Dewey and Barbara Trogdon, Berenice Fuentes Juarez Honored With Sullivan Awards from Guilford College

Sullivan Foundation partner school Guilford College has presented the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards for 2020 to Dewey and Barbara Trogdon from the Guilford community and Berenice Fuentes Juarez from the student body.

Dewey Trogdon is a Guilford College alumnus who graduated in 1958. He and Barbara, his wife, have lived their lives rooted in working-class values formed as children growing up through the Great Depression and World War II. Those formative years informed their strong work ethic, generosity and focus on family, friends and individuals in need of a hand from time to time. Together, Dewey and Barbara represent grace, giving, friendship and a sense of community, according to a Guilford College press release.

Related: Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner Justala Simpson of Huntingdon College prepares for a career in ministry

Berenice Fuentes Juarez, the oldest daughter of Mexican parents, identifies as Mexican-American and is a first-generation college student—now a Guilford alumna. Raised in Oakland, California, she double majored in public health and biology with a minor in Spanish, all while building an exceptional record of leadership and service at Guilford.

Juarez worked with Soy un Lider, an annual college preparation and empowerment conference for Latinx and refugee students hosted by Guilford College, and Latinx Impact, a community-based program for high-school students, as well as campus organization Hispanos Unidos de Guilford. She also served as a research assistant for 200- and 300-level biology courses taught by Professor Melanie Lee-Brown.

Dewey and Barbara Trogdon
Dewey Trogdon is the former CEO and chairman of Cone Mills and past president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. He has been a mentor to many in the business world.

He also is an amateur historian on two counts: about the former Atlantic and Yadkin Railway and the town of Summerfield, N.C., where he and Barbara were born. As a young volunteer firefighter, Dewey used his mechanical skills to help build many of the original fire trucks for the Summerfield Volunteer Fire Department. He also served as an assistant chief of the department and provided care for people injured in accidents and fires when emergency services were scarce.

Related: Steffi Kong, winner of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award at Converse College, “excels at everything she does.”

In a letter to the editor of the Greensboro News and Record in 2000, Dewey, a Korean War veteran, wrote: “For me, Korea was the beginning of an aversion toward shedding our blood and national wealth and committing young Americans to oblivion as a result of uncertain national goals.”

Dewey graduated from Guilford with a bachelor’s degree in economics and completed additional study at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the University of Virginia. He has received Guilford’s Alumni Excellence Award and Charles C. Hendricks ’40 Distinguished Service Award. He and Barbara have been loyal benefactors to Guilford College and are members of the Macon Society (total gifts of more than $1 million) and Francis T. King Society (with a planned gift). Dewey served as a member of the Guilford College Board of Trustees from 1980 to 2004 and has been a Trustee Emeritus since then.

Barbara and Dewey Trogdon, community recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for 2020 at Guilford College.

When reflecting on contributions both of his parents have made to Guilford and the larger Triad community, their son Mark Trogdon, a 1983 graduate, said their acts of service have followed “a basic tenant of, it’s what you do to help others/organizations because you believe it is necessary to help them.”

Mark added that for decades his mother Barbara “has provided financial support to numerous hard-working people striving to create a sustainable existence and promising future for themselves and their families. She has done this without fanfare, driven by a genuine goal of simply helping others while maintaining their dignity and integrity … not drawing attention upon herself or those in need,” he said. “She did this when we had minimal family resources and later on in life when they (my parents) had more to share.”

“I am extraordinarily proud of my parents and (of) Guilford for recognizing them,” he said.

Berenice Fuentes Juarez
In 2019, Juarez was honored by the N.C. Campus Compact with its annual Community Impact Service Award, given to students who demonstrate a deep commitment to community involvement and an ability to inspire their peers. Juarez was one of only 22 students statewide to receive the Community Impact Service Award last year, first presented by the Campus Compact in 2006.

The fact that Juarez has received that kind of recognition, including this year’s Sullivan Award, is no surprise to her biology professor, Dr. Melanie Lee-Brown. Lee-Brown met and first taught Juarez when, in her sophomore year, Juarez enrolled in her Scientific Inquiry: Bioterrorism class. At that time, the Scientific Inquiry course was part of core course work for biology majors, Lee-Brown said. She described the class as the “first introduction to self-generated research” for students in the major.

Related: Davidson College bestows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award on student with a heart for the homeless

Typically, students in the class are organized in groups of four to design a research project around a prompt from the professor. “She (Juarez) did really well,” Lee-Brown said.  “[W]ithin her group, I recognized that she was a leader. She was one that was always working towards them setting goals and getting those goals accomplished within their group. And beyond that, she was somebody that really seemed to care about the folks in her group.”

Juarez is not only “very service-minded,” but also a broad thinker, Lee-Brown said. She is someone with the ability to bring people of different backgrounds together and “help to get people excited about the work. That was both inside and outside the classroom,” Lee-Brown said, whether Juarez was rallying classmates to volunteer with a Soy un Lider conference or ensuring biology students had access to extra lab time and other resources they needed.

“She faced a lot of adversity in her personal life on top of all of this,” Lee-Brown noted, “so it’s even more amazing what she ended up accomplishing in her time here.”

“She’s been through a lot and she has a lot of strength,” the professor added. “I think she has a lot more strength than she thinks she does at some points.”

After reflecting on Juarez’s growth during her studies at Guilford—as a leader, a female scientist and a young woman of color juggling many responsibilities—Lee-Brown summed up her thoughts about her former student and advisee: “She’s an excellent combination of strength and softness, and outward responsibility, and caring and maturity. “This (Sullivan) award was perfect for her, because it did highlight so much that is Berenice.”

If the academic year had concluded as planned for Guilford’s Class of 2020, the graduates would have been joined in celebration on the campus quad last month by this year’s Sullivan Award recipients. Instead, with spring commencement plans halted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, current plans call for all three 2020 Sullivan Award honorees to be recognized at Guilford’s 2021 commencement.

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Guilford College website.


The Run for Black Lives: Josh Nadzam Raises Funds for NAACP in 26-Mile Marathon

Josh Nadzam, a 2012 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner and graduate of the University of Kentucky, has never been the kind of person who runs away from problems—he runs to solve them. Raised by a single mother in the housing projects of Pittsburgh, Nadzam used his talent and skills as a scholar-athlete to escape grinding poverty, winning a full scholarship with the Wildcats’ track and field team and becoming one of the top milers in the SEC.

More recently he ran to bring awareness to another problem: police brutality and racial inequity. Nadzam, a social entrepreneur and cofounder of On the Move Art Studio in Lexington, Kentucky, ran 26 miles from Lexington to Frankfort, Kentucky, in a fundraiser for the Kentucky NAACP on Friday, June 19. Despite conceiving and organizing the event in less than a week, he ended up raising more than $7,000 from 130 donors. Prior to the marathon, we asked Nadzam to talk about his commitment to social justice, the Black Lives Matter movement and his belief that “an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”

Related: How Josh Nadzam outran poverty and uses art to change kids’ lives

Sullivan Foundation: What inspired you to take this on? How did you get the idea?

Josh Nadzam: Racism, discrimination and the injustices experienced by black Americans are completely unacceptable, and I want to do everything I can to play my role in dismantling the systemic structures that perpetuate these issues. I want to be an ally, fight for social justice, and make our country welcoming and fair for all Americans. I’m always trying to think of various ways I can effect change, so in addition to policy changes, protests, and other forms of activism, I believe each one of us has a set of skills we can use to contribute to the cause. Mine happens to be running. So I thought I could raise awareness for this issue and also raise funds for an organization that is constantly fighting this battle by running from my home city to our capitol in Kentucky.

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Josh Nadzam crosses the finish line in the Wesley Waddle 5K Run in 2017.

Sullivan Foundation: What does the Black Lives Matter movement mean to you personally?

Nadzam: To me, it is an expression that the black community feels like their lives do not matter as much as other lives. It’s a rallying cry to draw attention to deep, systemic issues that have existed for centuries. One of my favorite quotes is, “An injustice to one is an injustice to all.” So, while I’ll never be able to relate to what it is like to be black in America, if anyone hurts in America, then I hurt, too. Their pain is my pain. We’re all in this together, so I won’t rest until we fix this.

Sullivan Foundation: I know you’re a physically fit guy, but 26 miles! Wow! Will this be a breeze for you, or do you see it as a serious challenge?

Nadzam: It’s definitely going to be challenging, but, fortunately, I’ve run a few marathons before which are 26.2 miles, so I at least have an idea of what it’ll feel like. But it’ll still be hard—and very hot that day!

Sullivan Foundation: Do you have other people running with you?

Nadzam: There is at least one other person who is going to run the whole way with me. A few others have expressed interest in running a portion of it with me. I wish we could have a ton of people run, but, unfortunately, there isn’t really a safe route to run from Lexington to Frankfort with a large crowd.

Sullivan Foundation: As more and more young people begin to join this protest movement, what do you think they need to know to serve as effective allies?

Nadzam: I think what we all need to do as effective allies is to listen, be humble, approach these situations without defensiveness, and recognize as white people that we have privileges that allow us to navigate America in a much different and safer way than people of color. Also, this fight is a marathon, not a sprint. While it is “trending” right now, this issue is going to take decades to resolve. We need everyone to get engaged and stay engaged long after this conversation fades away from the national spotlight.

Postscript: Ten people joined Nadzam for part of the 26-mile run with one person, Gavin Galanes, completing it with him. “The sun was unforgiving, and there was no shade the entire way,” Nadzam later posted on Instagram. “I got pretty sick once I was home, but it was all worth it.”

Rhodes College Presents Two Students, Community Leader With Sullivan Awards

Sullivan Foundation partner school Rhodes College has conferred the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award on two students and one community member for the 2019-2020 school year.

Maggie Palopoli
Maggie Palopoli, a biology and molecular biology major and religious studies minor from Covington, La., has dedicated her time at Rhodes to service and love for members of the community around her.

As a board member for the Rhodes chapter of the Food Recovery Network, Palopoli has demonstrated her commitment to feeding the Memphis community while reducing food waste. As a former Kinney coordinator doing work with interfaith organizations in Memphis, she helped build relationships with—and expose students to—the work of many community partners in Memphis. As a Resident Assistant, she ensured the safety of other students while serving as a source of emotional support for her residents.

Related: Steffi Kong, recipient of the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award at Converse College, “excels at everything she does”

During her semester abroad, Palopoli focused on researching how the Italian healthcare system cares for the Muslim migrant population in Bologna and how the system could be improved to treat patients more ethically in populations of varying religious and cultural backgrounds.

Palopoli’s peers said her incredible compassion for everyone she meets is obvious to all who interact with her and that her kind nature shows in her commitment to the Rhodes community and to Memphis at large.

Saneela Tameez
Saneela Tameez, a psychology major and political science minor from Memphis, Tenn., has been a strong advocate for an inclusive campus focused on the needs of Rhodes students. Her work with the Muslim Student Association has helped bring awareness to issues the Muslim community faces.

A member of the Class Council, Tameez coordinated campus events including Pizza and Politics discussions, where she used her diplomatic skills to help facilitate scholarly conversations on campus. She is passionate about justice and fairness for those most vulnerable and truly cares about those around her.

Related: Davidson College bestows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award on student with a heart for the homeless

Tameez has served as a Peer Assistant and has mentored new students and gone out of her way to ensure that all students feel like Rhodes is their home. Her peers describe her as a ray of light, a role model and an advocate in every sphere she is involved in on campus. They said Tameez tilted the scales of Rhodes culture to be more loving, considerate, and vocal to injustices.

Aubrey Howard
Aubrey Howard, the recipient of the Sullivan community award, has always made himself available to serve his alma mater. A mentor to many Rhodes students and alumni, the Memphis resident has always been willing to share career and networking advice, having had extensive experience in banking, commercial development, non-profit leadership and city government.

Active in the Rhodes Alumni network, Aubrey served as a member of the Alumni Executive Board and as the inaugural president of the Black Alumni Chapter, providing extraordinary leadership and guidance to the college in its goals to become more diverse and inclusive. He recently served as a member of the college’s 20-30-50 Planning Committee and has expanded the college’s network of support in both local and national circles.

Rhodes College President Hass said, “We are grateful for Aubrey Howard’s courage, resilience, energy and leadership. He has been a friend and mentor to generations of Rhodes students. His love for his alma mater is visible to all who know him.”

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


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.