Annual awards were presented at the 165th Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College on May 10 on campus. Rhodes graduate Benjamin Evans was awarded the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, the college’s highest academic honor, and Phillip H. McNeill, founder and CEO of Chartwell Hospitality, received the Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal.
Rhodes graduates Sallie Handley and Landon Webber, and Sally Jones Heinz, executive director of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), received the 2014 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
Benjamin Evans of Dallas, TX, received the 2014 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. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in history and international studies. He became a member of Phi Beta Kappa his junior year.
Evans arrived at Rhodes as a Bellingrath Scholar, and at the close of his first year was recognized by the Search program for his exceptional achievement in interdisciplinary humanities. His many scholarly accomplishments include publishing archival research on Memphis’ yellow fever epidemic and working at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, where he reported on ongoing international conflicts.
Professors have commended Evans as “that ideal student for whom there is nothing beneath his interest and nothing above his critical inquiry and analysis.” He recently was honored in both his majors with the John Henry Davis Award, which is given to the outstanding senior history major, and the Anne Rorie Memorial Award, given for excellence in international studies.
Distinguished Service Medal
Phillip H. McNeill is founder and CEO of Chartwell Hospitality, chairman and president of McNeill Investment Company, and a general partner at Equity Inns. He has served on the Society of Entrepreneurs Board and as president of both the Memphis and Tennessee Bankers Associations.
McNeill’s service to Rhodes began as the parent of Hallie, a member of the class of 1996. His support as a parent led to service as a Rhodes Trustee beginning in 1997 for a nine-year term and then another term beginning in 2007. He has chaired two key board committees and served as vice-chairman. In 2005, he established the Phillip H. McNeill Family Scholarship Program. Most recently, his generous giving helped the college acquire Evergreen Presbyterian Church.
For his service to the college and the community, Rhodes has recognized him with the 2014 Distinguished Service Medal.
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards
Sallie Handley of Birmingham, AL, graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts in business.
As president of the Rhodes Student Government, Handley initiated working groups to think about big-picture student issues such as how to get first-year students more quickly involved on campus. She also served as a member of the President’s Common Table and facilitated discussion groups of faculty, staff, and students. Nominators recognized her commitment to “mentor younger students and perpetuate the values of Rhodes College for future generations.”
“She has taught me how to temper passion into meaningful action, how to approach sensitive situations, how to give people second chances, how to put others′ interests above my own, and how to juggle keeping one eye on the future and one in the present,” wrote one of her nominators. Another stated that, “Sallie, more than any other, depicts a selfless leader who goes above and beyond her duties as a student and works continuously to make Rhodes a better place for all students.”
Landon Webber of Baton Rouge, LA, graduated with a bachelor of arts in political science. He also completed honors research and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this year.
Webber’s passion for education reform and his work through the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies led him to work directly with the Shelby County School District, researching curriculum development and creating performance evaluation rubrics for non-instructional district staff.
As a participant in the Rhodes Kinney Program and Bonner Scholarship Program, Webber created a comprehensive list of the service site opportunities available to students desiring to perform service work. A nominator familiar with his Kinney work remarked that he “often gives more effort than is required." Another wrote, “Landon Webber exemplifies the qualities of love, service to mankind, and nobility of character that define the recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award.”
Daughter of former Rhodes Dean of the Faculty Jameson Jones and a 1981 alumna, Sally Jones Heinz has become one of the city’s most respected community leaders for her achievements in the nonprofit sector.
Heinz earned a master of arts in American studies in 1983 from the University of Texas in Austin and then returned to Memphis to become executive director of Memphis Heritage at the age of 25. She served as alumni director for the college eight years before heading up development efforts at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. In 2011, she became MIFA’s executive director.
“For her generosity of spirit, her service to her community, and her lifelong support of the college,” Rhodes has recognized her with the non-student Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for 2014.