Shenandoah University presented one of its top honors, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, to seniors Emma Stafford ’16 and Seth Walker ’16, as well as Graduate Programs Librarian, Senior Librarian and Adjunct Professor of Conservatory Academics Rosemary Green, Ph.D., during the university’s commencement ceremony on May 14.
Sullivan awards are presented each year to two graduating seniors, 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.”
Walker, a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting. 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 Seth saying, “Nearly everyone who has auditioned for the acting or musical theatre majors in the past three-and-a-half years has met Seth. His smile, energy, and compassion are infectious. When facing his own extraordinary challenges, Seth has been a model of strength for both faculty and students.”
Walker served as the president of Alpha Psi Omega and led the group’s Relay for Life team for several years. He also served as a Hornet Ambassador for the university’s Office of Admissions. Most notably, Walker was heavily involved in fundraising for A Week Away, a nonprofit organization that provides families and those with life-threatening illnesses help to take a family respite week. The organization was founded by Walker’s brother, Caleb, who passed away from brain cancer last year.
“That was undoubtedly the hardest year of my life, and continuing on with school in the midst of it was not at all easy,” said Walker. “But hearing A Week Away mentioned at the ceremony brought me to tears knowing that I was continuing on my brother’s work and that a crowd of thousands had just heard about the cause.”
This summer, Walker will perform in a production of Green Day’s “American Idiot” at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, before joining the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Stafford, a native of DuBois, Pennsylvania, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. 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.
Stafford served as a First-Year Seminar mentor for multiple years, and has volunteered with the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter, Special Olympics, and the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Shenandoah Valley.
One of her multiple nominators said, “Emma is a most kind and gentle soul, a true seeker of the good.” Another nominator said, “Emma has consistently shown initiative, completed all processes she begins, and exceeded expectations inside and outside the classroom. I respect her so much for her desire to learn, explore and engage new things.”
“I was completely and utterly shocked to win,” said Stafford. “Never in a million years did I think I was even remotely qualified to be nominated. To be honest, as the award qualifications were being read, my thoughts were, ‘I wonder who will get this award?’ I did not, for one second, ponder the thought of it being me, and when my name was said, I stood up with tears of joy, shock and pure happiness. For the rest of the ceremony and for the past few days I have been in awe. I struggle to comprehend the fact that I won this award. I am extremely grateful!”
In September, Stafford will begin a career in risk management at SC&H Group in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
Dr. Green, a resident of Stephens City, 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.
Green has been part of the Shenandoah University community since 1982. She has served in numerous capacities in the library and as guest lecturer in many classes. She has served on the University Curriculum Committee, the Institutional Review Board, and is active in the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, serving as vice president for programs. Additionally, she has organized trips for faculty and students to the Library of Congress for the past few years.
One nominator said, “Rosemary has been a star as long as I’ve known her and she continues to teach, to serve and to lead at Shenandoah University and in the broader community.” Another nominator said, “She is able to see, and help others see, the big picture. Her gentle nature and brilliant mind are an inspiration to me as the kind of faculty member I want to be.” Finally, a nominator said, “She inspires me to think more critically, to be bold in my decisions, and to have confidence in my various roles at Shenandoah. She is truly committed to helping students and faculty alike better themselves.”
“Receiving the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award from my colleagues at Shenandoah University is a tremendous honor,” said Green. “I am only one of many who have received this award, which was first established in 1890, and I hope to continue a life of service that the award inspires.”