2021 Christian Service Award
Tom was born in Athens, Georgia, and grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned about King from an older cousin who attended the school and influenced him that it would be a good place for him to go. She invited him to come up for Dogwood and stay with two of her male friends in their dorm to get the college experience. When he arrived on campus for the first time, he realized that the school was small, a tight-knit community where everyone seemed to know each other. It only about a third of the number of students in his high school. He remembers being told that King was one of the four highest-rated schools academically in Tennessee.
“I realized it was going to be a challenge, but I liked the people I met” Tom said looking back on his visits to the campus.
Tom entered into a dual Bachelor and Master degree program in Forestry. A year before arriving at King Tom says, “I was awakened spiritually. I’d always gone to church, but at King people prayed out loud, they spoke biblically. I had never experienced that before. It positively affected me since I didn’t grow up around it.”
“King was a very good fit for me at the time,” Tom remembers. And while at King Tom experienced a call to the ministry. “After I graduated, I attended Columbia Seminary in Atlanta,” he said. “And while I was there, I participated in a summer internship at a church camp and that is where I met my wife, Hope.” The camp provided the guests with spiritual growth as well as outdoor activities like hiking and camping, both of which he enjoyed doing. Tom received an offer to minister at three small churches. One of them was at the edge of Glade Spring. He would serve his community for forty-five and a half years ministering as well as counseling high school kids, other individuals and couples impacting many, many lives. “It was a little white church with a red roof,” Tom said.
Tom’s friend and fellow classmate Jim Jordan spoke fondly of Tom, “His service to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ has been his life’s calling. His love for the Lord and for others is evident to all who knew him.” King had prepared him for his life in the ministry. “King was the place where I had to grow up,” Tom recalls.
Upon receiving the Christian service award Tom humbly says, “I can think of others who were more deserving.” But Tom’s dedication to the faith and spreading the word of the Lord to his community for decades represents the definition of the Christian service award. Former professor of music Pat Flannagan said of Tom, “Tom has spent all of his career ‘under the radar,’ while he cared for others: his congregants, his counseling clients, his friends, and especially his family. Tom is the embodiment of what we hope to find in all of our alumni.”
Congratulations Tom Sullivan!