Castañon and West named 2022 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipients

Campus News | April 21, 2022
Jesse West and Rita Castañon (center) are recognized as Carson-Newman's 2022 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. Joining them are C-N President Charles A. Fowler (left) and Provost Jeremy Buckner.

Carson-Newman University announced that Rita Castañon and Jesse West are recipients of the 2022 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. The recognition is the highest honor the University presents to students.

“On behalf of the University, we are so proud of Jesse and Rita," said Carson-Newman President Charles A. Fowler. "Their accomplishments are truly inspiring, and we are delighted to call them our own. As a Christian institution, we are committed to helping our students become educated citizens and worldwide servant-leaders. Jesse and Rita’s servant-leadership is already having an impact, and we look forward to seeing how God is going to use them.”

A Morristown resident, Castañon is a political science and psychology major. A first-generation college student, Castañon has used her time at Carson-Newman to the fullest. Beyond excelling as a student, she has sought ways to help those in need. She actively seeks to help those in the local area navigating the challenges that face a large Spanish-speaking community.

She is credited with caring about her fellow students and looks for opportunities to make their lives better. As a student she has served in roles for the Student Government Association, Eagle Production Company, Gamma Sigma Sigma, the Center for Community Engagement, and a member of both political science and history honor societies: Pi Sigma Alpha and Phi Alpha Theta.

Castañon is also president and co-founder of one of the University’s newest organizations, PODER, which stands for “Pursing Our Dreams Embracing Our Roots.” The organization reflects Rita’s heart, as it seeks to empower immigrant students and promote cultural awareness. As a member, she met with state legislators to lobby about issues affecting undocumented college students. She obtained a prestigious internship with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C., becoming one of two Tennesseans to participate in the program.

Dr. Amanda Ford, assistant professor of history, said of Castañon, “Rita is a perfect example of the kind of educated citizen and worldwide servant-leader we are trying to help build at Carson-Newman.”

West is a religion and communication major from Palmetto, Florida. has developed a presence both on and off the playing field during his time at Carson-Newman, demonstrating leadership and servant skills.

While a member of the Eagles football team, he earned the Roy Harmon Award for exemplifying Christian values. He served as a team captain and member of the football leadership council. Jesse is a CoSIDA All-District honors recipient for excellence in competition and in the classroom, a three-year member of the South Atlantic Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll, and 3-time Eagle Scholar.

West was also a member of the Faith & Justice Scholars Program, completing over 400 hours of community service over the past four years at Appalachian Outreach and The Store. He served as a Residence Life assistant and chaplain and on the leadership team for Baptist Collegiate Ministries. He earned the Robert and Irene Shurden Award for the Outstanding Religion Junior. He’s a member of Alpha Lambda Delta honor society who made the Carson-Newman Dean’s List every year.

Dr. David Crutchley, dean of the School of Biblical and Theological Studies, said of him:

“Jesse West conducts himself with poise and a winsome grace. He is gifted but always speaks with a voice of humility and concern for others. He is mature and wise beyond his years and has mentored other students on his journey at Carson-Newman consciously and unconsciously through his life example and witness.”

Both Castañon and West represented Carson-Newman during the filming of “The College Tour,” a series featured on Amazon Prime.

The New York Southern Society established the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 1890 to honor an Indiana native and Manhattan attorney who was considered a living example of genteel spirit and Christian compassion. The awards, which are donated by the foundation that bears his name, are granted at 68 colleges and universities to graduating seniors, one female and one male, who “excel in high ideals of living, in fine spiritual qualities, and in generous and unselfish service to others.”

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts-based university affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The University is located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Carson-Newman offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.