Ex-Offender Creates App to Keep Prisoners Connected With Their Families

When a judge sentenced Marcus Bullock to eight years in prison for carjacking, the teenager had every reason to believe his life was pretty much over. He was 15 years old, thrown into a pitiless and brutal penal system and largely cut off from the outside world. But he had one lifeline: frequent letters from his mother.

Bullock survived incarceration, thanks to those letters, and never forgot what they meant to him. Now 37, he has co-created Flikshop, an app designed to facilitate communications between the nation’s 2.1 million inmates—who are not allowed to keep smartphones, tablets or computers in prison—and the loved ones (or kindhearted strangers) who want to stay in touch with them.

Since few people write letters anymore, the vast majority of prisoners languish in their cells without hearing much from their loved ones back home. No access to mobile devices means no Facebook, no Instagram, no texts or Facetime. But Flikshop offers an ingenious solution. Subscribers can send messages and pictures to inmates for 99 cents apiece. The photos and text are printed out in the form of picture postcards and delivered to inmates via snail-mail around the U.S.

“When you are in prison, getting mail is like hitting the lottery,” Bullock told TheUndefeated.com. “It is your connection to the outside world.”

Marcus Bullock as a high-school hoops player.

Bullock has become an outspoken advocate for sentencing reform since his own release. He travels the country and speaks to audiences about his experiences in prison and his journey from ex-con to entrepreneur. The Flikshop app, meanwhile, has attracted some big-name investors, including John Legend and former NBA star Baron Davis. It also scored a $120,000 investment from Techstars, a worldwide network that provides funding and consulting support for startups ventures.

The Campaign for Youth Justice, an organization dedicated to halting the prosecution and incarceration of juvenile offenders as adults, uses Flikshop to send messages to hundreds of inmates who were sent to adult prisons as children. Marcy Mistrett, the organization’s CEO, called Flikshop “a critical, critical way for people who are incarcerated to stay connected. Connection to family and positive social networks is the single most important indicator of successful re-entry into society when people are released from prison.”

Google, SAP to Sponsor Global Contest for Social Entrepreneurs

Google and SAP will sponsor an international contest to find social entrepreneurs with original ideas that can impact global economic sustainability.

The companies announced the Circular Economy 2030 contest at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, this week. Entrepreneurs are invited to submit viable, revenue-generating business plans that use data analytics and machine learning to promote sustainable consumption and production through recycling, reuse, refurbishing and repair.

According to ZDNet.com, a circular economy refers to “a holistic system that designs out waste and pollution, keeps products in use and regenerates natural resources. That could mean anything from eco-friendly packaging solutions to sustainable agriculture.”

SAP estimates that a circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion in new economic output by 2030.

“SAP is proud to partner with Google Cloud to further our commitment to sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals while we strive for a circular economy,” said Alicia Tillman, SAP’s chief marketing officer, in a statement. “At SAP, we embrace the challenge of environmental responsibility and believe it is our duty to put our technology to use to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Teaming up with Google Cloud and environmental entrepreneurs, the sky is the limit.”

The deadline for applications is March 17. Five finalists will be selected and introduced at the Google Cloud Next Conference, scheduled for April 9-11. Finalists will then participate in an “in-person hackathon” on April 12 in San Francisco. Here, they vie for the first-place award of more than $100,000 in prize money and benefits as well as participation in Google Cloud for Startups’ Bootcamp and one-on-one membership. The other finalists receive $25,000 in cash.

This Victoria’s Secret Supermodel Has Another Secret: She’s Also a Social Entrepreneur

A supermodel’s work is never done, especially when she’s also a social entrepreneur like Leomie Anderson.

Anderson first earned fame for her smoldering beauty and the way she looks in lingerie, but she has parlayed that fame into a side career that blends high fashion with activism on women’s issues, according to Forbes.com.

The 25-year-old British-born model booked her first catwalk show with Marc Jacobs when she was 17. Jobs for Tom Ford, Chloe, Yeezy and Fenty Puma followed, leading to one of the hottest gigs in the fashion world—modeling for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Anderson is also one of the faces for Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s makeup brand.

But with great fame comes great responsibility, Anderson believes. After building a following with her Youtube channel, “Cracked China Cup,” she became an in-demand public speaker, visiting schools and talking to young girls about the issues they face in their everyday lives.

“After attending a few speaking engagements,” writes Tommy Williams in Forbes, “it dawned on her that many of the women she encountered were asking questions for which answers ought to be readily available.”

To provide those answers, Anderson launched her blogging platform, LAPP (Leomie Anderson the Project the Purpose), on which women and girls share their stories, exchange perspectives, and keep up on the latest topics, ranging from race relations and body image issues to pregnancy, patriarchal dominance and sex.

To fund the platform and continue generating high-quality content without charging for subscriptions or soliciting advertisements, Anderson created LAPP the Brand for which she developed a full line of fashionable and functional sports luxe wear. The company’s slogan, “Championing Women’s Issues Through Fashion,” reflect Anderson’s commitment to providing women and girls with a voice while encouraging healthy, active lifestyles.

Leomie Anderson uses her fashion brand to support her activism in support of women’s issues.

And her clothing line also reflects Anderson’s take-no-prisoners approach to defending women’s rights. When Rihanna wore the LAPP Brand’s “This P***y Grabs Back” sweatshirt at the Women’s March in New York last year, the world took notice. Vogue magazine singled the pop superstar out for sporting “the coolest protest look” at the event.

“This moment means a lot to me and the brand for so many reasons,” Anderson told Yahoo Style after the march. “The fact [Rihanna] chose to wear it to the iconic #womensmarch in NYC over anything else she had in her wardrobe is crazy. She is one of my biggest inspirations; she works hard, owns her sexuality and is genuinely so talented—everything that LAPP represents—and I hope that her supporting the brand will draw more women into the blog aspect as well as the clothes and [that they will] be interested in submitting a piece for LAPP.”

Once her modeling days are behind her, Anderson plans to stick with her LAPP mission. She told Forbes that she envisions a future for LAPP in which the brand will “have changed the lives of many women and given them access to much more information.”

Jon Bon Jovi Gives Social Entrepreneurship a Good Name

Jon Bon Jovi is giving love for his home state—and social entrepreneurship in general—a good name with the JBJ Soul Kitchen, his nonprofit restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey.

Described as a community restaurant, JBJ Soul Kitchen serves delicious three-course farm-to-table meals to both paying customers and those who can’t afford to pay. Customers can also pay for their meals by volunteering to work in the eatery—serving food, bussing tables, washing dishes and other typical restaurant tasks. (See video below.)

Bon Jovi’s restaurant made the news this week when it offered free lunch meals to furloughed government workers on Monday—a day when it’s normally closed. “Since founding the Soul Kitchen, we wanted to ensure that anyone struggling with food insecurity had a place to go,” Bon Jovi and his wife/business partner, Dorothea, said in a statement. “This Monday (Jan. 21), we will be open for lunch as a way to create a place of support and resources for furloughed federal workers, many of whom are our friends and neighbors.”

The program is a partnership with the Murphy Family Foundation, founded by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy.

Bon Jovi’s statement added that the availability of additional free meals for federal employees “will be determined by turnout, feedback and demand and will be announced at a later date.”

Some members of the JBJ Soul Kitchen in Toms River, New Jersey

To generate revenue for the social-enterprise restaurant, paying customers at JBJ Soul Kitchen make a donation of $20 per meal. They can also donate an additional $20 to the Pay It Forward program to help fund a meal for someone who can’t afford to pay. The restaurant emphasizes healthy, organic and locally grown ingredients and offers an alternative to cheap but unhealthy fast food.

Soul Kitchen grows some ingredients in its own organic gardens and gets other foods from the Whole Foods Market Middletown. Whatever their financial means, customers are served by waitstaff in what Bon Jovi has described as “the coolest brasserie in your hometown” and “the hottest-looking restaurant, a place with the atmosphere of dignity for the guests.”

 

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.