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.
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.