For Curt McPhail and his wife, Molly Chappell-McPhail, it could be said that the couple that helps others together stays together.
Accustomed to giving to others, Curt and Molly McPhail found themselves on the receiving end of the same citizenship award, named after a husband and wife, and given by their respective alma maters this weekend.
Molly Chappell-McPhail, a 1991 graduate of Converse College, received the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award during Converse’s graduation ceremony Saturday. Her husband, a 1996 graduate of Wofford College, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given to men, during Wofford’s graduation ceremony Sunday. The awards are given each year by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. Algernon and Mary Sullivan were husband and wife.
…neither college knew they were recognizing each of the McPhails until they had already decided on their award recipients…
Officials from neither college knew they would recognize each of the McPhails until they had already decided on their award recipients, Wofford spokeswoman Laura Corbin said.
“It’s crazy, but it’s exciting,” Curt McPhail said.
Molly Chappell-McPhail is the founder of BirthMatters, a community doula program that provides services to mothers age 20 and younger in Spartanburg County. She is a certified doula and childbirth educator. Her career began as a social worker with Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, and she later worked with Regional Ob-Gyn Services, where she guided and directed a clinic for pregnant teens called Positive Results.
The Mary Mildred Sullivan award recognizes “unselfish service, dedication to sharing with others and participation in the life of her community,” said Converse president Betsy Fleming during the ceremony. “It would be difficult to find a more deserving candidate for the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award.”
Curt McPhail is president of Greenlab Strategies in Spartanburg and project manager for the Northside Initiative.
Greenlab Strategies provides innovative solutions to community development projects locally and around the world, and it serves as the executive staff for the Northside Development Corp., a nonprofit implementing the redevelopment of the city of Spartanburg’s Northside community, of which Wofford is a partner. The redevelopment initiative seeks to transform the city’s north side into a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood with education, health care, social service and employment opportunities. Greenlab also is executive staff for globalbike inc., a nonprofit that provides people around the world with bicycles. McPhail served as director of global partnerships with globalbike from 2010 to 2013. He also served as program officer for the Mary Black Foundation from 2005 to 2013.
Curt McPhail has received the award twice — first in 1996 as a graduating senior from Wofford, where he majored in business economics and sociology. He was involved with the Stop the Violence campaign as a Wofford student, and was also a Bonner Scholar, which required completing community service projects while in college.
“It was really exciting to have that experience all over again,” he said.
The couple met through their community service work.
“We both have a heart for underserved communities, so we relate in that perspective,” Chappell-McPhail said.
“We both have a heart for underserved communities, so we definitely relate in that perspective”
The McPhails been married for 15 years and have two children, Noah, 10 and Heyward, 13. Both are complimentary about each other’s community service work. Curt McPhail said prior to Sunday’s commencement ceremony, he met with Wofford officials and learned that he was going to receive his award. Naturally, he went home and told his wife.
“I thought, ‘That’s well deserved,’ ” Chappell-McPhail said.
The following day, Converse College notified her of her own award.
“The amazing work that she does with young moms is not only good for the families but for Spartanburg as well,” Curt McPhail said.
About the awards:
Wofford and Converse are two of 61 colleges and universities, most of them in the South, authorized to present the Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards. The recipients, a graduating senior and a non-student of each gender, are named, and the awards are presented during spring commencement ceremonies.
Algernon Sydney Sullivan, born in Indiana in 1826, rose to success in New York City as a respected lawyer and a man who “reached out both hands in constant helpfulness” to others. The award bearing his name was established in 1925 by a Sullivan Memorial Committee and the New York Southern Society, which Sullivan had served as its first president. The award seeks to perpetuate the excellence of character and humanitarian service of Sullivan by honoring such qualities in others.
The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award was created in 1940 by the New York chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to honor those who demonstrate the “spirit of helpfulness and an awareness of the beauty and value of the intangible elements of life.”
Student recipients of the awards at Wofford were Phillip Jervey Roper and Laura Katherine Gamble. Jalinda Cilien received the stu dent award at Converse.
Spartanburg native Paula Black Baker also received the non-student award from Wofford for her work with the Wofford board of trustees. Her activities also extended to many of Spartanburg’s arts groups, the Hub City Writers Project and Hub-Bub, the Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties, and Mobile Meals of Spartanburg.
Article written by Jenny Arnold of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
Photo credit: Alex Hicks Jr.