interior static banner

King University Bestows Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Olivia Underwood and Sharon Morrison

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 30, 2016 – Each year during Spring Commencement ceremonies, King University bestows the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to a deserving King senior and an outstanding member of the local community. This year, King honored two individuals – senior Olivia Joy Underwood and community member Sharon Morrison.

The prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award was named after Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a lawyer, devout Christian, mediator, orator, philanthropist, and in the words of a friend, someone who “reached out both hands in constant helpfulness to [humankind].” The award, which is presented at institutions across the country, is made in recognition of “fine spiritual qualities practically applied to daily living, as distinct from high scholarship, athletic achievement, and success in business, professional ability, political leadership, or mere worldly prominence in any calling.” The recipients are recognized for excellence in character and service to humanity. King appoints the recipients as its representatives to bear its standard before the world.

The first recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award is Olivia Joy Underwood from King University’s Class of 2016. While at King, Underwood majored in English and minored in Youth Ministry. She was also a member of the women’s volleyball team. Head volleyball coach Morris Cephas describes Olivia as “the epitome of a selfless and compassionate leader. She is known by her peers as a servant leader and a free spirit.”

Cephas adds, “Professors have spoken of her beautiful spirit and commitment to excellence in the classroom, and how she challenges the community to grow in their faith.” King Professor of English Dr. Craig McDonald echoes Cephas’ sentiment. McDonald speaks of how she is “imminently teachable, an increasingly rare quality,” and how she conducts herself with “poise and dignity.” He adds, “My reason for pointing out Olivia’s talents, extend beyond simply praising her achievements, as notable as they are. Instead, I would argue that she exercises these gifts as extensions of her character, as ways by which she serves the Christ she dearly loves. It is fitting, for example, that she was the setter for the volleyball team because that is the ‘position’ she plays in all of her life, creating opportunities and spaces that allow others to serve and shine.

“In Underwood’s studies, especially in the papers she has written for her senior seminar, Olivia has caught a vision of education described by James K. A. Smith as both formative and transformative, not simply informative,” adds McDonald. “Her devotion to Christ, therefore, extends well beyond the classroom or the court. She once told me that her parents were intentional in naming their children, giving them names that they might grow into. Olivia's has certainly proved to be prophetic. She is the embodiment of ‘Olivia’ (whose meaning is peace) and ‘Joy.’ She lives life creatively, soaking it in prayer and focusing intently and reverently on the world around her. Rarely have I seen the presence of Christ so palpably expressed in anyone.”

The list of service projects and mission trips Underwood has participated in while at King is extensive. To name a few, she assisted in the Avoca Elementary After School Program, ran a volleyball camp for middle schoolers with her twin Grace, assisted on special needs retreats to Rivers Way, was a staff member at Kanakuk and Camp Blessing, and participated in constructing a home through the Appalachian Service Project. She also led an on-campus prayer group and went on many mission trips to destinations including Almaty, Kazakhstan; Nicaragua; and Lilongwe, Malawi.

Underwood’s trip to Malawi prompted her to search for long-term opportunities to serve the Lord and special needs children. Through a recent decision by her parents to become missionaries to China, Underwood discovered Loaves and Fishes, an organization in China with which she hopes to serve. The organization provides a home and love to children whom no one else wants.

Dr. Sharon Morrison graduated from King University in 1971 with her degree in Psychology. She went on to earn her graduate degree in Psychology and doctorate in Education. She has held licensure in marriage, family, and child counseling, psychological examining, school psychology, and instructional supervision. She has spent time working in California and Tennessee, but the driving force in her life throughout the years has been the school she founded with her husband, Arthur, in 1977 in Bristol, Va., The Morrison School.

Dr. Morrison has presented seminars and workshops on parenting disabled children and on instructional methods of teaching academics to students who learn differently. Through her doctoral research, she developed a method to assess effective parenting of children with learning disabilities, attention deficits, or emotional disturbance.

Dr. Martin Dotterweich, associate professor of History at King, says of Morrison, “Certainly Sharon Morrison exemplifies those traits that the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award celebrates. A woman of deep Christian faith, she has participated in several events at King related to faith and learning; she remains committed to lifelong learning, as exemplified by her intense professional interest in educational and developmental psychology; she has devoted her life to serving the community through The Morrison School. She has applied spiritual qualities to practical life throughout her career, and is a superb standard bearer for King University, one by whose character we are fortunate to be judged.”

Dotterweich became acquainted with Morrison through The Morrison School, where his two children, both autistic, now attend. “Frequently, my wife and I marvel at Sharon’s voluminous work – she knows each child at the school, not just by name but in terms of diagnosis, educational strategies, and personal care. When she isn’t meeting with a student or some parents, she is fundraising – witness the new building near exit 3, or the numerous scholarships awarded – or reading more about educational psychology. Sharon has helped hundreds of children in our region achieve lives beyond all expectation, and in doing so, she has transformed culture for Christ in a tangible and vital way.”

In addition to co-founding The Morrison School, Morrison also co-founded Vantage Foundation in San Clemente, Calif., a school for learning disabled, attention deficit disordered students, offering counseling, testing, and tutoring services. She also served as a Tennessee Juvenile Court Counselor, Florida Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and director of the Kohn Foundation, a school for learning disabled and behaviorally disordered students in Long Beach, Calif. Morrison has also worked in private practice, conducted numerous conferences on learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and youth at risk, as well as served as an adjunct instructor at ETSU.

The Morrison School Board Member Annette Tudor says, “Dr. Morrison has been the most influential person in my career path. My first teaching position was under her leadership. She inspired me to change my career and pursue a degree in special education and ultimately school leadership. Dr. Morrison is the most considerate, compassionate, and caring person I know. She puts all others before herself. Most importantly, she is the strongest advocate for her students. She has high expectations for their success and holds them accountable for their own learning, yet is empathetic of their unique needs and strives to help them overcome their challenges. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.


King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information on SCHEV certification, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.