Sullivan Award recipients honored with celebration of service at within LOU community

Published 10:44 am Friday, April 7, 2017

By Christina Steube

University of Mississippi

University of Mississippi senior Miller Richmond, Oxford resident Jo Ann O’Quin and UM alumnus Donald Cole were honored Wednesday with 2017 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards in celebration of their volunteer work and service within the LOU community.

Email newsletter signup

The awards are presented annually by the university’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement to students, alumni and community members who demonstrate selfless service to others. It is the university’s highest honor recognizing service.

“We are fortunate that the University of Mississippi community is home to so many of these humble servants,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “In fact, we have so many examples of service in our midst that this year we created a new category for the Sullivan Award to honor an alumna or alumnus alongside the student and community member honorees.

“The vision of the University of Mississippi is to lead and excel by engaging minds, transforming lives and serving others. When these activities happen in concert, we can realize the promise of higher education to change lives, promote social and economic mobility, and enhance the greater good.”

Richmond, student recipient of the award, is a senior international studies major from Madison. He said he has always been interested in community service but really became engaged in helping others at Ole Miss.

“My work as co-director of The Big Event has been my main contribution to local service, but I also feel that my work with ASB, the Columns Society and other student organizations have allowed me to learn more about what service truly means,” Richmond said. “I believe that research that our faculty at the university complete is a form of service, and I have been honored to participate in research alongside some faculty as well as complete my own research abroad in Jordan.”

Richmond said he was surprised to learn that he received the Sullivan Award.

“I’m very thankful to my family and friends for being great examples of service,” he said. “I am glad to have served alongside many great students on this campus, and I could think of many deserving people for the Sullivan Award.”

O’Quin, the community member recipient, is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, but has lived in Oxford for 40 years. A UM professor emerita of social work, O’Quin began attending Council on Aging meetings to get involved with the community and has led the monthly networking meetings for almost 20 years.

In 1985, she started a support group for Alzheimer’s and related disorders that continues to have monthly meetings. She created and organized the Caring for Aging Relatives, or CARE, Fair and Workshop in 2000, which ran for nine years and grew to more than 450 participants. As a result of that success, O’Quin began the CARE support group.

Additionally, she helped start the Memory Makers Respite Day program and the Caregiver Resource Center, which offers free resources and counseling for families dealing with memory issues.

“Looking back, my parents had great influences on me and my interest in service,” she said. “My dad was an advocate for the mentally ill and also racial reconciliation throughout his career and my mom had a heart for caregiving with older adults. My regret is that I lost both of them at early ages and I would like to thank them for making this recognition possible.

“The Sullivan Award is a tremendous honor and reinforces the importance of my dad’s motto to ‘serve your fellow man.’ In a way, it is hard to even accept an award for something that I just think is doing the right thing, when and where I can.”

Cole, recipient of the alumni award, is the university’s assistant provost and an associate professor of mathematics. Originally from Jackson, Cole is an advocate for education, particularly for minority students, and spends time developing projects that promote teaching and guidance of students, especially encouraging them to pursue advanced degrees.

He has always participated in community service, no matter where he has lived.

“I remember once when I volunteered so much time with youngsters having cerebral palsy,” Cole said “I would take my well-bodied son with me to help.

“It brought me to tears when he wanted a wheelchair for Christmas so he could be like those youngsters.”

In the LOU community, Cole has served as a board member for Habitat for Humanity. He’s also been instrumental in the Books and Bears program that provides Christmas gifts to UM Facilities Management workers, Kairos Prison Ministry and the LOFT Foundation.

Cole is an active member of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Oxford, serving as trustee, Sunday school superintendent and deacon.

“I believe that when anyone is bestowed with such an honor is first overwhelmed, feel so undeserving and then can think of many others that’s doing so much more,” he said. “No one ‘seeks out’ such awards, they happen naturally and because you’re doing something that you love and that is natural.

“Like the runner in a relay race, you’re proud to complete your leg of the race as you realize that any one individual provides just one small piece on the entire puzzle.”