Awards for Academics and Service Presented at Rhodes College’s 2024 Commencement Exercises

image of three individuals holding plaques
Recipients of the 2024 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards—Oliver Hurst, Mia-Miracle Craig, and Professor of Music William Skoog

Annual awards were presented at the 175th Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College held May 11 on campus.

Blair Kinsey is the recipient of the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, the college’s highest academic honor and awarded to the graduating senior who has best demonstrated an exceptional combination of scholarship, creativity, and achievement and a commitment to the liberal arts and sciences.

The 2024 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards were presented to graduating seniors Mia-Miracle Craig and Oliver Hurst and Professor of Music William Skoog. In cooperation with the New York Southern Society, Rhodes presents the awards annually to two graduating seniors and one non-student who have given selflessly to the college and others.

The college presented the Distinguished Service Medal to Brian Foshee, who recently retired as director of physical plant at Rhodes.

More about the recipients:

Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize

Blair Kinsey is a mathematics major from Austin,  TX,  and in her junior year, she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, which is America’s oldest collegiate honor society that champions the liberal arts and sciences. She also pursued a minor in English, and members of the Rhodes faculty noted that “the mathematician in Blair—the mathematician who loves math for the sake of math—is also a writer who loves writing for the sake of writing, who sees how numbers and words create meaning beyond their assumed purpose or application.”

image of Blair Kinsey receiving award at the podium
Blair Kinsey

Kinsey has served as a tutor, teaching mathematics classes to children in Uganda, and she has worked as a Rhodes Writing Fellow, helping students best express their ideas and voices. As an editorial intern for the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s quarterly journal, the Key Reporter, she interviewed PBK alumni about their careers, philosophies, and engagement with the society.

Kinsey has noted that “mathematics and English are in fact not disciplines at odds. Rather, they are equally important pieces of the intricately woven thread of knowledge and of creativity and of searching for meaning in an uncomfortable and imperfect world.”

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Mia-Miracle Craig, an educational studies and anthropology/sociology double major from Baton Rouge, LA, has made a profound impact on many in Memphis. She served as the program assistant for Girls on the Run Memphis, which promotes positive youth development through interactive lessons and physical activity, and she has been instrumental in providing support and operational guidance to the organization.

Craig also has been an intern for Lausanne Collegiate School and consulting service ImpactFull, Inc. Her campus involvements include the Rhodes Student Government and Rhodes Activities Board. In addition, she is president of the Nu Phi Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and a participant of the Bonner Scholarship Program, which is one of the college’s premier service initiatives.

In nominating Craig for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, an individual commented, “Mia-Miracle is an exemplary Bonner Scholar, who goes above and beyond in the areas of service. Under her guidance, Girls on the Run Memphis has flourished, adding more schools, permanent volunteers, and creating essential resources. Mia-Miracle accomplishes all this while also serving as a mentor and intern for her peers, as well as leading her sorority.”

Oliver Hurst is a mathematics and health equity double major from Atlanta, GA. As co-director of the Laurence F. Kinney Program, the student-run service organization on campus, he has been instrumental in planning volunteer and educational events both on campus and throughout Memphis.

Hurst has worked for nonprofit organizations Binghampton Community Land Trust and A Betor Way. Serving as a research fellow, he also has been a driving force in fighting food insecurity at the Institute for Health Equity and Community Justice. One nominator commented, “He has more than a passing interest in researching and advocating, he engages others along the way. His ability to build community and momentum for exploring, addressing, and changing perspectives and policies has made an impact at Rhodes.”

Hurst’s other achievements include serving as president of Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society,  serving as co-president and treasurer of the Presbytery of the Mid-South, and being elected to the Rhodes College Hall of Fame. Hurst is a member of the Epsilon Sigma chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity.

Dr. William Skoog, who is retiring from the college this year as professor of music and director of choral studies, is the recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan non-student award. Skoog joined the Rhodes faculty in 2009 and served as chair of the Department of Music from 2009 to 2018. In addition to teaching, he has conducted the Rhodes Singers, Chamber Singers, and the Master Singers Chorale, a community chorus that has often performed with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

Skoog is the 2023 recipient of the college’s Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Creative Activity, and his influence extends far beyond the gates of Rhodes College. He has conducted national choral festivals across the country and has served as conductor and vocalist on many occasions at Carnegie Hall. Internationally, Skoog has conducted choral festivals in Dublin, Paris, Salzburg, Vienna, Rome, Lucerne, and Prague. He has established himself as an expert regarding the works of jazz composer Dave Brubeck and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon, and he is author of The Choral Works of Jennifer Higdon, Choral Kaleidoscope.

Skoog has been an advocate for the integration of arts in education. Feedback from students describe him as a very motivating and inspiring professor, and many of them consider their time with him as one of the highlights of their Rhodes career.

Distinguished Service Medal

Brian Foshee retired on March 1 of this year after 37 years at Rhodes, leaving a legacy of extraordinary service to the college. “He has renovated nearly every square inch of campus, including some spaces multiple times,” said Rhodes College President Jennifer M. Collins, who made the presentation.

image of Brian Foshee receiving award
Brian Foshee receiving award from Rhodes College President Jennifer Collins

During his tenure, Foshee oversaw the design and construction of 12 campus buildings, including the Bryan Campus Life Center, Paul Barret, Jr. Library, and Robertson Hall, as well as the transformations of many other buildings, residence halls, and prominent spaces such as the Lynx Lair, Catherine Burrow Refectory, Fisher Memorial Garden, McCoy Theatre, Peyton Nalle Rhodes Tower/Frazier Jelke Science Center, McNeill Concert Hall, Crain Field, and Troutt Quad, just to name a few.

“Brian Foshee has literally and figuratively left an indelible mark on Rhodes,” said Collins. “His unmatched knowledge of Rhodes’ campus, skilled and diligent planning and foresight, and relentless work ethic ensured our campus is well maintained. While there is certainly excellent raw material to work with, the stewardship of the campus by our Physical Plant team under Brian’s leadership is a significant reason the Rhodes campus is—as we all can agree—the most beautiful campus in the country.”