Annual Awards Presented at Rhodes Commencement

Annual awards were presented at the 164th Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College on May 11 on campus. Rhodes graduates Catherine Carlile and Ian Engdahl and Plough Foundation Chair Diane Rudner received the 2013 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.

Rhodes professor Dr. Robert Strandburgreceived the Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal, and Rhodes graduate Sarah Bacot was awarded the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, the college’s highest academic honor.


Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Catherine Carlile of Dallas, Texas, graduatedcum laude with a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.

One student wrote in nominating her for the award, “Her service to Delta Delta Delta sorority, membership in the Honor Council and in multiple honor societies, and participation in research opportunities throughout her academic career make her an outstanding student.”

Nominators also recognized Carlile’s participation in Rhodes’ Kinney Program and wrote that as student director, “She ensured her team of 30 Kinney coordinators spoke to every incoming student during Welcome Week this year, and she helped organize the largest Memphis Community Service Day in Rhodes’ history—with more than 300 first-year students in attendance.” In addition, nominators noted, “Catherine helped communicate the message of Choose 901 to the Rhodes campus through a t-shirt campaign and hosting a Choose 901 day event on campus last year. She brought the Grizzlies’ mascot to campus for Kinney’s Rites to Play event, which was the largest Rites to Play to date.”

One student summed up Carlile’s service to the college by saying “Catherine is the student who is able to mold and balance every part of her life to make the deepest impact on others and gain the most meaningful experiences personally.”


Ian Engdahl of Winthrop, Maine, graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in political economy.

One nominator wrote, “When one thinks of who Algernon Sydney Sullivan may have been as a young man, Ian Engdahl comes to mind. Not only do these two men share a love of the art of oratory and a passion for law and justice, but the philosophy of both revolves around making better the lives of others even before themselves.”

Engdahl’s community involvements include working for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Memphis and Shelby County, BRIDGES Memphis, Memphis Area Legal Services, and Community LIFT. Another nominator shared this: “In his role with CASA, he investigated cases, met with the parents, and mentored children. This work is utilized in court to help determine where that child belongs.”

For BRIDGES, he facilitated the annual Summer Leadership Institute at which young leaders from around Memphis learned principles of nonviolent political activism. Issues Engdahl is most passionate about are economic empowerment, education and poverty alleviation.


Serving on the Plough Foundation board since 1990 and as chair since 1997, Diane Rudner has earned national and international respect for her work in banking and in cultural and business consulting. 

Community leaders seek out her counsel on a wide range of issues, and former colleague Rick Masson wrote, “Diane has the unique ability to understand and promote less popular ideas without alienating others. In addition, Diane is a joy to be around, so down to earth and charmingly good natured. While Diane has lived, and could live, anywhere in the world, she has chosen to live in Memphis, her hometown. That speaks volumes about how much she loves this city.”

Rudner challenges youth to live lives of service, and in quoting author and poet Maya Angelou, she has said, “I’ve learned you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to throw something back.”

For setting the pace in “throwing something back” and for living a life committed to making Memphis a more vibrant community, Rhodes has recognized her with the non-student Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for 2013.


Distinguished Service Medal

Dr. Robert J. Strandburg, associate professor, joined the Rhodes Department of Psychology 24 years ago with a passion for teaching and as an expert in neuroscience.

Strandburg was named the first director of Rhodes’ Center for Academic Research and Education through Service (CARES). Funded by a grant from the Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust, CARES has formed the college’s signature programs including the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, Bonner Scholars, Summer Service Fellows, St. Jude Summer Plus, and Center for Outreach in Development of the Arts.

In his role as associate dean for academic affairs, Strandburg was entrusted with oversight of the college’s new Foundations Curriculum implemented in 2007. He also was an integral part of the college’s reaccreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

For his many contributions to the college, his mentorship of his students, and his role in making Rhodes a leader in the arts and sciences, Strandburg is the 2013 recipient of the Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal.


Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize

Sarah Bacot of Diamondhead, Miss., received the 2013 Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize given to the graduating senior who exemplifies the highest qualities of achievement, creativity, and commitment to the liberal arts and sciences.

“Unsurpassed” and “peerless” are words her professors used to characterize her “liveliness of mind.”

Said Professor Scott Newstok in presenting the award, “Most Rhodes students survey the breadth of the liberal arts through introductory courses outside of their major. But you are that rare student who successfully pursued advanced coursework across multiple disciplines—Spanish, religious studies, English, philosophy, international studies, history, and gender & sexuality studies, ultimately crafting a bridge major that allowed you to combine all of these fields in an unusually demanding configuration.”

One of her mentors wrote she embodies “the Ciceronian ideal of humanitas—a virtuous character suitable to public activism, honed by being steeped in the liberal arts.”

Bacot graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in history/gender and sexuality study. She will travel to Argentina, India, South Africa, and Poland as one of only 40 Watson Fellowship recipients nationwide.