November 12, 2009
Ken Sullivan named 2009 Distinguished Alumnus at Lees-McRae College

Smyth County, Virginia, native and Lees-McRae College alumnus of the class of 1959 Capt. Ken Sullivan (Ret.) was honored with the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Award during Homecoming festivities at Lees-McRae College in October.

Known to his classmates as an outstanding athlete, Sullivan was born June 8, 1939, in Seven Mile Ford, Virginia, where he lived until 1945 when his family moved to the Hutton Branch community of Smyth County. There he attended the "one room-one teacher" Centenary School until grade five when he commenced studies at Marion, Virginia schools, graduating in 1957. He was President of Marion High School Class of 1957 and was a distinguished long distance runner, holding several County and District track and field records.

Soon after graduation Sullivan found himself at Lees-McRae College, which was then a two-year junior college. He attended and graduated with honors from Lees-McRae Junior College, where he earned numerous leadership, academic and athletic awards. He was an undefeated distance runner, setting several records and earning recognition as "Outstanding Senior Athlete."

Sullivan, who now resides in Columbia, South Carolina, then attended and earned a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Management from High Point College, High Point, North Carolina, where he again was a campus leader. He was active in numerous organizations, was named to "Who's Who in American Universities and Colleges" and again was a distinguished distance runner who set records and led a North Carolina AAU team, the High Point Track Club, to a second place finish in the 1959 National AAU Cross Country Championship.

After High Point College, Sullivan returned to his first alma mater, Lees-McRae College, where he served as business manager from 1962-1963 and also led the 1962 cross country team to an undefeated season and the conference championship - a first for the Bobcats.

From there he left to join the Navy Air Force, serving 28 years before retiring. He piloted P3s and had three deployments involving operations in the Vietnam combat areas. He served as commanding officer of training squads in California and Alaska. Before going to Alaska he worked at the Pentagon. He was also commander of an ROTC unit at the University of South Carolina for four years.

Sullivan is member of the Kiwanis and the Methodist Church; he enjoys hunting (especially turkeys) and fishing. His leadership at Lees-McRae, both as a student and administrator, and to his country as a distinguished fighter pilot in Vietnam merits Ken Sullivan as an "Alumnus of the Year."

"Ken Sullivan is a perfect example of the type of person we visualize when we look for nominations for our Distinguished Alumni Award. He is an encouragement to those around him just by his presence in their lives. He has given years of his life in service to our country and continues to be very active in his church and community. I want to encourage our alumni to nominate other deserving Lees-McRae graduates for this award," said Sandy Ramsey, Director of Internal Affairs: Alumni Relations at Lees-McRae College.

The recipient of the Distinguished Alumni award must be nominated by his/her classmates. In addition to a nomination, the person must be an alumnus of the College, must show continuing interest in the College and must manifest and commend the hallmarks of a Lees-McRae graduate in his/her life.

To learn more about alumni awards at Lees-McRae, to see past recipients of the awards, or to nominate a deserving alumus/na for an award, visit

Photo: Martha McAfee Krieger '86/'03 presents Ken Sullivan with the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award.

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