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Three who “reached out both hands in constant helpfulness”
Jessica Belue, Justin Steele And Alice Handy To Receive Sullivan Awards At U.Va. Valediction For Excellence Of Character And Humanitarian Service

May 7, 2004 -- Three members of the University of Virginia community — known for their deep, and often behind-the-scenes commitment to the University — will receive Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at Valediction May 15.

Jessica Belue and Justin Steele, both fourth-year students, were nominated by fellow students, who wrote passionately of their leadership qualities and power to touch and change lives. Alice Handy, U.Va.’s recently retired treasurer, was heralded for her concern for the University’s long-term financial welfare and her dedication to protecting the institution’s standing as one of the best in the nation.

Sullivan awards, created in 1925, are given to distinguished students and university community members at a handful of universities across the country in memory of the late New York lawyer, businessman and philanthropist, who was said to have “reached out both hands in constant helpfulness.” After his death, the New York Southern Society, of which he was president, introduced the award to perpetuate the excellence of character and humanitarian service he epitomized.

Jessica Belue
Jessica Belue, a Jefferson Scholar and fourth-year American Studies major, is known for her compassion and common sense. Her nomination letters told of her caring dedication and enthusiasm for everything she has become involved in at the University — from the Lighting of the Lawn, an event she chaired, and the Virginia Belles, of which she was president, to Chi Omega and the Inter-Sorority Council, organizations she helped lead.

Belue also has been an active participant in student affairs and government, serving as a senior orientation leader and as a Class of 2004 trustee. Throughout her four years, she has immersed herself in the life of the University — so much so, that Belue now plans a career in higher education.

“We certainly were very pleased when she said she will be pursuing student affairs,” said Laurie Casteen, assistant director of orientation and new student programs. “She has maturity and wonderful common sense. Jess is tremendously deserving of the Sullivan Award.”

Belue credits her mother, a high school guidance counselor back home in Florence, Ala., as her inspiration. “Watching my mom in action has influenced the work I want to do in colleges and universities,” she said.

She also credits several faculty members — English professors Steven Cushman and John Sullivan and religious studies professor Gerald Fogarty, a Jesuit priest — for helping shape not only her life at U.Va., but her career decisions.

Next year, Belue will work with a Jesuit volunteer corps in Atlanta before enrolling in a master’s degree program in education. “It’s a way to do some challenging things in America,” she said, “and also meet a community with a faith component.”

Justin Steele
Like Belue, Justin Steele, a chemical engineering student with a biotechnology and biochemical engineering concentration, has been active in a broad range of programs — including the Office of African-American Affairs’ Peer Advisor Program — almost since his first day on Grounds.

His commitment to improving race relations has shaped many of his activities. In fall 2001, he and a fellow engineering student, Ermias Abebe, took the initiative to research and compile an audio-visual presentation called “Connecting Communities: African-American History at U.Va.” The presentation, which was shown to numerous audiences around the University, has promoted dialogue and understanding, and fostered the U.Va. concept of a community of trust.

In addition, Steele has served as a moderator for Sustained Dialogue, a student initiative to promote biweekly discussions among students on race relations. Last year, he was one of four students appointed by U.Va. President John T. Casteen III to serve on the University’s Commission on Diversity and Equity. He also was one of six students invited to speak to the Class of 2007 about diversity in the program “Different Voices, Common Threads.”

Steele’s academic success has been recognized by his induction into Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society; his presence in the Rodman Scholars’ Program; and his positions as national executive board member and academic excellence chairman for the 15,000-member, student-run National Society of Black Engineers.

Steele has won accolades from an array of organizations, including the Raven Society, the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Society and the Office of African-American Affairs. He is also the 2004 recipient of the M. Rick Turner Distinguished Student Award.

After graduation, Steele will travel to Los Angeles to start a job with Bain & Co., a global business consulting firm.

Alice Handy
Alice Handy never intended to become one of the primary stewards of Thomas Jefferson’s vision. Helping to keep the University fiscally sound during some very tough economic times was something that she simply did.

Handy joined the University in 1974 as its first investment officer in the midst of a stock market drop that had taken U.Va.’s endowment from more than $80 million down to $60 million. She dedicated her career and used her experience and expertise to guide the University’s endowment into the ranks of the five largest among public institutions and among the 25 largest of all colleges and universities.

When she stepped down, the endowment had reached a then all-time high of $1.9 billion.

University President John T. Casteen III has on more than one occasion credited the success of the University’s endowment to Handy’s efforts.

But Handy’s impact on the University community extends far beyond what she has accomplished as a superb administrator and investor. She understands the mission of a public university, most especially this one, and the passion and allegiance that it inspires, her nominators wrote. She also has been both role model and mentor to women colleagues and women students.

“Alice Handy may have done more to promote the professional advancement of women at the University than anyone else,” University Librarian Karin Wittenborg said. “Her superb intellect, her unparalleled performance, her influence, her generosity to others with her time and talent, her quiet determination, and her humility have set the standard — even if few of us can meet it.”

Handy said she was both surprised and touched by the Sullivan Award. “The University has played a special role in my life for the past 29 years, but this year is particularly significant.”

Handy’s daughter, Jenny, will receive her U.Va. degree this weekend.

Contact:Carol Wood, (434) 924-1400

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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