Ed and Susie James have been named the 2016 recipients of Cumberland University's Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. The Lebanon couple will receive the award at CU's commencement on Saturday.
Established by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, the award is given to community members who selflessly serve others. Sullivan Awards have been presented to people whose lives of service have changed the world with little fanfare as well as those who have become household names - recipients include First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, television icon Fred Rogers and Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell.
The Jameses, who have been married for nine years, have an extensive roster of civic involvement. Together, they are members of College Hills Church of Christ, graduates of Leadership Wilson and past board members of the Wilson County Community Help Center. Ed James is a member of the Lebanon Breakfast Rotary Club, and Susie James is a Kiwanis Club of Lebanon member. Susie is also a past board member of the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Wilson County and Prospect Inc. Ed currently serves on the board of the Wilson County Community Foundation and on the board of Jennings Cemetery in Statesville. He is also a past board chair of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Since 1993, Susie has been the owner and general manager of WANT 98.9 FM/WCOR 1490 AM - Lebanon's community-boosting radio station. She was proud to discover that, when tallying all of the community activities her staff of nine is involved with, the total came to 45. WANT also broadcasts Lebanon High School football games, Cumberland University sports and is a tireless supporter of the Wilson County Fair, having broadcast from the fair since "before it was cool," Susie said.
Ed holds a general contractor license and real estate license, and he manages the couple's real estate investments. The phrase "blood, sweat and tears" is not lost on him - he has donated more than 12 gallons of blood through the American Red Cross. Although he was motivated to be a blood donor after his father, the late Malcolm James, needed a blood transfusion, he credits his late mother, Esther Hight James, for giving him his lasting volunteer spirit. She spent several thousand hours as a volunteer at University Medical Center, now Tennova Healthcare - Lebanon, after her retirement.
One of Ed's favorite sayings is, "There's no smaller package than someone wrapped up in himself."
Susie's roots in Lebanon run deep. The lovely yellow house at West Spring Street and South Tarver Avenue across from Cumberland's baseball field belonged to her late stepfather, Bill Barry. Her mother, Joyce Bobo Barry, still lives in the home. Joyce's parents were Alex and Vera Bobo, and her grandparents were Horace and Allie Mae Ligon. The Ligon & Bobo Funeral Home on West Main Street, was originally built for CU founder Robert Caruthers.
In addition to the couple's philanthropic and volunteer support for Cumberland University, Susie's son, Christopher Bay, earned his master of business administration from CU, and her daughter, Chelsea Nyce, is currently working toward a master's degree at the university.
CU President Dr. Paul Stumb noted he is proud to call the Jameses his friends.
"Ed and Susie James represent the essence of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award," he said. "Their concern for others, their willingness to step up and provide leadership to numerous causes, is not only impressive, it has motivated others to also make a tangible impact on this community."
Susie said, "We were both honored and humbled when we were told we had been chosen for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. There are so many individuals and businesses that work together to make this the best place to live. We are blessed to be a small part of this community."