Honors Student Who Fed Thousands and Rape Survivor Advocate Receive Sullivan Awards at The Citadel

Sullivan Foundation partner school The Citadel has named two recipients of the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award: An honors student who has provided thousands of meals to the food-insecure and stood up for Native Americans and a professor who has advocated for survivors of rape and domestic violence.

Cadet Olivia Jones (pictured above) is an Honors Program student at The Citadel majoring in political science with a concentration in military affairs. Jones also serves as the Papa Company Commander, maintaining company morale while adhering to the highest ethical standards. Jones has demonstrated her commitment as a servant leader throughout her time at The Citadel, creating a Summer Food Service Program providing 3,700 meals to low-income families. She also has promoted quality of life initiatives for Native American families in New Mexico, providing community training for the most vulnerable in those communities.

Related: “The Beloved Community”: Alexus Cumbie’s poetry, policy and passion for changemaking

this photo shows a smiling Kristen Hefner, who won the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for faculty members at The Citadel

Dr. Kristen Hefner received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for her work in the areas of victim advocacy and domestic violence education.

Dr. Kristen Hefner, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has distinguished herself as a teacher-scholar, spearheading community outreach initiatives in the areas of victim advocacy and domestic violence education and creating rich service-learning opportunities for her students. For her service-learning project with People Against Rape, a community non-profit, Hefner and her student were awarded the Good Citizen Award by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Al Cannon and community victim advocates seek to continue Hefner’s humanitarian work, with her students having created over 200 uplifting and encouraging cards for survivors who have been impacted by violence.

In partnership with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, the Citadel presents the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards annually to a student and faculty member in recognition of high thought and noble endeavor.

This story has been edited from the original version on The Citadel’s website.

Related: Ole Miss honors five changemakers with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards


Rose Denor, Tanner Shivley Earn Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at Carson-Newman University

Sullivan Foundation partner school Carson-Newman University announced that Rose Denor and Tanner Shivley are recipients of the 2020 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. The recognition is the highest honor the University presents to students.

Scroll down to watch the video presentation of the awards.

A resident of Chattanooga, Denor has pursued a major in history. A Bonner Scholar, Denor has also served as a student development intern this past year for the University’s Center for Community Engagement. The opportunity allowed her to lead the Bonner Scholars Program. An immigrant from Haiti, Denor has had a heart for also helping immigrants and refugees in the community.

photo of Rose Denor, recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Carson-Newman University

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Rose Denor “cares about making sure that all the people she knows feel seen, loved and valued.”

“[Rose] is a servant leader,” said Bonner Scholars Coordinator Gabby Valentine. “She cares about making sure that all the people she knows feel seen, loved and valued. She goes the extra mile, not because it makes her look good, but because it needs to be done.”

Shivley (pictured at top) is a youth athletics and recreation management major from Fall Branch. “Tanner is one of our hardest working students in our Faith & Justice Scholars Program,” said Dave McNeely, coordinator of the program. “Over the four years he’s been here, he’s always exemplified what it means to just jump in when something needs to be done.”

Related: Sullivan Scholar Sara Busaleh: Serving others “gave me hope when I was hopeless”

Shivley has also helped with tutoring and after-school recreation for elementary school children through the WOW Ministry at First Baptist Church of Jefferson City. A Niswonger Scholar, he’s been credited with always being quick to help those in need.

Both Denor and Shivley have also been active in Jefferson County’s Journey Program, which offers extra support and intervention for high school students.

“We are grateful for Rose and Tanner and all the ways they have represented our university,” said University President Charles A. Fowler. “In their time at Carson-Newman, they both have truly demonstrated what it means to be servant leaders.”

Related: University of Alabama Sullivan Award winner Malik Seals is on a quest to cure multiple sclerosis

The New York Southern Society established the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 1890 to honor Sullivan, an Indiana native and Manhattan attorney who was considered a living example of genteel spirit and Christian compassion. The awards, which are donated by the foundation that bears his name, are granted at 68 colleges and universities to graduating seniors, one female and one male, who “excel in high ideals of living, in fine spiritual qualities, and in generous and unselfish service to others.”

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Carson-Newman University website.

Paxton Peacock, Natalie Conboy and Chris Nunn Receive Sullivan Awards at Auburn

By Neal Reid

An alumnus with more than two decades of community leadership and a pair of accomplished students recently were tabbed as the 2020 recipients of the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Sullivan Foundation partner school Auburn University.

Community leader Chris Dernard Nunn, animal sciences and pre-vet major Paxton Wade Peacock, and biomedical sciences and psychology double-major Natalie Elizabeth Conboy are the 2020 recipients of the Sullivan Award, which is given annually by Auburn University to individuals who embody high qualities and nobility of character.

Related: “Service is a lifestyle I live by”: Meet the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winners at the University of South Carolina

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award has been presented at Auburn since 1951 as a reminder of the noblest human qualities exemplified by Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a prominent humanitarian and first president of the New York Southern Society, now the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. Each year, Auburn bestows the honor on one male and one female student from the graduating class and this year also has honored Nunn as an exemplary alumnus.

photo of Sullivan Award winner Paxton Peacock with a prize pig

Paxton Peacock (left) shows off a prize NBC Showpigs hog.

Paxton Wade Peacock
Paxton Peacock, from Wicksburg, Alabama, serves as a leader not only in the local community, but also within the state, nation and world. He is the founder of NBC Showpigs, which raises, shows and sells elite show hogs. He also founded an international service organization called Chick-Chain Project, which sends chickens and chicken coops to third-world countries.

Peacock has traveled on a medical mission trip to Guatemala, where he established a library in a rural African community by donating more than 1,000 books, and has helped to rebuild a church for the homeless in Paris. In addition, he supervises his family’s Peacock Farms and works as a healthcare policy intern for the Healthcare Leadership Council in Washington, D.C., and he also managed horses at the Auburn University Equestrian Center.

Related: “The Beloved Community”: Sullivan Award winner Alexus Cumbie’s poetry, policy and passion for changemaking

Peacock is a student in the Honors College, an Undergraduate Research Fellow and is active in the Student Government Association, Undergraduate Research Ambassadors and the Collegiate Board of the National Society of High School Scholars.

After graduation, Peacock will attend medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

photo of Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Natalie Conboy at Auburn University

Natalie Conboy, a winner of the 2020 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Auburn University, is also the President’s Award winner for Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics.

Natalie Elizabeth Conboy
Natalie Conboy, a resident of Birmingham, takes helping others to new levels. Since she was a freshman, she has volunteered as a tutor at the Esperanza House, a local nonprofit that serves low-income Hispanic children and families. She supports academic and personal growth of more than a dozen children in the program through workshops and recreational events.

She is president of the Student Association for Mentoring, where she helps to train and match student mentors with local school children. She also has been part of a number of research projects, including screening community and student participants for traumatic experiences.

Conboy—who also is this year’s President’s Award winner for the College of Sciences and Mathematics at Auburn—has presented her research at national conventions in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta and was named a Fulbright Scholar semifinalist. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school.

photo of Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Chris Nunn of Auburn

Chris Nunn has led Project Uplift at the Lee County Youth Development Center for 20-plus years.

Chris Dernard Nunn
A 1990 graduate from Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts, Nunn upholds the meaning of the Auburn Creed in every way. For more than 20 years, he has served as executive manager of community services for Project Uplift at the Lee County Youth Development Center. He has led the community and university project that has placed more than 10,000 volunteers and children together. To improve the overall experience, Nunn developed a more careful screening process, expanded services the program offers and grew communication and data keeping efforts.

Outside of Project Uplift, Nunn has served on a number of community boards, including the East Alabama Medical Center, the City of Opelika Zoning Board of Adjustments, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, and the Lee County Department of Human Resources.

A former gospel music radio announcer and juvenile probation officer, Nunn also has been involved with area churches as a youth and young adult choir director, Christian education director and youth minister. He currently serves as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Hurtsboro, Alabama.

This article was edited from the original version appearing on the Auburn University website.

Related: Ole Miss honors five changemakers with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Imani Belton, Gabriel Dias Receive Sullivan Awards at Winthrop University

Sullivan Foundation partner school Winthrop University recognized two graduating seniors—Imani Belton of Simpsonville, South Carolina (pictured above), and Gabriel Dias of Joinville, Brazil—for their service to the campus and community with prestigious Sullivan Awards on May 6.

Since Winthrop’s campus is closed due to the pandemic, the award winners were announced on Facebook.

“We are extremely proud to present these awards each year,” said Shelia Higgs Burkhalter, vice president for student affairs at Winthrop. “Even though we could not celebrate these recipients in person, we still wanted to acknowledge their hard work, service, commitment and leadership that positively impacted Winthrop. These students have left their mark on our university, and we are very grateful for each one’s contributions.”

photo of Imani Belton, winner of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award at Winthrop University

Imani Belton

Imani Belton, an integrated marketing communication major, received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award. Belton is the outgoing chair of Winthrop’s Council of Student Leaders (CSL). During her tenure, she regularly gave student body updates to Winthrop’s Board of Trustees. Belton has served as an Academic Success Center tutor, Diversity Peer Educator, Peer Mentor and as a member of the Leadership Institute for First-Timers (LIFT) conference planning committee. She previously served as the CSL’s public relations committee co-chair. Belton also received the division’s Diversity and Student Engagement Award.

Belton is a first-generation college student, and Winthrop was recently recognized by the Center for First-generation Student Success for its efforts to create a positive, productive experience for students like her. “Throughout my time at Winthrop, I’ve been able to connect with first-generation faculty, staff and students, which has made my collegiate experience 10 times better because of bonds we’ve created,” Belton said at the time. “Being a first-generation student is a point of pride for me and other Winthrop students who have benefited from learning on a campus that provides outreach and services for students like us.”

photo of Gabriel Dias, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Winthrop University

Gabriel Dias, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, is captain of the men’s tennis team and a noted scholar-athlete.

Business administration major Gabriel Dias captured the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. A member and two-time captain of the men’s tennis team, Dias displayed leadership on and off the court. He represented Winthrop and the Big South Conference on the student advisory group for the NCAA. The highly selective group consisted of just 32 student-athletes from across the country. Dias also served as president of Winthrop’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council and as a member of the CSL. He stood out in the classroom, earning a spot on the Big South Conference All-Academic Team during his junior year.

This article has been edited from the original story appearing on the Winthrop University website.

Ole Miss Honors Five Changemakers with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Sullivan Foundation partner school the University of Mississippi honored several faculty, staff and students were honored with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards recently for their service within the community and beyond.

The annual Sullivan Awards were presented by the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement in conjunction with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation to recognize students, faculty, staff and community members who demonstrate selfless service to others.

Related: “Service is the lifestyle I live by: Meet the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winners at the University of South Carolina

The Sullivan Awards are among the university’s highest honors recognizing service. To be considered for the award, individuals must be nominated by others.

“During the disruptions and uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, it is all too easy to feel disconnected from one another and forget that connectedness and interdependence are essential elements of community,” said Cade Smith, UM’s assistant vice chancellor for community engagement.

“The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award reminds us that connectedness and service to others are in the fabric of community by recognizing students, faculty, staff and community members who place service to community and others above self.”

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner at University of Alabama is on a quest to cure multiple sclerosis

Savannah Day and Neely Griggs, both majoring in public policy leadership, were presented the Student Awards. Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, a research scientist in the UM National Center for Natural Products Research, received the Staff Member Award. The Faculty Member Award went to Michael Raines, instructional assistant professor of applied linguistics. The Community Member Award was given to Zach Scruggs, executive director of Second Chance Mississippi in Oxford.Excerpts from the honorees’ nomination letters reveal why they were chosen to be recognized:

Neely Griggs

Neely Griggs
According to one of Griggs’ nomination letters, Neely’s internship with the Department of Human Services “is perhaps the most prominent example of her selfless service to her community. She would talk to me often about the aid applicants that she would interview and assist day-to-day, expressing genuine empathy/desire to help these people in whatever way she could. This experience helped her gain a better understanding of the underserved in the Oxford community and only increased her desire to do whatever she could to improve these people’s lives.”

Another nominator added, “She is my role model. I am just one the many people in the community whose life she has touched in a positive way, and I am absolutely sure that she will only broaden her outreach in the pursuit of her goals, which all center around community development. She is determined to improve the state of affairs in her home state of Mississippi.

Savannah Day

Savannah Day
Day has made a difference at Ole Miss through leadership with the Columns Society, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement’s iTeam, and her sorority, her nominator wrote. “Her work has been intentional about making a difference. As a journalism student, she could have pursued work with major news networks to pad her resume, but she chose areas of passion where she could make an impact. From the time we worked together in D.C., I knew that Savannah would leave our campus and community better than she found it … She’s a remarkable young woman and someone that would represent this award program very well,” the person wrote.


Mohamed Ali Ibrahim

Mohamed Ali Ibrahim
Ibrahim is “an outstanding model of honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion,” a nominator wrote. “He was able to implement … essential moral ethics through his serving at the Integrity Time program at the Oxford Elementary School for two years [where he taught] the children many lessons about the importance of ethics … what is true and good and right and how to apply that. [This] makes him as an ambassador of morality [and] ethics.”

Ibrahim is also a member of the Kiwanis Club and has organized various fundraising projects and supported several other charitable organizations in the Oxford/Ole Miss community.


Michael Raines

Michael Raines
A nomination letter for Raines praises him as “a tireless helper in the communities around northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee.” The letter goes on to describe how Raines and his family meet on the first Saturday of each month at Golden Living Nursing Home in Ripley to give out snacks, sing and provide companionship to the patients. Additionally, he has personally, without pay, helped two students—one Korean, the other Panamanian—reach acceptable scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam.


Zach Scruggs
The letter for Scruggs’ nomination spoke highly of his dedication to supporting others committed to bettering themselves. Explaining how Scruggs supported a young mother who had dropped out of high school and was involved in selling drugs, the nominator wrote, “When she made the first step to put that life behind her, Zach made sure she had a weekly stipend to put food on the table and gas in her car as long as she attended class. He paid her tuition and, once she completed her coursework, made sure she had a cash bonus to get a good jump start on her life.”

“These individuals represent the UM legacy of service to others and have made a tremendous impact within our community,” said Erin Payseur Oeth, project manager for community engagement at Ole Miss. “We are thankful for their dedication to serve, their inspiring leadership and their example.”


“Service Is a Lifestyle I Live By”: Meet the Sullivan Award Winners at the University of South Carolina

By Page Ivey

A pair of highly accomplished seniors at the University of South Carolina, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, have been honored with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for the 2019-20 school year. The Sullivan Award is given each year for outstanding achievements, campus leadership, exemplary character and service to the community.

The Sullivan Award is the University of South Carolina’s highest undergraduate honor. It’s awarded annually to two graduating seniors. Here’s a closer look at this year’s recipients:

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Sophia Bertrand (center) with her parents

Sophia Bertrand
While earning her bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology and participating in research, including a neuroscience project at the university’s Institute for Mind and Brain, Sophia Bertrand also managed a 3.9 GPA and even squeezed in a study-abroad experience every year of her college career.

In addition to her neuroscience project, Bertrand, who came to South Carolina as a Capstone Scholar from Roswell, Georgia, has received the Magellan Apprentice and Mini-Grants to conduct her own research evaluating the development of “Theory of Mind”—the ability to see someone else’s perspective and relate to them emotionally—in hearing-impaired children. She conducted her research at the Hearts for Hearing Institute in Oklahoma and presented her results at Discovery Day 2018.

Related: Sullivan Scholar Sara Busaleh: Serving Others “Gave Me Hope When I Was Hopeless”

But it is in study and service abroad that Bertrand has found her calling. “I studied abroad every year at USC because I have a deep appreciation for understanding different cultures,” Bertrand said. “This widened my perspective, and my coursework began to translate to service abroad because service is a lifestyle that I live by.”

She received the Excellence in Service-Learning Award from the UofSC Leadership and Service Center this past fall in recognition of her extensive service projects both locally and internationally.

Bertrand has also participated in UofSC medical service-learning trips to Nicaragua and Guatemala and a public health intervention in Costa Rica. In the U.S., Bertrand has participated in programs to feed the homeless in Columbia and Atlanta and was a math and English tutor for Gamecocks Aiding Refugees in Columbia.

Also during her time at South Carolina, she has helped connect the university community with the international service organization Rotary. She even established a mentor program that connects students with Rotarians. “The goal is to give students the opportunity to network and find mentors in their fields of study, in support of their professional development and success after graduation,” Bertrand says.

Bertrand, who also is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is planning a career in healthcare and would like to work outside the U.S.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Kevin Gagnon

Kevin Gagnon
While earning his bachelor of science degree in computer science, Irmo, S.C., native Kevin Gagnon used his computing skills to help a historically black community near the university tell its story.

“Coming into USC, research was not something that I expected to be involved in,” wrote Gagnon, a first-generation college student and a member of the South Carolina Honors College, in his award nomination essay. “However, with the guidance of some amazing professors and research-heavy honors classes, I realized that it was not only something I could achieve but also something that I could excel at.”

Gagnon helped build a mobile application for the Ward One community of Columbia to share its story of oppression. The project also helped connect the neighborhood to the university.

In addition to serving as a College of Engineering and Computing peer mentor, Gagnon worked on projects looking at subjects as varied as neural network architectures and the detection of altered mental status in emergency department clinical notes.

“My work has also led to several publications in many different subject areas, each referencing my education at USC,” Gagnon said.

Related: Sullivan Award winner Alexus Cumbie’s poetry, policy and passion for changemaking

Last year, he teamed up with a biology student and others to develop a stroke identification application that won the 2019 Siemens Healthineers Innovation Think Tank’s annual external exhibition in Germany.

Gagnon’s non-academic interests focused on broadcasting: He worked at the student-run campus radio station WUSC for all of his four years as a student, serving two years as news director. He also was a producer and host of the On Campus podcast. And he was a creator and curator of the Mobile Museum Exhibit for the university’s Museum of Education.

“I am grateful to USC for the opportunities it has afforded me, and I hope to continue to give back in every way that I can,” Gagnon said.

The University of South Carolina presents the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award each year to the most outstanding senior female and male student. It recognizes college students of noble character who have acted as humble servants to others by putting service to others before self-interest.

This article was compiled and edited slightly from two separate stories appearing on the University of South Carolina website.

“The Beloved Community”: Alexus Cumbie’s Poetry, Policy and Passion for Changemaking

When Alexus Cumbie was a high schooler, she knew so little about the college application process that she had to look it up on WikiHow. Today, she’s a campus leader at the University of Alabama, a published poet, a two-time congressional intern, and a winner of the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. And as for the future, don’t be surprised if you spot her on TV, talking about the hot-button political issues of the day—or running for statewide office.

Cumbie, who majored in political science and business management, has piled up a wealth of accolades in her four years at UA. The Birmingham Times in 2019 named Cumbie one of Birmingham’s most promising natives to invest in and profiled her in a feature article. That same year she was honored as the Southeastern Region’s New Soror of the Year by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and was selected by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to be a Capitol Hill intern for the second time, serving as a legislative and press assistant with the office of Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

Cumbie is also an accomplished poet whose work has been published in the American Library of Poetry and the founder of Literary Vibes, a live music and poetry showcase that highlights southern artists while working to increase literacy rates in underserved communities.

this is a photo that captures the warm, creative personality of Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Alexus Cumbie

Alexus Cumbie says she “always had a passion for policy and changemaking.”

For Cumbie, art, scholarship and service are all bound together by a singular passion for building “the beloved community.”

“I’ve always had a passion for policy and changemaking,” Cumbie said. “The passion started when I began traveling the country performing poetry. Poetry is so innately political, and it dares an audience to be more aware of a storyteller’s narrative—and that often includes social commentary.”

With her unshakeable belief that “poetry can shift the culture of a society,” she pursued a business degree to learn how to better operate Literary Vibes—and, in turn, help other artists thrive. “We believe in creating an intimate space, stage and sanctuary for a potpourri of human narratives because it is in these spaces that real community forms,” Cumbie said. “It is in these very spaces that people are allowed to be fully vulnerable, fully powerful and fully human.”

Cumbie has applied her considerable creative gifts to scholarly research as well. She was awarded the Greer Marechal Memorial Prize for her published research, “Why Negro Bodies Dodge a Southern Sun,” a historiography that served as both healthcare research and creative non-fiction. The research explores an underreported but troubling subject: why African-Americans distrust the biomedical field, thanks to notorious federally sponsored programs like the Tuskegee Experiment.

The notorious Tuskegee Experiment, in which medical workers in the South deliberately withheld treatment for syphilis in African-American men for 40 years, has left the black community distrustful of the healthcare industry.

“I won’t reveal too much, but the story begins with me running through a country field with my grandfather, injuring my knee badly, and watching him insist on his own remedy instead of taking me to an emergency room,” Cumbie said. “It sets the stage for a much bigger issue: Too many older African-Americans are afraid to visit the doctor’s office because of decades-long experiments that have traumatized our communities. The experiments and their horror stories are discussed in the historiography.”

“I could have written a typical research paper, but I wanted it to begin as a story because I wanted to establish an empathetic relationship with the reader,” Cumbie adds. “I wanted the reader to personalize the content and place themselves into this piece of writing. When you infuse research and storytelling, you can make poetry that teaches the world something new.”

Cumbie started writing poetry competitively through Real Life Poets, a nonprofit that uses the art form to mentor and inspire youth and help them find their voice. “This was one of the most prominent slam teams in Birmingham, and we traveled performing in international poetry competitions,” she recalled. “Being surrounded by a community of artists and changemakers sharpened my work and taught me leadership, humility and how to interact with any community. Poetry is also therapeutic and is a form of community-care that keeps me balanced and restful.”

Cumbie said her poetry “serves as social and political commentary,” aimed at challenging the audience “to become more aware of how they can build the beloved community and make life easier for the person next to them.”

“Community”—it’s a word that keeps coming up. It’s no surprise, then, that Cumbie, who next plans to earn her master’s degree in communications, has her eye on a career in politics. “My short-term goals include becoming a political commentator who hosts constructive and honest conversations about some of America’s most polarizing issues,” she said. “My long-term career goals include running for public office to serve the state of Alabama and amplifying the voice of marginalized communities.”

this is a photo of Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Alexus Cumbie in front of the U.S. Capitol Building

Alexus Cumbie, a winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the University of Alabama, has twice served as a congressional intern for Rep. Terri Sewell.

Cumbie can’t even talk about the Sullivan Award without humbly returning to the theme of community. “As a first-generation college student, I always tell the story of having to apply to college using a WikiHow page because I was so unfamiliar with the process,” she said. “To go from a low-income community to being awarded one of the highest awards at the University of Alabama and in the country—it’s just a testament to how impactful community efforts are.”

“I won this award because a community of people invested in me,” she continued. “Congresswoman Terri Sewell and her staff allowed me to intern in her congressional office twice to research policy and have a direct voice in the decision-making process. Ms. Lisa Young, my advisor who recommended me for the award, always picked up the phone to discuss how to better address the issues and concerns of students. Clayton Cullaton is my spiritual advisor who introduced me to the concepts of racial reconciliation and the beloved community, which are all concepts commonly underlining my work.

“The list goes on, because the community at Alabama consistently challenged my thinking and dared me to stand bold in my identity and my passion to better the world.  I join a history of leaders who have challenged and pivoted communities. It is one of the biggest honors to receive the Sullivan award.”

Further reading
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recognizes excellence of character and service to humanity. The University of Alabama honors one man and one woman in the graduating class with the award as well as one non-student who has been helpful to and associated with the university. Click here to read about Cumbie’s fellow UA Sullivan Award winners, Malik Rashaun Seals and Dr. Kathleen Cramer.


University of Alabama Honors Two Students, One Administrator With Sullivan Awards

Alexus Cumbie, Malik Rashaun Seals and Dr. Kathleen Cramer were recently honored with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, one of the highest awards offered by the University of Alabama. Cumbie and Seals are students, while Cramer is a faculty member.

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recognizes excellence of character and service to humanity. At UA, it honors one man and one woman of the graduating class as well as one non-student who has been helpful to and associated with the university.

Related: This Sullivan Award winner beat breast cancer and helps others do the same

The trio received their awards at UA’s annual Premier Awards 2020 banquet and reception on Feb. 20. The ceremony also recognized recipients of the William P. and Estan J. Bloom Scholarship Award, the Judy Bonner Presidential Medallion Prize, the Morris Mayer Award, the John Fraser Ramsey Award and the Catherine Johnson Randall Award.

photo of Malik Seals, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the University of Alabama

Malik Seals

Meet the Winners of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award
Malik Rashaun Seals

When Malik Rashaun Seals’ mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2011, he was rocked to his core.

Everything about his life changed that day, and the Columbus, Miss., native found himself drawn to research and medicine. Now, as a biological sciences major on a pre-med track, he seeks to become equipped with the skills he needs to eradicate MS.

Seals has already presented at the largest North American conference for MS, Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, and has been published in the Journal of Neurology.

He will be attending graduate school with the intent to study microbiology and immunology in his pursuit to advance his scientific foundation for better understanding MS and neurodegenerative diseases.

Related: Rollins College remembers 2001 Sullivan Award Winner Mister Rogers

In his time at UA, Seals has served as president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council; vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.; assistant team leader for the Center for Service and Leadership; and the University’s first Movember Student Ambassador, a role in which he raised awareness about men’s mental health, suicide prevention, prostate and testicular cancer. He also served on the SGA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion cabinet.

Seals said he tries to live with the constant awareness of the work that needs to done at UA and in the community.

His mother is Danyell Smith, and his father is Derrick Seals.

this is a photo of Alexus Cumbie, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the University of Alabama

Alexus Cumbie

Alexus Cumbie
Birmingham native Alexus M. Cumbie is an influencer.

In 2019, she was named one of Birmingham’s most promising natives to invest in by the Birmingham Times and honored as the Southeastern Region’s New Soror of the Year by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Additionally, she was named the recipient of the Greer Marechal Memorial Prize for her published healthcare research, “Why Negro Bodies Dodge a Southern Sun,” and was selected by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to serve as an intern on Capitol Hill for the second time as a legislative and press assistant with the office of Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

A political science and business management major, Cumbie is president of UA’s NAACP chapter; president of InterVarsity Christian Ministries; director of SGA’s Black Student Leadership Council; vice president of the Anderson Society; and a member of the honor societies Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, The Carl A. Elliott Society and Rho Lambda.

Related: Alice Lloyd College recognizes two outstanding servant leaders with Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Cumbie is also a member of the 31st Order of XXXI, which recognizes the most influential women at the Capstone based on their distinguished character and significant contributions to the University, state and nation.

Outside of her leadership roles, Cumbie is a poet whose work has been published in the American Library of Poetry. She uses poetry as a tool to help increase literacy rates in the South through an organization she created called Literary Vibes.

Her parents are Cathleen and Kennard Cumbie.

Dr. Kathleen Cramer, winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at the University of Alabama

Dr. Kathleen Cramer

Dr. Kathleen Cramer
With more than 37 years of experience and three degrees from the Capstone, Dr. Kathleen Cramer is a loyal advocate of the student experience.

Though retired, Cramer served as senior associate vice president for Student Affairs and as director of student life for many years. She’s also served a two-year term as president of The University of Alabama Retirees Association, as project manager for the Tuscaloosa Sexual Assault Forensics Center, and as interim dean of students prior to her current role as interim vice president for Student Life.

Cramer has received several honors throughout her career, including being recognized as a Pillar of the Profession by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and being named one of the top 31 graduates from the 20th century at UA.

Related: Born to Heal: Bradley Firchow wins Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Oglethorpe University

Cramer was executive vice president of the Association of Fraternity Advisers and was named to UA’s Student Affairs Hall of Fame. She is an active community volunteer and the sustaining adviser to the Tuscaloosa Junior League.

She and her husband, Craig, have eight grandchildren.

This story was edited slightly from the original article appearing on the Auburn University website.


A History Overlooked

By Lindsey Nair

MaKayla Lorick, winner of the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Washington and Lee University (W&L), can trace her love of stories to early childhood, when her grandparents told lively yarns about their younger years. She followed that thread to W&L, where it has afforded her the opportunity to seek and record some of the university’s most important overlooked tales.

Lorick, a senior English major, has been working since the summer of 2018 on a multi-institutional project that aims to incorporate more African-American perspectives into the history of desegregation and integration at private Southern schools. Her role allows her to comb through W&L’s Special Collections and gather oral histories from black alumni, faculty and staff.

MaKayla Lorick received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from Washington and Lee University in 2019.

“It’s such an exciting thing to dip your fingers into history and to listen to other people’s stories,” she said. “It betters your life and the lives of others. Just to color in one person’s perspective on history is beautiful.”

The overall project, “Pathway to Diversity: Uncovering Our Collections,” is a collaboration with Centre College and Sullivan Foundation partner schools Furman University and Rollins College, and is funded by a grant from Associated Colleges of the South (ACS). Along with its partner institutions, W&L is working to build a shared digital archive of information regarding the history of desegregation and integration at these schools. At W&L, the project is being led by Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of English Sydney Bufkin, with support from Tom Camden, head of Special Collections and Archives.

The Slow Pace of Integration

Compared to public colleges and universities in the South, whose public status and reliance on federal funding forced them to integrate in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education, Bufkin said, “the history of integration at W&L looks very different. It’s quieter, but also less effective and slower. We are grappling with the consequences of a response to integration that really, when you look at the documents and history, appears to be an attempt to do as little as possible… It is a history that we continue to live, so I think recognizing some of the ways the institution has dealt with race—or not dealt with race—historically is really valuable and is something we can address a little more head-on, especially as we try to do things differently.”

Related: Learn more about how students like MaKayla Lorick qualify for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Washington and Lee’s board of trustees did not take action regarding integration until a full decade after Brown vs. Board, in July 1964, with a statement that was viewed by most as deliberately vague and uninspired. Without using the words “integration,” “desegregation” or “race,” it simply stated that no policy of discrimination existed at W&L. It was accompanied by no effort to recruit students of color or make W&L a more welcoming place for them.

Another eight years passed before Carl Linwood Smothers and Walter Blake became the first African-American graduates of W&L in 1972. The W&L School of Law had awarded its first degree to a black student, Leslie Devan Smith Jr., in 1969.

Initial goals for the ACS project included identifying materials currently in Special Collections that belong in the digital archive; creating an annotated bibliography; collecting oral histories from alumni, faculty and staff; and determining how to incorporate those materials into the curriculum. As Bufkin considered the oral history piece, she said, she immediately thought of Lorick, who had taken her African-American literature class.

photo MaKayla Lorick speaking to an audience

MaKayla Lorick has been combing through W&L’s Special Collections and gathering oral histories from black alumni, faculty and staff.

English professor Lesley Wheeler agreed that Lorick, her advisee, would be a perfect fit, as she has an interest in digital humanities, and spent the summer of 2016 assisting history professor Ted DeLaney on an African-American history project in Special Collections. (Since becoming involved in the project, Lorick was also selected to be a member of the Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L). Although the ACS grant does not cover student researchers, Bufkin was able to fund Lorick’s role with Mellon Digital Humanities summer research funding and, as the academic year commenced, with a Mellon Digital Humanities Fellowship.

What started as a simple summer job search became something incredibly meaningful, Lorick said. “I thought I was just going to get some random summer job on campus but Professor Wheeler really opened a door with one tiny conversation. Stumbling onto this project is one of the best things that’s happened to me. It’s really serendipity.”

Lorick began by reading sections of Mame Warren’s 1998 history, “Come Cheer for Washington and Lee” and Blaine Brownell’s “Washington and Lee University: 1930-2000.” She also scoured yearbooks, scrapbooks, newspapers, letters and other sources in Special Collections to start a list of people to approach for oral histories.

While the project was initially focused on black men who graduated in 1974, the first year with a noteworthy number of black graduates (17), Lorick and Bufkin soon realized that scope was too narrow. They also knew that Warren had already collected oral histories from those men. Lorick wanted to include the perspectives of black women, who had not been interviewed for Warren’s book, so she began to build a list from the first few years of coeducation at W&L, from 1985-1990. She also wanted to include faculty and staff, not just alumni.

Recording History

Midway through the summer, it was time to start scheduling interviews. Over the next couple of months, she would record conversations with Ted Delaney ’85, associate professor of history at W&L and a Lexington native; Edwin Walker, a retired Print Shop employee; Stephanie Coleman ’89; Willard Dumas III ’91; and Marquita Dunn, who retired from Dining Services. These interviews included questions about the subject’s first impressions of Lexington and W&L, and their experiences connected to integration and/or coeducation.

Some interview subjects recalled negative experiences at Washington and Lee, such as a white boyfriend’s reluctance to escort his black girlfriend on the homecoming court, or white professors taking advantage of a black employee’s intellect and work ethic while denying him the respect and upward mobility he deserved. But Lorick said she was surprised to find that the interviews were, for the most part, positive.

“It ended up being more positive than I expected,” she said. “Interview subjects do not forget about the bad, but they are better able to remember the good.”

Lorick said she also had to work through some disappointment over the lack of detail provided about segregation in Lexington, particularly about the relationships between white and black citizens. “When the first individual told me that there was nothing more to say, I thought, there has to be! But as I began to unravel the project a little bit more, I thought more about what segregation must have looked like, and in the end they were totally right. They didn’t really know their neighbors, and that was just the culture.”

Recording these views and closing even the smallest gaps in W&L’s institutional history has been fulfilling, Lorick said. As a first-year student, she was frustrated by the lack of black perspectives in the archives; now, through her work as an upperclassman, she will be directly responsible for changing other students’ experiences.

“I thought that W&L wasn’t making a big enough effort to cover the staff, faculty, students and alumni. When I came upon this project, I knew that there was a choice that I had to make and it was exciting and thrilling. I get to go through these archives all the time and I see the people who have recorded history. This time, I’ll be the one recording history.”

Digging Deeper
One requirement of the ACS grant was that each of the four colleges incorporate findings into a course. At W&L, that course was “Race, Memory, Nation,” a first-year Fall Term writing seminar taught by Assistant English Professor Ricardo Wilson. Wilson spent considerable time with Bufkin and Lorick in Special Collections over the summer to develop the course, which delved into issues of race, integration and civil rights.

another photo showing MaKayla Lorick at work

MaKayla Lorick gets ready to conduct an interview as Professor Ricardo Wilson and his students look on. (Photo by Kevin Remington)

With guidance from Lorick and Wilson, the students conducted research and selected topics about which they were required to produce video essays as final projects in the course. The four groups decided to focus on integration in athletics, coeducation, and two pivotal moments in W&L history: the 1923 football game against Washington and Jefferson University, and the board of trustees’ 1961 decision to not invite Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at W&L.

The group that focused on integration in athletics secured on-camera interviews with four former W&L athletes, including its first African-American athlete, Dennis Haston ’70. Haston, who ran track and field, and former basketball player Eugene Perry ’75, ‘78L, recounted upsetting incidents both on and off campus. In one example, Perry was invited by a coach to try out for the basketball team, only to find out the team had already been selected and jerseys had been ordered. But the men said they also found allies at W&L, including white fellow athletes.

“At the time when I came to W&L, I didn’t come to W&L to be a pioneer. But now if people look at me, they want to say, ‘You were a pioneer.’” Haston said. “I was one of the first ones to … open the door for other African-Americans to come. Maybe because of me doing that, it has made it easier for other students to come. I’m glad I had the opportunity. If I had to live my life over again, I would still do it. I have no regrets about the decision I made.”

Related: Read MaKayla Lorick’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Biography here.

The hours of raw interview footage collected by Wilson’s students has been sent to Special Collections, where it will bolster Lorick’s contributions and strengthen the university’s overall archive of materials related to desegregation and integration. Wilson is cautiously optimistic about what he sees as positive strides toward confronting some of the university’s most difficult history and smoothing the way for future students of color.

“In general in the U.S., we have a tough time confronting our history, and W&L is certainly at a critical moment where I think there is great possibility,” he said. “It is also something we have to approach carefully because we have a chance to set the tone and make an example, not only in the region but also to other academic institutions.

“How fortunate we are to have someone like MaKayla Lorick, with a blend of extraordinary talent and extraordinary passion,” he said. “To have someone like her involved in this project is a good first step.”

Next Steps
MaKayla Lorick plans to present her findings during Black Alumni Reunion weekend (March 8-9). She also has received a Johnson Opportunity Grant for summer 2019, which will allow her to gather more oral histories and develop a digital exhibit. She has begun to share her findings on her project website. As she prepares to graduate in December 2019, she will hand off the project to other students. One, Rose Hein ’22, has already been awarded a summer research scholar position to contribute to the ACS project.

Tom Camden, head of Special Collections and Archives at W&L, helps students in Professor Ricardo Wilson’s class, “Race, Memory, Nation,” as they begin research for their final projects. (Photo by Kevin Remington)

“Our hope is that this material and some of these questions will continue to be integrated into the classroom so students can be exposed and they can continue to work,” Bufkin said. “I think we are really excited to have this material support student-driven projects…It is a very collaborative effort. Nobody owns it or has a single direction.”

For MaKayla Lorick, what started as a two-month summer gig grew into an experience that she says “has really shaped me, has made me stronger, and has made me think that in a couple of years the university will truly be better.” She hopes that her daughter, Zara, 2, will someday become a General and will see her mother’s name on documents in university archives — a very different experience from her own.

“I can’t even imagine how that would have felt for me to see my mom’s name recording histories,” she said. “I hope that she can have that experience and she can know that anything is possible, that you can touch the stars and that you can be a history maker, and you can be on the right side of history, too.”

This story has been adapted slightly from the original version appearing on the Washington and Lee University website.

This Sullivan Award Winner Beat Breast Cancer and Helps Other Black Women Do the Same

Although breast cancer is less common in black women, they are 40 percent more likely to die from it than white women. Niasha Fray, a researcher at Sullivan Foundation partner school Duke University, understands that worrisome statistic better than most: After spending part of her career counseling women with breast cancer to stick with their treatment, she was diagnosed with the disease herself in 2017.

But Fray, now the program director for the Duke Center for Community & Population Health Improvement, didn’t let breast cancer get in the way of serving others. She was one of three recipients of the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Duke, and her experience as a breast cancer survivor and her work in promoting health and behavior change for at-risk populations also earned coverage by NPR in 2018.

Each year Duke University recognizes a graduating senior and a member of the faculty, staff or graduate student body with the Sullivan Award. In addition to Fray, Duke presented the award to two students in 2019—Idalis French, a psychology major, and Moreen Njoroge, an evolutionary anthropology major.

Niasha Fray: Helping Women Survive Breast Cancer

Fray’s selflessness inspired her colleagues to nominate her for the award. “Every time I have known her to make a commitment to help others, I have seen her follow through in a way that surpasses the expectations of those she is serving,” wrote nominator Helene Milve, a medical instructor in the Duke Department of Population Health Sciences.

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner shares untold stories of African-Americans at Washington and Lee University

Fray works on health promotion, behavior change and counseling for at-risk populations affected by HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress and breast cancer. She also is a guest lecturer in the course, ”AIDS: Principles and Policy,” at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is a member of Healthy Durham 20/20, an organization working to improve the health and quality of life for the Durham community.

this photo shows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Niasha Fray

Niasha Fray (right) accepts the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth. (Photo by Les Todd)

As a counselor researching disparities in cancer outcomes at UNC-Chapel Hill, she used a type of therapy called motivational interviewing to help women overcome obstacles that deterred them from taking their medications, which often have unpleasant side effects. “They had just given up so much of their lives, so much of their bodies, so much of their family,” Fray told NPR in October 2018. “They wanted to get back to life as usual.”

As NPR reported, studies have found that black women are less likely to have health insurance or to get screened for breast cancer, which means their cancer is often advanced by the time they get into treatment. They’re also less likely to stick with the prolonged daily endocrine therapy treatment prescribed for certain common types of breast cancer, often because they can’t afford it and the medications are so unpleasant. One study noted that 14 percent of black women didn’t take their medications every day as prescribed, compared to about 5 percent of white women.

Fray told NPR the disparity might also have something to do with the fact that so many black women identify strongly as caregivers. As a counselor, she found that black women were often more accustomed to looking after others than themselves. “There was a lot of conversation about the stress of being a caregiver,” Fray told NPR. She said she had many discussions with patients about “the stress of being a black person in America and having doctors not listen to you, having employers that don’t care about you.”

Fray underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment for breast cancer during the summer of 2018, and her prognosis is good, according to NPR. But the battle continues as she faces 10 long years of endocrine therapy. “You gotta get your mind right,” she said in the interview. “You can’t change the scenario or the situation. How do I change my mind?”

Related: Rollins College remembers Mister Rogers, a 2001 winner of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

Fray continues to help other black women “put on the armor of self-care” while conducting her research at Duke, making her a strong choice for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. “This award is for the people making sure our world, our community, our families and ourselves are healthy,” Fray said in accepting the award last April. “I’m so lucky to serve a community I care for so much.”

Idalis French: A Passion for Uplifting Others
Idalis French was selected for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for her work mentoring young girls in the Durham, N.C. community.

Since her first year on campus, French devoted time and energy to The Girls’ Club, a mentorship organization at the Emily K Center for middle school girls attending Durham Public Schools. French served as a mentor, vice president of recruitment and president for the organization. She led weekly sessions about mental health, female empowerment and confidence.

this photo shows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Idalis French

Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth (left) presents the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Idalis French. (Photo by Les Todd)

“She shows a natural inclination toward selflessness, empathy and understanding with mentees and mentors alike,” wrote nominator Madeline Farber, a Duke clinical psychology Ph.D. student. “To see a woman of her age with such fervent passion for uplifting others is quite remarkable.”

French also volunteered with the Durham Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, where she kept residents company in their rooms, played bingo with them and facilitated arts and crafts.

“There are not enough words to express my gratitude,” French said. “To know that I’m leaving Duke with the impact I intended to leave it with freshman year is so inspiring and such a great blessing.”

Moreen Njoroge: From Carolina to Kenya

Duke’s Sullivan Award committee chose senior Moreen Njoroge for her work across disciplines and continents.

Njoroge majored in evolutionary anthropology major with minors in chemistry and global health. She has studied in Spain, India and Kenya. In Kenya, Njoroge worked with village chiefs, community health workers and hospital administrators to analyze what causes women to not receive treatment for cervical cancer.

Related: Sullivan Award winner overcame poverty, racism to earn National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship

this photo shows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Moreen Njoroge

Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth (left) presents the university’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Moreen Njoroge. (Photo by Les Todd)

“Moreen is experienced, focused, determined and self-directed. She sets high standards for her work and constantly meets them,” wrote nominator Colleen Scott, director of Duke’s Baldwin Scholars Program. “She is eager to have a better understanding of health needs in underserved regions and populations and will not be satisfied with simply possessing this knowledge.”

For two years Njoroge worked as an English and mathematics tutor for refugee students in the America Reads/America Counts program. She was also an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar, a program that supports undergraduate women at Duke to become engaged, confident and connected leaders to the community.

“This award may have my name on it, but it belongs to everybody who has been guiding me on this journey,” Njoroge said. “I’m so grateful for the education I’ve received and the confidence I have gained at Duke.”

This story was adapted from Jonathan Black’s article appearing on the Duke University website and from an October 9, 2019 NPR report.