LEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania bestowed its top awards to distinguished alumni and friends during the university’s annual alumni weekend awards luncheon on April 26.
Samuel G. Barnes, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank, Central Kentucky, received the Irvin E. Lunger Award, which is presented to a non graduate for unique and exceptional service to Transylvania; Mary Lou Dietrich Harmon, an activist for peace, justice and nonviolence, received the Morrison Medallion, which is presented to a graduate for outstanding service to Transylvania and its programs; Brian Clark Wood, president and chief executive officer of BC Wood Properties, received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award for extraordinary involvement at Transylvania, and President Charles L. Shearer and his wife Susan were both surprised with a Transylvania Medal for outstanding service to the university.
Barnes joined Transylvania’s board of trustees in 1995, and over the last 13 years, has freely shared his time and expertise as a member of the board’s student life committee and finance committee. He has generously supported Transylvania’s 225th Anniversary Campaign, the Clive M. Beck Athletic and Recreation Center and the Shearer Art Building.
The list of Central Kentucky charitable organizations that Barnes has served is extensive and includes the board of directors of the 2010 World Equestrian Games, Bluegrass Community Foundation, Kentucky Horse Park Foundation, Lexington Philharmonic Foundation, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lexington Corporation and Commerce Lexington.
Harmon graduated from Transylvania in 1956 with majors in history and political science. As an expression of gratitude for her Transylvania education, she and her husband Albert established an academic endowment fund in peace studies in honor of two of her former history professors—John D. Wright, Jr. and the late Benjamin F. Lewis.
Throughout her varied career, Harmon has taught high school history and Spanish and has worked for the FBI. She has given countless hours to civic and philanthropic organizations such as the Warren County (Ohio) United Way, Warren County Race Unity Group, Lebanon Food Pantry, Interfaith Hospitality Network and the Warren County Democrats in Action. She serves on the board of The Green House, a project that provides low cost transitional housing for families in need of a supportive and nurturing community environment.
Harmon has served on Transylvania’s Alumni Executive Board and co-chaired her 50th Reunion Committee. She received the Distinguished Service Award in 2006.
Wood, a 1995 graduate of Transylvania, is the founder of BC Wood Properties, a company that acquires and revamps shopping centers to meet the needs of middle-class America. He began with the purchase of 31,000 square feet of retail space at Eastland Shopping Center in Lexington, and the company now has 3.6 million square feet of retail and commercial property in Kentucky and Tennessee.
A dedicated member of the Lexington community, Wood serves on the board of the Kentucky Horse Park and Sayre School. He is a past president of the Bluegrass Chapter of Ducks Unlimited; former board member of Habitat for Humanity, The Hope Center and the Home Builders Association of Lexington and a founder and board member of Royal Palm Bank in Florida. Generous with his time, talent and resources, Wood joined Transylvania’s Board of Trustees in 2005 following three years of service on the Board of Visitors. He chaired his 10th Year Reunion Committee and served on the Beck Center Alumni Committee.
Susan Shearer’s service to Transylvania has gone far beyond being first lady. She is the parent of three Transylvania graduates and has been a constant advocate for the best qualities of Transylvania in her interactions with prospective students and their parents. She has shown her support for students by her frequent attendance at campus events, including athletic events, theater productions, musical performances and art exhibits. This support was recognized when the student art gallery was named in her honor.
In his twenty-fifth year as president, Charles Shearer’s tenure in office is the longest in Transylvania’s history and has been marked by exceptional leadership and uncommon devotion to Transylvania. When Shearer became president in 1983, enrollment was around 650 and the endowment was around $33 million. Today, Transy’s enrollment of 1,153 is the largest in the school’s history and the endowment is around $140 million. The physical campus has also changed, with impressive new facilities for academics, fine arts, residential life and athletics. Through such innovative programs as the William T. Young Scholarships and the Bingham Awards for Excellence in Teaching, the quality of Transylvania students and faculty has reached new levels of excellence during Shearer’s tenure. Each fall, he teaches Academic Career Skills, a required course for all new students, and serves as academic adviser to the dozen or so students in his class.