Distinguished Awards for Scholarship and Service Presented at Rhodes Commencement

Annual awards were presented at the 166th Commencement Exercises of Rhodes College on May 16 on campus. Rhodes graduate Philip Luke Spinolo was awarded the Peyton Nalle Rhodes Phi Beta Kappa Prize, the college’s highest academic honor, and the Day Foundation and Trustees J. Richard Buchignani, William G. Griesbeck, and C. Thomas Whitman received the Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal.

Rhodes graduates Katelyn Brooke Dagen and Alex Patrick Galloway, and Rev. Dorothy Sanders Wells ’82, priest-in-charge at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, TN, received the 2015 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

Philip Luke Spinolo of Germantown, TN, received the 2015 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. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this year and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Physics.

Rhodes faculty from different fields noted Spinolo’s ability to connect readings and worldwide phenomena with experiences foreign to his own, displaying sophistication, excellence, and maturity that they would only expect of older graduate students. Spinolo has been noted as saying, “You can’t rip pieces out of human knowledge and study them in isolation.” 

Spinolo has been listed on a number scientific presentations and papers, and he was a major contributor to a successful research proposal submitted to the National Institutes of Health. Spinolo’s achievements also have been recognized by the Rhodes Department of Physics including the Physics Research Award.

Distinguished Service Medal

Founded by the late Clarence Day in 1960, the Day Foundation has awarded millions of dollars in start-up grants for unique social service, leadership, arts, and youth programs in Memphis and the Mid-South. Day, who was a businessman and Rhodes alumnus, began to underwrite awards at Rhodes nearly 35 years ago recognizing outstanding teaching and outstanding research or creative activity. In the 1990s, he wanted to ensure that young people had the opportunity to attend Rhodes while learning to lead and to serve, and he funded the Burch Leadership and Service Scholars program.

In the fall of 2011, the Day Foundation Trustees built on his vision and created the Clarence Day Scholars Program that each year provides financial support to 10 top first-year students from Memphis and Shelby County high schools and encourages them to make a positive impact on Memphis. Last December, the Day trustees decided to both increase and perpetuate program funding.

In recognition of the Day Foundation’s belief in and support of Rhodes faculty and students, the college recognizes the Day Foundation and Trustees J. Richard Buchignani, William G. Griesbeck, and C. Thomas Whitman with the 2015 Distinguished Service Medal.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Katelyn Brooke Dagen of Millington, TN, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this year, and she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.

At Rhodes, Dagen has served as a Clarence Day Scholar and Peer Assistant. A volunteer with Special Olympics of Greater Memphis, she has been integral in the growth and development of the Lynx Club program at Rhodes that welcomes Special Olympics of Memphis athletes on campus for exercise, fun, and fellowship. She also was instrumental in developing a week-long Special Olympian camp that has been held the past two summers.

One nominator wrote that Dagen leads by example and that she “is genuine in her nature and gracious and kind to all whom she meets.” Dagen also is a member of Chi Omega Fraternity and has been recognized for her leadership and scholarship by Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board.


Alex Patrick Galloway of Murfreesboro, TN, also was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa this year and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in urban studies. 

Galloway has served as a moderator with the Kinney Community Service Program and is well-known on campus for his leadership with the Rhodes chapter of GlobeMed, a national organization educating and training students on global health equality. His leadership and scholarship have been recognized by Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honors Society.

In addition, he has served as a volunteer at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the Church Health Center and has worked in rural Uganda in a child malnutrition clinic. One nominator wrote, “More than just a leader, Alex makes others feel valued as human beings. Alex believes that change is possible and works with his whole heart to make that happen.”


A native of Mobile, AL, Rev. Dorothy Sanders Wells graduated in 1982 with a degree in vocal performance. But during her four years at Rhodes, she also learned much about justice, ethics, and service.

Wells wrote recently in Rhodes magazine, “A liberal arts education equipped me for life, with all of its changes and iterations.” After leaving Rhodes, she pursued and received a juris doctor degree. She practiced law for 18 years, first as a member of a local law firm and then as a corporate attorney for FedEx, but eventually enrolled in divinity school. Now, she is priest-in-charge at St. George’s Episcopal Church.

She also is active in her community, serving on the board of directors for the Metropolitan Interfaith Association. In addition, she has served on Rhodes’ Alumni Executive Board and on its Margaret Hyde Council board of directors. In 2011, Wells was recognized by the college as a distinguished alumna.