Campus News

UK’s 2022 Sullivan Award Winners Serve Children, Immigrants, Students and Others in Need


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 21, 2022)  Two University of Kentucky students and one local citizen have received UK’s highest honor for humanitarian efforts — the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

Established by the New York Southern Society in 1925 and named for its first president, Algernon Sydney Sullivan, the 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." After the society closed, the award has lived on through the Sullivan Foundation and is given at several universities in the South.

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 Riley Gaines and Dean Farmer. James “Jim” Richardson is the citizen award recipient.

Riley Gaines

Gaines, of Gallatin, Tennessee, will graduate this May with a degree in human health sciences from the College of Health Sciences.

Gaines is perhaps most recognized on campus for her accomplishments in UK Swimming and Diving, as a multi-time SEC champion, conference record holder, NCAA silver medalist and record holder in six separate events at UK. She was most recently named the 2022 SEC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

While her athletic accomplishments are unmatched, her nominator stressed what she does outside of the pool and classroom is even more impressive.

Gaines has regularly volunteered her time to serve others since coming to UK as a freshman in 2018, with programs such as God’s Pantry, Special Olympics of Kentucky, Give 10 (R.E.A.L. Read) and the Shriner’s Hospital. Most recently, she took part in the Kentucky United Telethon with other UK athletes and coaches, raising relief funds for those impacted by the Dec. 10 tornadoes in Western Kentucky. The telethon was able to raise over $3 million in four hours.

However, Gaines says she is most moved by her involvement with Amachi Central Kentucky, a one-on-one mentoring program that works with children and teens impacted by parental incarceration. She has mentored a specific child, Kami, on a weekly basis for nearly four years.

“I think (Kami) has helped positively shape me in just as many ways as I have helped her,” Gaines said. “She has taught me self-awareness, responsibility, creative thinking and true altruism. Amachi has aimed to meet a nationwide need and I am beholden to be a part of it. I think every person with an ethical conscience, good morals and strong character will find the ultimate satisfaction in helping others; this is the true philosophy of service to others.”

In honor of her achievements and service, Gaines was recently inducted into the 2022 UK Athletics Frank G. Ham Society of Character, one of UK Athletics’ most prestigious honors that recognizes student-athletes who show the utmost commitment to academic excellence, athletics participation, personal development, community service and career preparation.

After graduation, Gaines plans to attend dental school and hopes to become a pediatric dentist.

Dean Farmer

Farmer, of Goshen, Kentucky in Oldham County, will graduate this May with a degree in economics from the Gatton College of Business and Economics, and a second degree in political science from the College of Arts and Sciences. He is also a student in the Lewis Honors College.

During his time at UK, Farmer’s academic and extracurricular activities have centered around service to others. As part of his involvement in the the Lewis Honors College and Gatton College’s Global Scholars Program, he served as a Presidential Fellow in the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress program. Here, he conducted award-winning research on the economic impact of the H-1B nonimmigrant visa policy and how it can help increase both foreign and domestic wages.

Demonstrating a commitment to service and engagement with his peers, Farmer also serves as a peer coach for UK’s Financial Wellness Center, where he works directly with students to promote financial resources and aids students facing sensitive financial issues.

Additionally, Farmer worked for the Council of State Governments, where he conducted extensive policy research on state policies helping youth with disabilities transition into the workforce. He also served as a volunteer researcher for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Louisville, where he presented research on and advocated for mental health care among marginalized communities in Louisville. He also serves as a volunteer tutor at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, and currently serves as the director of finance and economic equity for the UK Student Government Association.

“Dean’s personal and professional records indicate that he is living the spirit and intent of the Sullivan Award,” his nominators wrote. “His humanitarian focus in his professional journey and his personal character and integrity are evident in his lived experiences during his time here at the University of Kentucky. His heart is in service to others.”

After graduation, Farmer plans to pursue a career in immigration law and continue serving those in need.

“Whether through one’s vocation, hobby, extracurricular interest, relationships, interactions or aspirations, I believe that each experience is an opportunity to serve others,” Farmer said. “After all, an immeasurable number of people in our society have some form of dire need, whether their need is due to immigration status, mental illness, financial crisis, or any other reason. For every need, there is an opportunity for service.”

James “Jim” Richardson

Richardson graduated from UK in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and again in 1972 with a master’s degree in secondary education. He is now senior vice president for wealth management at Morgan Stanley.

During his time as a UK student in the 1960s and 70s, Richardson was a member of the track team, Student Government Association, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and sang in a vocal group.

“To be recognized as a Sullivan Award recipient from UK is beyond humbling,” Richardson said. “Were it not for the education and relationships that were developed at UK, I would never have found the passions that have been such an integral part of my life.”

Richardson is a long-time volunteer with the UK Alumni Association, serving as a three-term board member, president of the Fayette County UK Alumni Club, a Wildcat Society Member, UK Fellow and most recently a member of the 1970 Golden Wildcat Reunion Committee.

Richardson is also a gifted musician and has used his skills to serve the Lexington community, singing and playing guitar at various fundraisers and community events — including his own Golden Wildcats reunion and other UK Alumni events. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his daughter Reilly hosted concerts on Facebook Live to entertain friends and family during a time when live, in-person music was not something people could experience.

Throughout his career, Richardson has also dedicated a significant amount of his time to serving organizations that support children, including the Kentucky Children’s Hospital, where he serves on the development council. He has also served on boards for the Children’s Charity of the Bluegrass, Lexington Children’s Theatre, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass and the Lexington Rotary Club.

In 2014, he was nationally recognized as one of three finalists for the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation, for his ongoing commitment to the Lexington Dream Factory, a wish-granting organization for children he co-founded with his wife Stacey.

When asked why he has committed so much time to children’s organizations, Richardson said “time, since the most appropriate way to show love for children is to give them your time.”

And while it’s gratifying to give money, Richardson says he has found volunteerism much more meaningful.

“I have been blessed over the past 40 plus years as a musician, mentor and teacher to help one child at a time or an entire organization,” he said. “Regardless of the role, the opportunity to give my time to a child has demonstrated the truest definition of love that I could describe.”


The 2022 Sullivan Award winners will be recognized at a ceremony on campus next week. Learn more at

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.