May 9, 2008 — Each year, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation sponsors the presentation of awards at 54 colleges and universities in the southeastern United States to individuals who have served others, their institutions and their wider communities.
This year's Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipients — graduating students Wallace Gundy and James Dean Erickson, and history professor Brian Balogh — have contributed to the University of Virginia through tireless dedication, compassion for others and tremendous creativity.
Brian Balogh: An Inspiration to Students
Brian Balogh, an associate professor of history, goes out of his way to provide students with support and guidance.
"I have watched him work with undergraduate students throughout many years, and he inspires them to be better than they think they can be," said graduate student Julie Caruccio, a doctoral intern in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. "He challenges them to make a difference in their world; not to give in to cynicism, but instead respond with passion and idealism."
Balogh's work with students includes chairing the Student Life Subcommittee on the Commission on Diversity and Equity, as well as being an academic adviser.
"He is an extraordinary mentor — he cares deeply about the students he works with," Caruccio continued. "As a history professor, a member of the Miller Center of Public Affairs and an adviser, he goes above and beyond the call of duty to help students and give back to the University."
Balogh came to U.Va. in 1991 after having previously taught history at Harvard University, his alma mater. He received his doctorate in history from John Hopkins University and currently serves as co-chairman of the Governing America in a Global Era program at U.Va.'s Miller Center. He was inducted into the Raven Society this spring.
Balogh said any recognition of his service should be passed on to others. "I am honored to be receiving this award," he said. "If I have been able to help others in this community, it is only because so many of my colleagues have been tireless in their willingness to help me."
Wallace Gundy: A Friend Above All Else
In her four years at the University, Wallace Gundy has become an invaluable member of a wide array of organizations, including the University Judiciary Committee, University Guide Service, Fourth-Year Trustees and the Sigma Kappa sorority.
"Wallace does not just claim membership in these organizations, but actively seeks opportunities for leadership and the overall betterment of them," wrote Wallace's friend, Marcus Oliver. "She is often the first to arrive and the last to leave. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty or to do jobs that no one else wants to do – all with a smile on her face."
Those who worked with Gundy rave about her commitment. According to University Judiciary Committee chairman Connor Sullivan, she excelled in her role as UJC senior counselor even when faced with challenges and setbacks.
"She routinely comes into the office late at night, on weekends, while studying for finals, in the middle of social events, and at any other times of the day or night to handle counselor disasters, process paperwork, check case files and perform a host of other minor duties, without which the committee would have ground to a halt," Sullivan said.
Fellow University Guide and friend Catherine James emphasized Gundy's commitment to her class, which became clear this year in her role as the Fourth-Year Trustees' graduation chairwoman.
"Wallace has been a part of class council since her first year and is constantly creating, organizing and implementing activities that benefit her academic class and often the University as a whole," James said.
Gundy said her work in the University community is her contribution to the school she feels has given her so much.
"The four years I have spent at this University have exceeded my wildest expectations," Gundy said. "Every day I become more grateful for having had the opportunity to learn and grow here. I know that wherever my life may lead, I am well prepared because of the invaluable lessons I have learned from my classmates, teachers and friends, both inside and outside of the classroom."
Despite her responsibilities to the wider community, Gundy still makes time to be a "pure and true" friend to those closest to her. She will set her own alarm on the morning of her friends' exams to make sure they wake up on time, and does not hesitate to stay up late talking with a friend going through a tough time, no matter how much work she has due the next morning.
"While I have seen her as a leader at the University of Virginia within the handful of organizations we have been in together, I can say that she is, and would most want to be recognized as, a phenomenal friend, " James said.
James Dean Erickson: Compassion Without Prejudice
James Dean Erickson can typically be found on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall leading a painting session for anyone who wants to sit down and pick up a brush. This simple activity characterizes the humble, yet profound contribution Erickson has made to the University and Charlottesville in the last four years.
While involved in many University organizations, including the varsity cross country team, Fourth-Year Trustees, Athletes in Action and Student-Athlete Mentor Council, Erickson strives to reach out to the wider community through efforts such as the painting workshops and a project he calls "Fred and Jay's Ice Cream Truck," where he and fellow students pass out free ice cream to Charlottesville residents to foster relationships with members of the diverse community.
"He's reaching out to anyone, to everyone, without regard to social status or to what he might get in return," his friend Andrew Carraway wrote in nominating him.
Erickson also makes an effort to reach out to the homeless residents of Charlottesville, offering them support and even inviting them to his home.
"James is willing and wants to help to such an extent that he invites those that others may fear into his place of prestige – his Lawn room," Carraway added. "James didn't care that these men had been rejected by the world around them; he just saw a few people who could benefit from a little kindness."
In his art, Erickson finds a way to connect further with the individuals he meets, often choosing them as subjects for his paintings.
"Studio choices such as color, style, surface and facial expression are made in collaboration with the individual being painted. Through this visual language, we become capable of seeing our social, economic, religious and racial differences as opportunities to gain wisdom, knowledge and understanding of the world in which we live," Erickson wrote of his work. "As a result, each painting develops into an enriching social exchange between two contrasting individuals. My portraits reveal the preachers and professors that exist outside the traditional institutions of the church and University."
Erickson also mentors other student-athletes and helped with the annual "Shoot-Out for Cancer" fundraising event.
"His experienced, wise words uplift teammates experiencing rough times, instilling confidence and helping them overcome the challenges they face," said nominator Kyle Rudzinski, a member of the men's soccer team.
In the past two years, Erickson spent time working with at-risk youth in both Fiji and Cameroon.
"Abroad, through language and cultural barriers, James' authenticity, energy and bona fide zeal for life shines through," Rudzinski said.
"It is very flattering to receive an award in memory of such a great philanthropist as Algernon Sydney Sullivan," said Erickson, who ascribes his actions in the community to his deep faith in God.
He hopes to spend the summer working as an instructor at the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, a nonprofit organization that works one-on-one with youth in the city. Erickson recently won the Aunspaugh Fifth-Year Fellowship in Studio Art at U.Va. and plans to continue and expand his art and community outreach programs in Charlottesville next year.