Shenandoah University presented one of its top honors, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, to seniors Ryan Parker and Elizabeth Jensen, as well as Student Accounts Office Administrative Assistant Donna Aclin, during the university’s commencement ceremony on May 9.
Sullivan awards are presented each year to one graduating female and one graduating male, as well as one non-student selected from the faculty, staff or board of trustees. The awards are given to individuals of “noble character” whose “fine spiritual qualities” are “practically applied to daily living.” The awards are presented to those who go “outside the narrow circle of self-interest” and invest themselves in the well-being of others – individuals who are “constant reminders to us of those high qualities which ennoble and beautify living.”
The award was established in 1925 by the New York Southern Society, which specifies the criteria for the award should be understood as “distinct from high scholarship, athletic achievement, success in business, professional ability, political leadership or mere worldly prominence in any calling.”
Jensen, a native of Fork Union, Virginia, earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology. She was presented with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award because of her spirited life, her investment in the well-being of others, and her leadership and dedication to Shenandoah University.
During her time at the university, Jensen served as a First-Year Seminar mentor, traveled to Kenya as a summer intern with Hope Shines, helped establish the Council for the Exceptional Child chapter at Shenandoah, traveled to Staten Island, New York, as part of an Early Response Team with Shenandoah University after Hurricane Sandy, and initiated the first Shenandoah University Barefoot Mile to raise funds for the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project.
One of her multiple nominators said, “The spirit of Shenandoah University involves a sense of community and togetherness. When I look at Elizabeth, I immediately think of her ability to bring individuals together. When I spend time around Elizabeth, it makes me want to better my own character. Because of her I strive to have a positive impact on the lives of others as she so easily and naturally does.”
“It is such an honor to join the list of people who have received the award,” said Jensen. “I have to admit, I had a very hard time leaving Shenandoah, but I know it has more than prepared me for what lies ahead and will forever be a part of me.”
Jensen will attend the University of Louisville in the fall to earn a master’s degree in social work.
Parker, a native of Callao, Virginia, earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology and will now begin graduate study in the occupational therapy program at Shenandoah. He was presented with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award because he is one who gives his all, serves others and beautifies living.
A nominator described Parker as “a model student inside of the classroom – active, inquisitive, extraordinarily competent – and an individual of high personal integrity. Outside of the classroom, he is a caring and compassionate member of his community who leads by example; traveling to Haiti to assist those in need and helping to make Shenandoah University’s first-ever Out of the Darkness Campus Walk a tremendous success, raising over $14,000 for suicide prevention programs.”
Another mentor said that in his work in residence life, Parker “has shown compassion for his peers, the ability to be there for a resident at their greatest time of need, and he embraces being a caring community member.”
Parker has volunteered with the Special Olympics since 2010, traveled with the Shenandoah University outreach trip to Haiti in 2013, participated in Stop Hunger Now numerous times, served as a Relay for Life volunteer, and this year helped with the first Out of the Darkness Walk at Shenandoah University.
“I was completely shocked to hear my name called for the award,” said Parker. “There are so many outstanding graduates in the Class of 2015 that have all done amazing things for Shenandoah and the community. I am really honored that I was chosen as the recipient of this award, and would like to thank my family and all of the faculty and staff at Shenandoah who have provided me with so many great opportunities.”
Aclin, a resident of Cross Junction, Virginia, was presented with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award because she is one who truly “ennobles and beautifies living,” who “invests themselves in the well-being of others,” and one who exemplifies the spirit of Shenandoah University. The spirit of Shenandoah University lives in her work and in the way she interacts with each person she meets.
For the past two years, Aclin has been a consistent volunteer for Shenandoah University at the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS). She has stepped in to lead a staff and faculty team or a student group to provide dinner to the WATTS guests.
Modeling the leadership she expected to see in others, Aclin would take time from preparing the food to greet the guests by name and share a hug and a smile. Her leadership consistently exemplifies the belief that everyone is of sacred worth.
One nominator said Aclin is “incredibly reliable, responsible, flexible and willing to go the extra mile. I have been incredibly impressed with her character in serving, her selflessness, and the way in which she care for others. I personally have been encouraged by Donna’s ability to care for others. It has challenged me to be more generous and to give of myself.”
“I was humbled by the fact that I was nominated for this award, let alone actually receiving it. What an awesome surprise it was,” said Aclin. “I believe the spirit of volunteerism is alive in us all. I feel one aspect of getting involved that is often overlooked is the opportunity to learn from others, especially the possibility of meeting role models who you wouldn’t necessarily encounter otherwise.”