Rhodes Grads and Supporters Receive Awards at Commencement

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Publication Date: 5/18/2009


Annual awards were presented at the 160th Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College on May 16 at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.  Recent Rhodes graduates JoAnna M. Halk and Noah A. Pittman and Rhodes alumnus William H. Beardall, Jr. ’75 received the 2009 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards. The awards are presented annually to two graduating seniors (one male and one female) and one non-student who have given selflessly to others and the college.

Halk of Sunnyvale, CA, graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in history.  She has heavily invested her energies in community involvement, and Rhodes partnerships such as Souper Contact, the Hollywood-Springdale community, and the Rites to Play carnival all have benefited from her leadership. In addition, renovation of the Rhea Lounge, located in Rhodes’ Briggs Student Center, was initiated, planned, and implemented under Halk’s leadership.

Pittman of Collierville, TN graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in political science, and he accepted membership in Phi Beta Kappa his junior year. Over the past four years, he has led in many ways serving as the student elections commissioner, an admissions tour guide, a Tex-Mex spring break trip steering member, the Mortar Board chapter president, and head resident assistant(RA). Twice he has held the title of “RA of the Year.”  In addition, he recently was named a national Mortar Board Fellowship recipient.

Beardall of Austin, TX is executive director of the nonprofit Equal Justice Center in Austin, Texas, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Texas law school’s Transnational Worker Rights Clinic. Since 1978, he has practiced as a civil rights and employment lawyer for low-income working people and has long been recognized as one of the nation’s leading advocates for migrant employment rights. 

The Distinguished Service Medal was presented to William E. Evans of Memphis, TN. Evans is director and CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and is known internationally for his research in the field of cancer. At Rhodes, he is also known as a member of the Board of Trustees and a staunch supporter of the Rhodes/St. Jude Summer Plus program, which provides student research opportunities in the laboratory of a St. Jude mentor.

Stephanie J. Wilson of Germantown, TN, received the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize given to the graduating senior who exemplifies the highest qualities of scholarship. Wilson graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology, and she also completed honors research. She is a member of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology, and the 2009 recipient of the Department of Psychology’s E. Llewellyn Queener Award for Academic Excellence. Wilson accepted membership in Phi Beta Kappa her junior year.

Also at the commencement, Spence L. Wilson, prominent Memphis businessman and chair emeritus of the Rhodes Board of Trustees, received the Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the college.