Distinguished Awards for Scholarship and Service Presented at Commencement

a young woman standing respectfully in academic robes receiving a very prestigious award in front of her peers
Clare Misko

Annual awards were presented at the 168th Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College on May 13. Rhodes graduate Clare Marie Misko was awarded the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, the college’s highest academic honor, and Maria Cisne Farahani, co-founder of Fara Coffee in Austin, TX, received the Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal.

Rhodes graduates Jon “Jay” Lanham Hedges and Mary Katherine Crowell, along with Deborah L. Craddock, principal and vice president of trading at Southeastern Asset Management, received the 2017 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

Clare Misko, an art history major from Libertyville, IL, received the 2017 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. In the fields of art and art history, Misko accompanied an archaeologist to Greece and collected data documenting an important ancient Minoan site; assisted an art historian in publishing on the 20th-century sculptor H.C. Westermann; and served as a peer tutor for students studying art history. One professor wrote, “She treats her intellect as a gift, with an obligation to develop the pursuit of knowledge with respect and humility.” Misko accepted membership in Phi Beta Kappa her junior year.

Distinguished Service Medal 

Born in Nicaragua, Maria Farahani is also executive director of Fara Coffee’s philanthropic arm, Fara Foundation. Farahani has hosted Rhodes students as volunteers at the Fara Clinic operated by the foundation in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The clinic’s primary focus is the prevention, early detection, and treatment of cervical cancer, with outreach programs to coffee farmers and rural workers who lack access to basic medical care. A tireless recruiter for Rhodes (in English and Spanish), Farahani also co-chaired the college’s National Parent Campaign Committee. She currently serves as secretary of the Rhodes Board of Trustees. 

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Jay Hedges, a political economy major from Little Rock, AR, served as the 2016-2017 president of Rhodes Student Government, and he involved himself in the Micah Community that works to foster racial reconciliation and explore spirituality. Hedges has been described by his peers as thoughtful, caring, and kind. He served as a member of the Commission on Campus Culture as a second-year student, and as an intern, he has been helping to restore Clayborn Temple, a Memphis landmark that holds particular significance to the Memphis Sanitation Strike during the civil rights movement. Hedges also served as a student trustee.


Mary Crowell, a biology/anthropology/sociology major from Soddy Daisy, TN, too served as student trustee, listening to her peers in order to accurately convey their concerns to the Board of Trustees. As president of the Rhodes chapter of Chi Omega Fraternity, Crowell is described by her peers as a loving and empathetic leader, serving as a role model for each member. She has been a research Intern at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and at Little Bird Innovation, which brings together business strategy, social sciences, and design to help organizations deliver meaningful change. Crowell also sits on the board of the Taraloka Foundation, which works to aid Himalayan girls in their education. 

Deborah Craddock, a 1980 Rhodes economics alumna, has held leadership roles in several Memphis organizations including the Brooks Museum of Art, MIFA, and Ballet Memphis. She is principal and vice president of trading at Southeastern Asset Management and has always managed to devote time to her alma mater, serving on the Alumni Executive Board, the Presidents Council, and the Margaret Hyde Council. Craddock is the past president of the Charles E. Diehl Society, and she and her husband, Bob, are members of the Benefactor’s Circle. Most recently, she served on the Search Committee for the 20th President of Rhodes College, and she has agreed to serve as the vice-chair of the Board of Trustees.