In 2014, a husband and wife unexpectedly received simultaneous Sullivan awards
After 15 years of marriage, Curt McPhail and Molly Chappell-McPhail have as strong a bond as anyone could hope for. Perhaps the only thing they’ve been committed to longer than each other, in fact, is service to others.
So, it’s not at all a surprise that either of them would be named a Sullivan Award recipient. What is a bit surprising is that they found out within a 24 hour period that both of them would receive the award the same year, from two different schools.
In the spring of 2014, McPhail met with Wofford officials and learned that he was going to receive his award. Naturally, he went home and told his wife.
“I thought, ‘That’s well deserved,’” Chappell-McPhail said.
The following day, Converse College notified her of her own award.
Neither college’s officials knew they were recognizing each of the McPhails until they had already decided on their award recipients, despite both schools being located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, according to Wofford spokeswoman Laura Corbin.
McPhail is a 1996 graduate of Wofford College, while Chappell-McPhail graduated in 1991 from Converse College. They each received their respective Sullivan Awards on the same weekend in May of 2014.
Serving the underserved
Chappell-McPhail is the founder of BirthMatters, a community doula program that provides services to mothers age 20 and younger in Spartanburg County. She is a certified doula and childbirth educator. Her career began as a social worker with Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, and she later worked with Regional Ob-Gyn Services, where she guided and directed a clinic for pregnant teens called Positive Results.
The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award recognizes “unselfish service, dedication to sharing with others and participation in the life of her community,” said Converse president Betsy Fleming during the ceremony. “It would be difficult to find a more deserving candidate for the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award.”
Curt McPhail is president of Greenlab Strategies in Spartanburg and project manager for the Northside Initiative.
Greenlab Strategies provides solutions to community development projects locally and around the world, and it serves as the executive staff for the Northside Development Corp., a nonprofit organization implementing the redevelopment of the city of Spartanburg’s Northside community, of which Wofford is a partner. The redevelopment initiative seeks to transform the area into a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood with education, health care, social service and employment opportunities.
Greenlab is also executive staff for globalbike inc., a nonprofit that provides people around the world with bicycles. McPhail served as director of global partnerships with globalbike from 2010 to 2013. He also served as program officer for the Mary Black Foundation from 2005 to 2013.
Admiration for dedication
Fittingly, the couple initially met through their community service work.
“We both have a heart for underserved communities, so we definitely relate in that perspective,” Chappell-McPhail said.
The 2014 announcement marked the second Sullivan award for McPhail, who received his first as a graduating senior in 1996. Now, he is a member of that most exclusive of Sullivan clubs—holders of both a student and community member award.
“It was really exciting to have that experience all over again,” he says.
McPhail’s own love for service is echoed in how he admires his wife for those same qualities that meant so much to the Sullivans long before the awards that bear their names were created in 1925 and 1940.
“The amazing work that she does with young moms is not only good for the families but for Spartanburg as well,” Curt McPhail said.
Well-deserved awards in hand, this husband-wife team will surely continue to have a positive impact on that community and represent the Foundation with true Sullivan spirit for years to come.