Davidson College’s 2011 commencement Sunday included recognition for top students, retiring faculty and several Davidson residents. Rosie Molinary of Davidson was the community winner of this year’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given annually for “outstanding spiritual qualities applied to daily living.” Meanwhile, professors Keyne Cheshire (classic) and Nancy Fairley (anthropology) won the college’s top teaching awards. Here’s a recap of all the day’s awards.
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ALGERNON SYDNEY SULLIVAN AWARDS
Two students – Sarah McIlroy and Rachel Richardson, also won the awards in addition to Ms. Molinary
Ms. Molinary is a local writer and activist. In the words of one of her nominators, she is “not only a visionary thinker, but also a visionary doer.” A former public school teacher, share graduated from Davidson in 1996 and worked for several years in the college’s community service office.
As a board member of Davidson Housing Coalition, she created its HAMMERS program to assist people living in deteriorating housing who otherwise may not be able to make necessary repairs.
A Puerto Rico native, she is concerned with problems of body image and self esteem faced by Latina girls, and wrote about their struggles in a book titled “Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image and Growing Up Latina.” She’s also the author of the 2010 book “Beautiful You.”
Taking that concern a step further, she founded and directs an organization called Circle de Luz that mentors and encourages Latinas to complete their education. One of her nominators wrote, “She represents the best of what we want in our community: a commitment to diversity that’s based on action, not just words; an open heart and generous spirit; a fine intellect given in service to voicing issues that need greater awareness; and courageous leadership.”
Sarah E. McIlroy, a psychology major from Columbus, Ohio, was widely recognized on campus for her strength and grace in light of her father’s death two years ago following a long struggle with leukemia.
Rather than retreating inward with her loss, Ms. McIlroy got involved with the Project Life bone marrow registry program on campus, and served as its chair for the past two years. She helped host a 20-year celebration of Project Life this past fall, bringing marrow donors and recipients together for a memorable celebration.
Just three weeks ago Ms. McIlroy also received the psychology department’s Edward L. Palmer Award for community service. She also sang with the Delilah’s female a cappella group, and she worked last summer with a disadvantaged children’s educational enrichment program in Texas. She is moving to Dallas this summer to begin her career with Teach for America as a seventh grade science teacher.
Religion major Rachel L. Richardson of Tucson, Ariz., received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for “seeking to establish the common place between people to confer upon all the freedom to be recognized in their humanity.”
Ms. Richardson co-founded the “Ending Poverty in Charlotte” program for the poor and homeless in alliance with the Charlotte Urban Ministry Center. She led Davidson students on an “Urban Plunge” homelessness experience in Washington D.C., and she studied contemporary urban issues in New York, San Paulo, Cape Town and Hanoi.
Ms. Richardson has also been active on campus. Concerned about the impact of depression on students, she became the leader of “Changing Minds,” a group focused on decreasing the stigmas associated with psychological issues. At Spring Convocation she received the college’s Alberta Smith De Vane Religion Award.
Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Awards, the college’s top teaching honor, went to Associate Professor of Classics Keyne Cheshire and Professor of Anthropology Nancy Fairley. Each award includes $7,500 for the recipient, and $7,500 more for the recipient to designate to a college cause.
Dr. Cheshire joined the Davidson faculty in 2002, and teaches a wide variety of courses in Greek and Latin language and literature. He published a textbook on Alexander the Great, and is currently writing a book on Callimachus’ Hymns. He and a student collaborator received a Davidson Research Initiative grant to translate the text of Sophocles’ tragedy, the Trachiniae, compose a score for it and present it as a musical Western.
Dr. Cheshire was described as “Master of the ‘a-ha’ moment when unexpected academic connections are revealed. His citation noted, “The hard work of conjugation and declension, of philology and text criticism, describe not only the effort he summons forth, but the path on which he leads students to see how seemingly minor details coalesce into a richer encounter with the lives and cultures of antiquity.”
One of his student nominators wrote, “His palpable reverence for the languages and the characters, the achievements and the flaws of certain civilizations is infectious. And I caught it from him.”
Nancy Fairley received the Hunter-Hamilton Award for adherence to five tenets in and out of the classroom since joining the faculty in 1993: Stimulate students through stellar teaching and research. Practice life-long learning along with students. Feed students’ hearts in addition to their minds. Care for and inspire all students. Teach beyond the classroom walls.
She was hailed for her attention to all Davidson students—mainstream and minority, struggling and flourishing. One student nominator wrote, “Simply put, I never had a professor who spoke not only to my mind, but also my soul.”
Dr. Fairley received a Fulbright Fellowship to study African Americans who repatriated to Ghana, West Africa, and developed from that experience Davidson’s summer program in that country. She has also been instrumental in the STRIDE program for minority students, and helped develop and directed Davidson’s ethnic studies program. She teaches classes in ethnic relations, African civilizations, globalization, and “Art, Society and Culture.” She received the college’s Thomas Jefferson Award in 2008.
Dr. Fairley is also a well-known storyteller. What began as a fun family activity developed professionally, and she now performs and conducts storytelling workshops.
First Honor for the highest grade point average in the class was a tie between Daniel A. Martin of Dothan, Ala., and Alison J. Rauh of Trier, Germany, who both had perfect 4.0 grade point averages and graduate summa cum laude (with highest honors). Another 54 were magna cum laude (high honors), and 110 graduated cum laude (with honors).
A highly ranked youth tennis player growing up in Germany, Ms. Rauh chose to attend Davidson because it offered her the combination of an excellent academic program and Division 1 athletics. She received the Armfield Athletic Scholarship and played all four years on Davidson’s women’s team. She was co-captain for two years, and played at the number one or two position during the past season.
Ms. Rauh had no previous interest in economics, but got hooked on it two weeks into her first year in the introductory econ course. She excelled, and worked on a number of projects with her faculty mentors in the department — Fred Smith, Mark Foley and Dennis Appleyard. Their collaborations included a Davidson Research Initiative study of low income college students and need-blind admission policies. She spent last summer as an intern at the Federal Reserve in New York City, and published an article in The American Economist developed from a paper she wrote for a call in international trade.
She was also active in the Davidson International Association and Dean Rusk International Studies Program, and studied abroad for one semester with a Davidson program in Tours, France. She was inducted into the Omicron Delta Epsilon honor society for economics, the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society for campus leadership and the Phi Beta Kappa honor society for academic achievement.
Ms. Rauh has been accepted into a PhD program in economics at the University of Chicago, and will move there in July to begin a research project even before her classes begin.
Daniel Martin began his Davidson career intent on a physics major, but graduates in mathematics. He finished his coursework last December, but has been on campus during the spring semester conducting research with Associate Professor Tim Chartier in the mathematics of sports team rankings. He also conducted research last summer at N.C. State University. Martin won the mathematics department’s William McGavock Award, and was selected to Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society.
He was a four-year volunteer at the Ada Jenkins Community Center, tutoring students in an after-school program. He was also active in Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He will begin working shortly in a financial management development program for the Edens & Avant commercial real estate development company in Columbia, S.C.
Thanks to Bill Giduz of the Davidson College news office for contributing to this article.