Letter from the President

Welcome, Sullivan Foundation supporters and alumni, to the third issue of Engage. In this issue, we take a look at more of the inspirational stories of our schools, students, and award winners. From a young man who lifted himself out of homelessness only to turn around and try to help others do the same, to a family that rallied to turn a mother’s cancer diagnosis into an opportunity to improve life for her fellow survivors—these stories exemplify the spirit of service at the core of our community.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to announce the addition of George Mason University. GM  already has  a strong commitment to service learning and social entrepreneurship, and we look forward to everything they will bring to our foundation.

Between our awards, scholarships, and program offerings, the Foundation provides schools with great resources to promote service. Just last fall, for instance, we had our most successful social entrepreneurship retreats and summer program. The newest addition to our calendar is a twice-annual reception that brings Sullivan alumni who live in the same region together and fosters a stronger network of service-minded individuals. To learn more, check the calendar as well as the article on the receptions found inside this issue.

Thanks again for your continued support, and please enjoy the new Engage.


Stephan Land McDavid
President, Sullivan Foundation

Sullivan Flashback: James F. Byrnes

By the time James F. Byrnes received his Sullivan Award from The Citadel in 1956, he was already at the tail end of a 46-year career in politics that took him from local office to the highest reaches of the United States government. Along the way, he travelled the globe and was party to some of the defining diplomatic moments of the 20th century.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1882, Byrnes was born into humble circumstances. His father had already died of tuberculosis; his mother was a dressmaker.  Byrnes had to drop out of school in the seventh grade to help support the family. Still, he managed to pass the South Carolina bar exam in 1903 without the benefit of any formal education, and became a lawyer.

Byrnes’s political career began in 1908, when he was named district prosecuting attorney. The next 30 years saw him ascend to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the Senate.

World leaders and diplomats, including James F. Byrnes, in talks at the Pottsdam Conference in 1945

In 1941, he was appointed to the US Supreme Court. For most politicians, such an appointment would be a bookend—an honorable final chapter in a career in public service. Not for Byrnes. He resigned one year later to become first the head of the Office of Economic Stabilization and then the Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.

Byrnes was a close advisor to President Roosevelt and went to the Yalta Conference with him in 1945, not long before he reached the pinnacle of his political career—President Truman appointing him Secretary of State. Byrnes even assisted in negotiations at the Potsdam Conference that facilitated the transition between WWII and the Cold War.

In 1947, he left Washington and returned to private legal practice in South Carolina, but he couldn’t stay out of politics for long—in 1951, he was elected governor and served one last term before finally retiring. After a long and busy life, he died in 1972.

Did you know?

The New York Southern Society gave birth to the Sullivan Award

Southern gentlemen of the 19th century who happened to find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of New York City—whether to live or merely to visit—often found themselves missing the comforts of home and the conversation of their fellow Southerners. In fact, Southern homesickness was prevalent enough in those days that an entire club was formed to ameliorate it.

The New York Southern Society was that organization. According to its own constitution, the society aimed to “promote friendly relations among Southern men, resident or temporarily sojourning in New York City, and to cherish and perpetuate the memories and traditions of the Southern people.”

The Society’s first president? None other than Algernon Sydney Sullivan.

A yearbook from the 1911-1912 year of the New York Southern Society. Yearbooks would recount speeches from society meetings, list the society’s membership, and alert those members to changes in the society’s bylaws

Though he died just a year into his tenure, Sullivan had already made such an impression on his fellow expatriate Southerners that they established the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at 15 universities in 1889. The award was conceived as a way to honor his legacy of service by recognizing college students of “noble character” who had made service a priority in their own lives.

The society boasted a membership representing 16 Southern states as well as the District of Columbia, and hosted galas and other social events throughout the year. The gatherings provided members a chance to reminisce about their homeland and were major New York social events. However, they also served frequently as fundraisers for concerns back in the South.

The Sullivan Foundation was established in 1930 and began jointly administering the awards with the New York Southern Society. The society was disbanded sometime in the 1970s, but its wish to honor Sullivan and lift up students dedicated to serving their communities lives on.

Just getting started

College of William and Mary student Daniel Reichwein turns a life of adversity into a life of service

Daniel Reichwein’s life story reads a bit like the screenplay of an overwrought Hollywood drama—the lows too low to be believed; the redemption a little too improbable to accept. That his story sounds like fiction is not lost on Reichwein, though. The details don’t add up to him, either.

“‘Miracle’ is the only way I can describe how I became the person I am now,” he says. “Growing up, everything I learned, I learned from a world of neglect, hatred, self-gratification, exploitation, misery, and isolation.”

Service is often seen as a way of helping others turn their lives around. For Reichwein, however, discovering the power of helping others is what saved his own life when it seemed that nothing could.

A bleak beginning

Reichwein’s parents were both drug dealers and were arrested in a raid when Reichwein was young, which ushered him into the foster care system. Things there, it turned out, would not be much better. He ended up with an adoptive family he describes as “negligent and hateful,” but his own description says less about that experience than the bare, harsh facts. Reichwein’s adoptive family ran a puppy mill, and he was put to work digging graves for dogs that died or wouldn’t sell when he was only in the eighth grade.

During this horrific childhood, Reichwein was the victim of both physical and sexual abuse, though perhaps the worst thing about his life was the fact that no one seemed to care what happened to him. At the age of 16, he attempted suicide.

“It was the loneliest I’ve ever felt,” he says, “when the 16-year-old me was ready to give up on life, tried, and failed—and nobody even noticed.”

The darkness before dawn

During his period of homelessness, Reichwein lived for a while in a tent he referred to as his “woodland cottage.” He even commuted to school from the tent while beginning his associate’s degree

Reichwein did have an immense determination despite the horrible odds he was given at birth—he attempted college once, dropped out, and then tried again at age 21. The second try didn’t take, either, unfortunately. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder kept him from finishing school, and Reichwein soon found himself homeless. He spent half of his twenties bouncing between shelters, the streets, and jail.

Even homelessness and the indignities that accompany it couldn’t bring him down.

“Failure strengthens us, it teaches us, and it’s what enables us to change,” he says. “When I became homeless is when I really started growing up. From all that time being in the shelters, soup kitchen lines, shower lines, the street, the alleys, the bus stops, the parks, and the woods, I began to empathize with the struggles of others. The world was not mine. I didn’t matter much.”

Gaining that sense of humility transformed Reichwein’s life goals—which were previously focused exclusively on wealth and personal glory—into something he could actually feel a passion for. He began spending his time helping not only himself, but the people around him, find a better life.

“I changed an old, homeless man’s life in a weekend by helping him find a job,” Reichwein says. “I talked my street friend out of selling his prescription drugs for money. I visited a friend I made in a shelter while he was in the hospital. And I knew I had made a difference.”

A new purpose

With the help of a social worker, he worked his way out of homelessness and enrolled in a community college, earning an associate’s degree in a year—still living, for part of that year, in a tent.

Now, against all odds, he is set to earn a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Business from the prestigious College of William and Mary in May 2015.

That Reichwein has managed to overcome all his obstacles and rise to achieve such success says less about him, however, than his continued dedication to serving others. He has worked, during his time at William and Mary, in the college’s Office of Community Engagement. He has mentored former felons for the United Way. He has helped unemployed people train for jobs at D.C. Central Kitchen in Washington.

Reichwein (second from right) attends a United Way Christmas dinner

In short, he has made the miracle that is his life into a quest to help build a similar life for the people around him. Despite all that, Reichwein sees plenty of room to keep growing and keep improving.

“The best of me is yet to come,” he says. “I’m just getting started.”

Daniel Reichwein is an alumnus of the Sullivan Foundation Service and Social Entrepreneurship Program’s 2013 Fall Retreat Weekend.

On the campus. In the county. Around the world.

Students and alumni of Bluefield College share their love of service in places near and far

Bluefield College is a small college with a big message for its students: go out and change the world.

This small-town, Baptist college preaches compassion while urging students to set their sights on the global community and the ways they can make it better. A commitment to academic excellence and an emphasis on the liberal arts are at the core of the curriculum, but what Bluefield cares most about are the contributions its students make to the world at large—both while they are students and once they leave the campus.

The Bluefield family is home to plenty of service-minded students and alumni. In this issue of Engage, we take a look at three of those family members—each one at a different phase of her service career—and examine how each one is working to make big changes in the world.

Gabriele Morgan

Gabriele Morgan (fourth from left) with other Leadership exCHANGE participants in Prague

Gabriele Morgan, a Bluefield College ______, had a life-changing experience last summer, when she went to Prague for a two-week, intensive course through the Sullivan Foundation’s Service and Social Entrepreneurship Program. Now, she’s taking what she learned in the Czech Republic and using it to teach others back at home.

“My time in Prague was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had so far,” says Morgan. “I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity both to go and learn there, and to come back and share what I learned with my school.”

The program she was a part of focused on women in leadership and was put on by the Leadership exCHANGE organization, which partners with Sullivan and other non-profit organizations to provide educational experiences to young people, with the goal of equipping them with the tools they need to become active and responsible citizens in the global community.

Morgan returned from her trip invigorated and filled with thoughts about how the power of community has the potential to affect social change. She wanted to share those thoughts with her peers at Bluefield, so she put together a presentation to share her experiences.

“The presentation was on the power of community to bring about change,” she says. “I spoke about how the group in Prague’s coming together as a tight-knit community was instrumental in growing as individuals and doing the work we were assigned.”

Morgan paired that personal experience with some larger-scale examples she learned about during her course of study.

“I learned about the various groups in Prague who used those very ideas—from the Velvet Revolution to the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which we watched a documentary on during one of our class sessions,” says Morgan. “I related these principles to what I had been learning in my classes at Bluefield about group formation and dynamics, as I was able to use a lot of what I learned in Prague in the classroom this past semester.”

Brittany Garton

Brittany Garton works with a student at the Ruth School in Bucharest, Romania

Brittany Garton, a 2011 Bluefield College graduate, is not timid when it comes to commitment. She has dedicated herself to a life of service to an organization called Project Ruth and its Ruth School in Bucharest, Romania. Garton felt her calling early in life and nurtured it while a student at BC.

“My calling to the Roma people and to Project Ruth was a gradual process,” says Garton. “My family and church has always been very missions oriented, so I guess it was just a life process of a calling.”

Garton began working with Project Ruth while just a freshman in high school as a volunteer during the summers, organizing Vacation Bible Schools in as many as 10 Roma villages each year. The mission of the non-profit organization is to break the cycle of poverty and bring hope to the Roma (Gypsy) community in Bucharest. Garton found inspiration in that mission right away.

Among the programs of Project Ruth is the Naomi Center—which provides professional counseling, career development, and job training to Roma women to help them better their lives—and The Gypsy Smith School, which offers basic theological education to Roma church leaders who wish to serve as pastors, music ministers, youth ministers, and missionaries.

The program Garton identified with the most, however, is the Ruth School, the largest ministry of Project Ruth. A fully accredited private school, it offers education to children in kindergarten through eighth grade, nearly all of whom come from a Roma background.

“Roma children face high levels of discrimination in public schools because of their ethnic background,” says Garton, “which often results in high dropout rates and poor academic outcomes. And, attending state schools is cost-prohibitive for many Roma families. The Ruth School seeks to eliminate as many barriers to learning as possible for these economically disadvantaged children, providing them with the opportunity for a brighter future.”

With an annual enrollment of more than 200 students, the Ruth School provides not only education to the Roma children, but also school supplies, daily meals, basic medical care, clothing and shoes, tutoring, and extracurricular activities. Garton’s responsibilities for the Ruth School include organizing and hosting volunteer or mission teams who come to support their efforts. She’s also in charge of fundraising, database management, publicity, and coordinating the school’s student sponsorship program. In addition, she helps with weekly chapel services and after-school enrichment programs.

Garton recalls one child she came to know very well—a boy named Robert, who showed great promise as a student through second grade but then suddenly stopped coming to school. Despite her visits to the home and pleading for him to return, Robert remained absent.

“That winter, I received a phone call from my pastor letting me know that Robert’s mom had lost her battle with cancer,” says Garton. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea she was ill. He hadn’t been skipping school to play with a half-deflated soccer ball in the streets. He was the end of life caregiver for his mother as his older brother was handling his grief with drugs and alcohol, and his father was working extra shifts as a street sweeper to pay the medical bills.”

Robert eventually returned to the Ruth School, and thanks to Garton’s efforts to wake, feed, and walk him to school in the mornings and work with him on make-up studies in the afternoons, he is back on track to gaining his education and overcoming his obstacles.

“His dad once told me that he had shared with his co-workers how this American girl was coming and doing all this for his son, because she was from the church down the street,” says Garton. “To me, that was the greatest testimony of what my calling is here.”

When asked about her future, particularly how long she plans to stay in Romania, Garton does not mince words.

“Until God or one of my bosses kicks me out,” she says. “My long-term plan is to continue serving in as many ways as possible. Bucharest is really my home now.”

Frannie Minton

Frannie Minton works with volunteers as part
of her Remote Area Medical (RAM) volunteer

Bluefield College alumna Frances “Frannie” Baxter Minton grew up accompanying her father, a family physician, on house calls to patients in Buchanan County, Virginia. She saw firsthand how the need for health and dental care often surpassed the supply. She also watched as the number of health care providers dwindled in southwest Virginia, while the sum of patients who could not afford care continued to climb.

“I saw how hard it was for people to go over the mountain, as they say, to get health care,” says Minton about the trek Buchanan County residents would have to take over Shorts Gap Mountain to find doctors and dentists. “That’s why I made it my mission to bring the care to Buchanan County.”

And that, she did. Instilled with her family’s passion for service and Christian care and love, Minton became a nurse and began a 34-year career in Buchanan County.

She also worked in hospital, home health, hospice care, and industrial medicine before founding the Baxter Foundation, which secured more than $450,000 in grants during its first year alone for a new obstetrics wing at Buchanan General Hospital and improving health care for all of Buchanan County. Eventually, she would create Appalachian Family Care in Grundy, Virginia, the first retail care clinic in southwest Virginia that submits billing to insurance. Open since 2006, the clinic has served more than 9,000 patients.

As if that weren’t enough, Minton decided to bring Remote Access Medical (RAM) care to Buchanan County to address the profound need for access to dental, optical and medical services for low-income, uninsured, and underserved residents.

“I grew up in a family of love. We were raised to give, and I want to give,” she says. “I saw how the churches were inundated with requests for help from people, especially dental care. So, I thought if we could have something like this once a year, we might not be able to do everything, but we could at least make a dent.”

RAM hosts one clinic a year in Buchanan County. Using portable dental, optical and medical equipment, volunteer dentists and hygienists offer cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and other oral care remedies.

In its 12th consecutive year, RAM and Mission of Mercy have provided an estimated $6 million in free dental care to residents in southwest Virginia, eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, and southern West Virginia. Even after 12 years of service, however, the need is greater than ever before—the number of patients is rising each year. More than 1,000 patients came seeking care this year. So many, Minton says, that they couldn’t treat them all.

“We have people standing in line as early as 5 a.m. on a Friday morning for care they may not even get until Saturday,” she says. “The lines are sometimes 300 yards long. They just need help, but the sad part is we still have to turn people away. That breaks my heart. We could do one of these every week and would still have patients to serve in dental.”

Minton says they couldn’t do the work they do without the generosity of the oral health care providers who donate their time, energy, and resources for two days that sometimes last as long as 14 hours each. Starting with just a handful, the group of volunteer dentists has now grown to about 50, with another 50-75 dental students joining the cause. Soon that number will include students from the Bluefield College School of Dental Medicine.

Now, at age 62, battling breast cancer in the midst of her tireless work and service, some might say the dental mission may soon be over—not Minton.

“The need is still there,” she says. “A lot of people go out of the area for missions, but I do it right in my own back yard. You have to keep on keeping on. As long as I’m able, that’s what I’ll do.”

Making connections

Annual Sullivan alumni receptions bring generations of award and scholarship recipients together

Caroline Brackenridge Talbot and Dee Dee Vantree-Keller

For the last three years, alumni of the Sullivan Foundation have been coming together to enjoy good food, good drinks, and good conversation at the bi-annual alumni reception. The event, which is scheduled to coincide with each year’s board meeting, brings Sullivan Award and Scholarship recipients from different schools and different generations together.

Winning a Sullivan Award in college is a good predictor for a life of service, so the Foundation trustees get a chance to connect with many teachers, nurses, doctors, philanthropists, and champions of social justice. Attendees draw inspiration from learning about the work of their peers and seeing firsthand that commitments to service don’t stop after college for Sullivan alumni.

“Members get to meet other members,” says foundation president Steve McDavid, “and, since there are 70 colleges and universities in the Sullivan family, they often don’t know who else has won a Sullivan award or even which other schools offer it.”

Doron Samuel-Siegel, Woody Sours, and Martha Sours

The location of the reception rotates among member colleges along with the board meeting, so alumni who live near each other can connect. Gathering these like-minded neighbors has sparked conversations about common interests and how to make a difference in the local community. The fundamental goal of the reception, however, is very simple.

“It’s about forging a connection,” says McDavid. “The reception has no agenda, no one’s asking for money. All we want to do is let our alumni know that the Sullivan Foundation is alive and well.”

The fall 2014 reception was held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, on October 16. Randolph-Macon College, the College of William & Mary, the University of Virginia, Hampden-Sydney College, and Mary Baldwin College co-hosted the gathering with the Sullivan Board of Trustees.

Living without regrets

The remarkable Newlen family turns a struggle into an opportunity to help others

Mark Newlen received a Sullivan award during his college days at the University of Virgina. In addition to his exceptional track record of service, he turned in some impressive performances on the basketball court and was selected for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-Academic Team.

Like most Sullivan award recipients, Mark has continued to make service and social entrepreneurship a top priority in his life. But he isn’t a one man show. That giving spirit and desire to make positive change is a mission shared by the entire Newlen family, even when that family is confronted with tragedy.

Mark and his daughter, Kali, were recently met with such a tragedy when Mark’s wife, Kim, died in February 2014 at the age of 57. It was a heartbreaking end to a 7-month battle with an aggressive form of breast cancer—the second such battle Kim had to endure. And while the story of her death is a painful one, it’s the story of her life that her family and friends most want to tell. Kim met the challenge of cancer not by despairing or crumbling in fear but by turning it into an opportunity to improve the plight of breast cancer sufferers everywhere.

A courageous heart

The Newlen family at the “World’s Greatest Tea Party” in 2005. Though it no longer holds the record, it was recognized at the time as the largest tea party in history by Guinness World

Before they learned about Kim’s cancer, the Newlens were already a family deeply concerned with improving the lives of others. Mark’s Making of a Champion youth clinics had taught more than 10,000 kids the game of basketball and used a positive sports experience to offer additional life lessons. Kim had already created a global phenomenon with her “Sweet Monday” womens’ groups—a venture that started as a simple weekly prayer and social gathering at her home and now operates all over the world. Kali, then a student at James Madison University, had dreams of impacting the world with her creativity, and was studying media in preparation for her career.

When Kim received her initial diagnosis in 2004, her first reaction was the obvious one—disbelief and fear. She fought hard, however, and managed to bounce back, even organizing the “World’s Greatest Tea Party,” a celebration of the ten-year anniversary of Sweet Monday, in 2005. Despite still being in recovery from that first bout with cancer, Kim managed a huge success. The event was attended by over 7,000 people and set the world record for biggest tea party—literally.

Cancer, sadly, was not through with Kim yet. But Kim was also not through fighting, and she decided to fight not only for herself, but for women everywhere.

Recovery… in style

Kim Newlen models one of her “Look Better Than You Feel” camisoles

Having been through the rigors of breast cancer treatment herself, Kim knew well the difficulties women in that position go through—and identified one of them that she could alleviate. While recovering, women make frequent trips to the hospital and, while at home, often have to employ special drains, emptying them several times a day.

Kim approached those problems with an invention—a stylish camisole that hides drains and provides women easy access to them without removing any clothing. The garment also makes hospital visits less tiresome by eliminating the need to change into a hospital gown every time.

Kim acquired a patent for her garment, and Mark joined her in her effort to make them widely available. Together, they arranged production of the camisoles and acquired contracts with major hospitals. Doctors and patients alike praised the camisoles for their practicality, as well as for their style—a consideration that might seem trivial to others in light of a life-threatening disease, but can be a source of comfort for women struggling to feel a sense of normalcy during a turbulent time.

The Newlens encapsulated the purpose of their product perfectly when they named their line of products “Look Better Than You Feel.” Without ever planning on it, they had become full-fledged social entrepreneurs.

A legacy worth preserving

The Newlen family, having been through a terrible ordeal already, finally had to endure what Kim so feared when she got the news in 2004. After her death, memorials and well-wishes poured in and the community came together to support Mark and Kali. Among the mourners were close friends as well as total strangers who had been touched by Kim’s evangelical work and the Newlens’ efforts with Look Better Than You Feel—a testament to the extraordinary reach her kindness and compassion had.

Mark put the effect Kim’s personality and her deep Christian faith had on others when he spoke at her memorial service:

“Let’s honor Kim’s legacy by learning from her example reading God’s word and trusting Christ as Savior and Lord. Kim saw the world through Jesus’ eyes. Kim looked beneath the surface and saw deep within. She saw gifts and talents in people that they couldn’t see in themselves.

“When you met Kim for the first time she made you feel as if you had known her all your life. One thing is certain: You will never be the same again! You all have been blessed to know Kim as a friend.”

Nearly a year later, Mark and Kali are still recovering, but plans are in place to continue Kim’s legacy. According to Kim’s wishes, Kali will take over Look Better Than You Feel and hopefully resume filling orders sometime later this year. Continuing the fight is a fitting way to honor a woman who did so with such courage, showing others how to do the same along the way.

“My mom had the biggest heart,” Kali writes in a tribute to her mother. “She taught us to celebrate everything, to live without regrets, to forgive deeply, and to love deeply.”

Sewanee means business

Entrepreneurial challenge prompts great ideas and rewards innovation

Contestants, judges, and mentors pose for a photo at the 2014 Sewanee Entrepreneurial Challenge

At Sewanee last November, seven student teams pitched their start-up ideas for the Sewanee 2014 Entrepreneurial Challenge (S4EC). The Challenge is designed to give students a taste of what it takes to secure the financing needed to create a new entrepreneurial venture.

S4EC was hosted by Sewanee’s Babson Center for Global Commerce, which focuses on leveraging Sewanee’s deeply-rooted liberal arts educational tradition to empower students seeking careers in business. The center offers scholarships, internships, a social entrepreneurship program, and other tools to train students and help them find satisfying business careers after graduation.

First-place winner Hannah Gallagher (left) with her mentor, Rivers Powers; third-place winner Tran Ly (right) with her mentor, Allie O’Connell

Students signed up for the competition early in the semester and embarked on the tumultuous journey that is the start-up process. A training session on generating business propositions gave students the tools they needed to submit a business idea. Then, they were paired with alumni and community mentors.  Together, the mentors and students refined the idea. They learned how to write a business plan and perfect a pitch. Finally, they had to step up and put their hard work out in the open to be reviewed. Judges looked over the business plans. The students had to make their pitch to a live audience and answer the judges’ questions on the fly.

Hannah Gallagher, a sophomore economics/French studies double major and business minor won first place in the overall competition and also won the award for the best social entrepreneurship proposal. Her winning business plan, “Zabi” was for a mail-order birth control company that would devote part of its earnings to causes that support access to birth control and sex education in the developing world.

Second place went to Eva Moss and James Wildasin for their plan for “My Locale,” a non-profit business that would support efficient forestry management and improved urban food source and resource management. Moss is a senior anthropology major and geology minor. Wildasen is a junior forestry major.

Judges gather to meet prior to the challenge.
From left: Reed Tomlinson, Allie O’Connell, Kathy Solomon, Sullivan Foundation president Steve McDavid, Babson Center Operations Manager Janna Brown McClain, Babson Center Director Chip Manning, and Dan Marcum

Tran Ly, a sophomore economics major and an Asian studies and business double minor, took the third place award for “PawPurfect,” a proposal for a company that would offer a non-toxic alternative to nail polish.

Gallagher took home a $300 cash prize for her first-place finish and another $150 for the best social entrepreneurship plan. She is also eligible to receive a grant of up to $5,000 to fund further development of her plan if she chooses to attempt to create a working business. Moss and Wildasen shared a $200 prize, and Ly was awarded a $100 prize for her achievement.