Distinguished Awards for Scholarship and Service Presented at Rhodes Commencement

Annual awards were presented at the 167th Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College on May 14 on campus. Rhodes graduate Heting Hommy Zhu  was awarded the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, the college’s highest academic honor, and James Allen Boone, Jr. ’71, vice president for finance and business affairs, received the Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal.

Rhodes graduates Anthony Malak S. Hanna and Catherine T. Miller, and Dr. Randall R. Rhea ’77, a  family medicine physician in Roanoke, VA, received the 2016 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.

Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize

Heting Hommy Zhu of Guangzhou, China, received the 2016 Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, which is given to the graduating senior who exemplifies the highest qualities of achievement, creativity, and commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa her junior year and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and mathematics.

By her own admission, Zhu started as a non-native speaker of English with no idea what a liberal arts education entailed, but she discovered, excavated, and refined her academic passion through interdisciplinary exploration. “I was encouraged to explore realms that I knew would not directly relate to my future career, to think independently and critically, and to have a voice in class to speak up even when my ideas differed from those around me,” she says.

One professor described her as a rare mix of “someone who demonstrates a strong natural talent” and “someone who works harder than every student in the class to master the material as thoroughly as possible.” Other professors describe her as “having the passion and enthusiasm of a sophisticated thinker, combined with the practical skills, insight, and work ethic to effect change.”

Her advice to other students is “Don’t be afraid to try; don’t be afraid to dream.”

Distinguished Service Medal 

The college welcomed James Allen Boone, Jr. as its new chief financial officer in 1987. A member of the Rhodes class of 1971, Boone previously served as the director of Housing and Community Development for the City of Memphis. As vice president for finance and business affairs, Boone has overseen the construction of campus buildings including Buckman Hall, the Bryan Campus Life Center, Barret Library, East Village, West Village, and Robertson Hall, as well as a number of renovations. 

Guided by his steady hand, the college has experienced 30 consecutive years of balanced budgets. It also has been noted that the Rhodes Trustees and Boone’s colleagues trust him as a knowledgeable and thoughtful counsel.

Chick Hill, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Rhodes Board of Trustees, offered the following: “Allen Boone created a culture of excellent performance in all financial, construction, renovation, and operational decisions to deliver consistently targeted results for the college.”

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Anthony Malak S. Hanna of Nashville, TN, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this year, and he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in international studies/political science.

Hanna has been active in both the Bonner Scholar Program and Kinney Program, two of the college’s premier service initiatives. As a mentoring and education coordinator for Kinney, he recruited students for schools needing volunteers, and he led issues-based team meetings to better inform students on education issues troubling the Memphis community. This year, Hanna served as one of the three Kinney student directors, who connect the coordinators to volunteer sites all over Memphis. He also worked closely with the Refugee Empowerment Program and developed a college readiness workshop and ACT-prep class for the high school students in the program.

Hanna has been described by his peers as trustworthy, determined, and passionate about everything he participates in. His sense of compassion has been illustrated through his work ethic and endless service to the Rhodes, Memphis, and international communities. In the fall, he will attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Catherine T. Miller of Dallas, TX, graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in environmental science. She accepted membership in Phi Beta Kappa her junior year and is a 2016 member of the Rhodes Hall of Fame.

During her Rhodes career, Miller served as an environment coordinator for the Kinney Program and has been enormously committed to promoting both sustainability and food justice in Memphis. Her accomplishments include the installment of a SNAP benefit program to afford low-income families the opportunity to purchase healthy, locally grown food at Bring It Food Hub and the Overton Park Community Farmers Market. This past year, she also was instrumental in opening a chapter of the Food Recovery Network, which has packaged more than 1,000 pounds of leftover food from the Catherine Burrow Refectory and delivered the packages to local soup kitchens.

Miller’s nominators described her as one living a life of selflessness and love, never seeking recognition or glory for any of her accomplishments. 

Dr. Randall R. Rhea is a managing partner at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA, and long-time president of Bradley Free Clinic board of directors. He has overseen the growth of the Bradley Free Clinic—one of the nation’s first free clinics—to encompass more than 80 medical professionals including doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists, pharmacists, and nurses. 

Rhea received the Phi Beta Kappa Prize when he graduated from Rhodes with a Bachelor of Science in 1977, and his personal and professional commitments reflect a passion for learning and a commitment to service that are the cornerstones of his alma mater.

As an alumni fundraising and admissions volunteer, Rhea is passionate, persistent, and persuasive. He has been a member of the Rhodes Board of Trustees since 1999 and served as board secretary as well as chaired the Committee on Student Life. In addition, he is a mentor to Rhodes students interested in pursuing careers in medicine and a highly sought-after teacher at Virginia Tech’s new Carilion Medical School.