Indiana, there was no public education system, as was true in most states in the first half of the 19th century. As a result, responsibility

Jeremiah Sullivan, Algernon Sydney Sullivan’s father, was born and raised in Virginia but later became a prominent attorney and statesman in Indiana.

for the young boy’s education fell to his father, Jeremiah Sullivan.

Jeremiah Sullivan, fortunately, was a staunch believer in the value of education and would not stand for anything but a top-rate tutor for his son. An Englishman named Roswell Elms was hired for the job, and Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a naturally studious child, began studying literature, writing, and oratory in both English and Latin—skills that would later serve him well in his career as a lawyer.

That both Elms and Sullivan’s father held education in such high esteem had another impact on Sullivan, however, which was that he became thoroughly convinced that everyone should receive the same excellent training.

Sullivan went on to college, and, despite difficult health problems (Sullivan’s health was always frail; he would suffer bouts of sickness frequently through the rest of his life) managed to graduate from Miami University of Ohio in 1845.

He then returned home to Indiana to begin his training as a lawyer. Even as he prepared for that respected and lucrative career for himself, though, his burgeoning desire to be a servant of the public began to manifest itself.

A movement had been started in Indiana by a man named Caleb Mills. Mills was an education reformer who wished to see the establishment of public education in the state. In its early stages, the campaign was a decidedly uphill one. Residents did not want to pay the taxes that would be required to fund such a large public service.

Sullivan, of course, felt that the cost would be far outweighed by the benefit of a more educated populace, so he joined Mills’s efforts and began touring the state, putting the oratorical skills he’d learned from Elms as a child to work in an effort to sway public opinion.

The Sullivan family home in Madison, Indiana, where Algernon Sydney Sullivan was educated by his father and his tutor, Roswell Elms.

The work was further training that would serve him in his legal career and perhaps laid the foundation for the life of service ahead of him. In 1848, a statewide referendum revealed that a majority of Indiana voters supported the establishment of public education, laying the groundwork for a statewide system.

Sullivan always credited his father, who was stern but also steadfastly ethical, for his moral dedication. A story from years later recounts that a colleague of his became frustrated and impatient with Sullivan because of his extreme scrupulousness. The colleague asked him, “Sullivan, have you ever been tempted to do anything which you thought was wrong?”

Sullivan reportedly thought about the question for a moment and then replied, “Yes, frequently, but I always thought of my dear old father and then I could not do it.”

Student. Athlete. Servant.

Wesley Curles, Sullivan Award recipient from Auburn, excels in the lab, on the field, and in the community


Wesley Curles exemplifies the well-rounded college student. His academic work is top-notch, he supplemented that with a stellar athletic career in track and field, and, on top of it all, made community service a priority. That last part wound him up accepting a Sullivan Award from Auburn University President Steven Leath when he graduated this spring with a degree in biomedical sciences.

“My plaque for the Sullivan award states that ‘nobleness enkindleth nobleness’; this phrase rings true in every area of my life, but especially my time at Auburn University,” says Curles. “I have had the privilege to know and learn from many noble people, and I am honored to receive an award that represents the traits I admire in them.”

Curles’s service work has also been noticed by the Southeastern Conference, which recognized him as the men’s 2017-2018 SEC Brad C. Davis Community Service Award recipient. He excelled in the classroom with a 3.96 overall grade-point-average, as well as in the lab, where he completed research investigating the link between Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 diabetes.

While trying to make the world a better place through research, Curles also found time to benefit the community right around him, primarily through Big Brothers Big Sisters, which he served as a mentor through most of his college career.

A runner, and so much more

Curles competes as a member of Auburn University’s Division I Track and Field Team

Since receiving his Sullivan Award, Curles has been recognized yet again with another prestigious honor, an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Fewer than 200 scholarships are given nationwide each year to students with excellent records of academic performance, athletic achievement, and community service. The combination of the scholarship with the Sullivan Award makes Curles a true student-athlete-servant.

“I am truly honored and thankful to receive an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship,” says Curles. “My professors, coaches, classmates and teammates at Auburn have taught me so much, and I am thankful to have them in my life. Because of my time at Auburn, I am confident that I am prepared academically for medical school. Scholarships like this one show that the NCAA is committed to supporting student-athletes, even those who are no longer competing. I could not have asked for a better four years and I will never forget the lessons and people of Auburn University.”

Going the distance

Curles boards the bus with his teammates on their way to a competition

The recognition doesn’t stop there. Curles was named the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Senior, and was selected as the 2017-2018 Male Scholar Athlete of the Year at the Spring 2018 Auburn Athletics Banquet. He was also a Rhodes Scholarship nominee in the fall.

A member of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Academic All American team and recipient of the Southeastern Conference Honor Roll, Curles was also an Academic Top Tiger, a College of Sciences and Mathematics Freshman and Sophomore Award winner, and on the Dean’s List throughout his time at Auburn.

Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, Curles was selected by his teammates to captain the 2016 and 2017 squads. He finished fourth in the mile at the SEC Indoor Championships and fifth in the 1500 meters at the SEC Outdoor Championships during his junior year.

From jersey to lab coat

Curles plans to pursue medical school at The University of Alabama-Birmingham in the coming academic year, and will likely go on to do life-changing work as a physician.

“Wesley has been an exemplary student-athlete in the classroom, on the track and in the community during his Auburn career,” says Allen Greene, director of Auburn Athletics. “His accomplishments are lengthy and wide ranging. Wesley has a very bright future and will be making a lasting impact on society.”

This article was adapted from a piece by Wade Berry of Auburn University. To read the original piece or to find other news about Auburn, visit ocm.auburn.edu/newsroom.