For alumnus Ward Sullivan, studying at Troy University introduced him to the subjects and mentors that would help define his life.
The Anthropology Department had such a profound effect on Sullivan that he recently established a scholarship in Anthropology in honor of two key professors who most shaped his academic life.
“I have always been appreciative of my professors like Dr. [Bill] Grantham and Professor [Bascom] Brooms and how they cared about their students,” Sullivan said. “If I can help students have a positive experience at TROY by helping them financially through a scholarship, then I will.”
Originally, Sullivan did not anticipate pursuing a degree in Anthropology. When he arrived at TROY in 1995, Sullivan thought of majoring in Psychology. Two anthropology classes, chosen as electives, changed his course.
“I felt really at home in those classrooms, with the course material, with the subject matter,” Sullivan said. “Anthropology felt like a really well-rounded area in which to major.”
The second class Sullivan took, Dr. Bill Grantham’s cultural anthropology class, piqued his interest so much that he shifted his major.
Sullivan soon found him thriving in the Anthropology department. Dr. Grantham, who served as Sullivan’s academic advisor, had a particular teaching style that allowed Sullivan to excel.
“He’s a really interesting and patient and highly intelligent professor in the classroom,” says Sullivan. “He encourages his students to think critically and analytically.” The essay tests that Dr. Grantham offered taught Sullivan how to articulate his perspective, and as long as the students could make an argument for their thoughts, they were likely to succeed.
Professor Bascom Brooms rounded off the department with his archaeology classes that challenged his students’ knowledge. Sullivan remembers the difficult exams that mainly utilized fill in the blank and multiple choice, where students either knew the information or not, with little wiggle room. In either case, Sullivan remembers his professors fondly.
“I really enjoyed both instructors and the subject matter,” he said.
Sullivan also found an influential mentor in Don Maestri, TROY’s head basketball coach at the time. A scholarship awarded to Sullivan his freshman year through the athletic department required him to serve as manager of the men’s basketball team, a role from which Sullivan learned many lessons.
“Coach Maestri put a lot of trust in me and gave me a lot of responsibility,” says Sullivan. This, along with Sullivan’s gratitude for his scholarship, motivated him to succeed at TROY.
Sullivan’s interest in law and involvement in TROY’s Pre-Law Society during his undergrad years launched him into a compelling career. In 2002, he graduated from Faulkner University’s law school and began work as an attorney. For two years, Sullivan served as a Deputy Attorney General for the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. He also handled domestic violence cases, where he helped victims of domestic violence navigate the legal process.
Having a legal background led Sullivan back to his alma mater in 2007, when TROY’s Development Office offered him the position of Director of Planned Giving. This started Sullivan’s 14-years-and-counting career in Planned Giving. “It’s an area that is somewhat of a hybrid legal position,” Sullivan notes. “It’s beneficial to understand parts of the law in this line of work.” From TROY to the Southern Poverty Law Center to his current job at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Sullivan has used his talents to bring resources and donations to organizations.
“It’s been very rewarding working in this field,” Sullivan said. “These organizations have big impacts on society, and you’re helping people who care about them put together plans to further support the work of those organizations.”
Sullivan also enjoys how his work lends itself to public service and helping others. He credits his time spent studying and working at TROY with teaching him the importance of servant leadership, which continues to influence how he approaches his professional and personal life.
Working in Planned Giving at multiple institutions has afforded Sullivan a unique perspective on giving back to organizations that matter to him.
“Part of me feels if I’m going to work in this field, then I have a duty to participate in it myself,” Sullivan said.
He sees first-hand the significant impact of contributions to universities and remembers how grateful he himself felt receiving a scholarship during his time at TROY.
Offering his resources to his alma mater also aligns with the values in which Sullivan believes.
“I think being kind to people is one of the keys to having a good society,” Sullivan said.
His emphasis on kindness, understanding, openness and inclusivity tie directly to the inclination he feels to give back. To Sullivan, scholarships allow for people to pursue a worthwhile education and career where they will have a beneficial influence on society. In turn, many people who have benefited from the generosity of donors and alumni will give back, creating a positive cycle of giving.
“Once you’ve given, it’s very satisfying knowing that you’re giving to a cause that’s important to you,” reflects Sullivan. “Your gift is going to have an opportunity to make a difference.”