UK Social Work BASW Grad Named 2023 Sullivan Award Winner

Alex Degen. Baseball Casual Location Photoday. Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics

The below snippet is pulled from an article originally published by UKNow.

A University of Kentucky College of Social Work graduate is among three individuals who received UK’s highest honor for humanitarian efforts — the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

The Sullivan Award was established by the New York Southern Society in 1925 and was named in honor of its first president, Algernon Sydney Sullivan. Sullivan was a prominent businessman and philanthropist who was highly regarded as one who “reached out with both hands in constant helpfulness” to others. The Sullivan Award recognizes those “who exhibit Sullivan’s ideals of heart, mind, and conduct as evince a spirit of love for and helpfulness to other men and women.”

At UK, the Sullivan Award is bestowed each year on two graduating seniors and one citizen who has a connection to the university. This year’s Sullivan Award student winners are Alex Degen and Jessica Lamb. Christine Smith is the citizen’s award recipient.

Alex Degen

Degen, of Readington Township, New Jersey, will graduate this May with a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the Martin School of Public Policy and an undergraduate certificate in financial planning from the Gatton College of Business and Economics. He earned a BA degree in social work in 2021 from the College of Social Work and a BS in business administration in 2022 from the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

Degen is recognized for both his academic and athletic accomplishments as pitcher for UK’s baseball team, the Bat Cats, which most notably include the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll (2019), First-Team All-Coastal Plain League (2019), Dean’s List (Spring 2020), SEC Academic Honor Roll (2020, 2021, 2022), SEC Community Service Team (2020, 2021), 2021 UK Athletics Frank G. Ham Society of Character Inductee, SEC Academic Honor Roll (2022), and Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) 2022-2023.

Recently, Degen was nominated by the SEC for their Brad Davis Award, an award that recognizes the outstanding and meritorious service achievements of one male and one female student-athlete from each institution during his or her entire college career. After two people have been nominated from each school, the SEC then decides on one female and one male from the entire 28 (14 male and 14 female) people who were selected. These two people will be honored as the SEC Male and Female Community Leaders of the Year at the SEC Conference in Destin, Florida every summer. The award each year is given in the form of a certificate of merit noting the student-athlete’s accomplishments and a postgraduate scholarship to be used beyond the baccalaureate degree for pursuit of a graduate or professional degree.

In addition to his numerous academic and athletic achievements, Degen’s passion for faith and service to others takes high priority in his life. Degen credits his parents as role models and instilling in him a heart for giving back to the community.

Degen began volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House of the Bluegrass his first year at UK. He has also served at other local non-profits such as Gods’ Pantry and the Miracle League, and has mentored children from local elementary schools regularly. Degen’s’ impact reaches far beyond the organizations he serves. His leadership has encouraged many of his peers to get involved in the community, creating a culture of servant leadership among UKs’ student-athlete population.

Degen says one of his greatest opportunities as a student-athlete is through UK’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Through a partner platform, SCORE International, he was able to participate in a trip to the Dominican Republic He said this trip was a powerful way for him to combine his passion for baseball and serving in a community where baseball is a driving force. He traveled to different cities and baseball fields and went into villages inviting children to baseball camps organized by the FCA.

“Through the FCA platform, I’ve been able to guest speak and teach at over 50 different schools and small groups in Lexington and surrounding counties and have also individually led middle school and high school FCA small groups on a regular basis,” Degen said. “Leading these small groups and speaking to the youth has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.”

Degen is considering his career options once he leaves UK. He also plans to take online MBA courses at Cedarville University outside Dayton, Ohio.

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.