Thomas W Briggs Foundation Community Service Award

In 1985, the Board of Directors established the Thomas W. Briggs Community Service Award to be given annually as a memorial to Mr. Briggs. The award benefits the work of a local Memphis organization in the field of community service. Its purpose is to recognize outstanding leadership provided by an individual in an organization whose creativity, effort, commitment, professionalism and exceptional initiative have enabled the organization to excel in its special mission. Recipients are nominated and chosen by the Board of Directors. It is the hope of the Directors that the recognition from the award will inspire others to reach higher and achieve more than they thought they could.

Announcing the 2020 Community Service Award

Katie Smythe

New Ballet Ensemble

After a 17-year career as a professional dancer and arts educator, Katie Smythe returned to her native Memphis with a vision in mind. Smythe saw a need for a community dance program offering a high standard of dance training for children from every corner of the city, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or ability to pay. She founded New Ballet Ensemble & School (NBES) based on that mission in 2002.

Under Smythe’s leadership, NBES has continued to broaden its mission, expanding community engagement and reaching more children through their Pathways Program. This program began in Orange Mound through a partnership with Dunbar Elementary in 2007 in which free training was provided to students who were then recruited into the studio program in Cooper-Young. New Ballet also launched Dunbar’s Family Resource Center in order to connect Orange Mound residents to social services, workforce opportunities, and more.

In the years since the founding of the Pathways Program, New Ballet has trained and enriched hundreds of students, including some who have returned to their communities to instruct in the same program. These students have had numerous professional performance opportunities, including a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, as well as performances alongside Yo-Yo Ma and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and during the annual acclaimed Nut Remix, which was envisioned and created by Katie Smythe. Many of these students have also achieved college admissions on scholarship to top universities throughout the country. In the 2019-2020 school year, New Ballet’s Pathways Program operated weekly in six Shelby County Schools, including Dunbar and LaRose Elementary, Sherwood Middle School, and Booker T. Washington and Overton High School.

 In November of 2014, Smythe and NBES student Briana Brown accepted the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award from Michelle Obama at the White House, on behalf of NBES and its after-school residency in Orange Mound. This prestigious award recognizes the country’s best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. As NBES continues to expand its residencies in schools, these programs will continue to reach even more of Memphis’ youth with dance, mentoring, and access to family resources.

Thanks to Katie Smythe’s vision and initiative, New Ballet Ensemble & School has become known for its collaborations with a wide range of organizations to achieve the goals of access, equity, excellence, and professionalism – the principles on which NBES was founded.

Past Recipients

  • 2019 Steve Nash, Advance
  • 2018 Cordell Walker, Alpha Omega Veterans Services
  • 2017 Todd Richardson and McLean Wilson with Chris Miner of Crosstown Arts for the Crosstown Concourse Development
  • 2016 Ken Steorts, Visible Music College
  • 2015 David Montague, Memphis Teacher Residency
  • 2014 Nancy Coffee, New Memphis Institute
  • 2013 Dorothy Gunther Pugh, Ballet Memphis
  • 2012 Jackie Nichols, Playhouse on the Square & 
Circuit Playhouse
  • 2011 Jim Duncan, Memphis Botanic Garden
  • 2010 Richard Nathaniel Donlon, M.D., Christ Community
 Health Services
  • 2009 25th Anniversary Celebration, Honoring All Previous Recipients
  • 2008 Beverly Robertson, National Civil Rights Museum
  • 2007 David Loebel, Memphis Symphony Orchestra
  • 2006 Margaret Craddock, MIFA
  • 2005 Kaywin Feldman, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
  • 2004 James R. Boyd, BRIDGES
  • 2003 Kenneth R. Bennett, Streets Ministries
  • 2002 Colenzo J. Hubbard, Emmanuel Episcopal Center
  • 2001 Larry B. Lloyd, D. Min., Hope Christian Community Foundation
  • 2000 Douglas R. Noble, D.P.A., The Pink Palace Family of Museums
  • 1999 Brad F. Baker, Young Life
  • 1998 Jeffrey D. Nesin, Memphis College of Art
  • 1997 Patrick W. Lawler, Youth Villages
  • 1996 Josephine H. Walt, The Neighborhood School
  • 1995 Michael J. Labonia, WKNO-TV/FM
  • 1994 Eleanor Prest, Thomas W. Briggs Foundation
  • 1993 Roger T. Knox, Memphis Zoological Society
  • 1992 Gid H. Smith, Community Foundation of Greater Memphis
  • 1991 JoeAnn Ballard, Neighborhood Christian Center
  • 1990 John E. Buchanan, Jr., The Dixon Gallery and Gardens
  • 1989 G. Scott Morris, M.D., Church Health Center Memphis
  • 1988 Patricia C. Howard, Girls Incorporated of Memphis
  • 1987 James C. Carlile, Boys Club of Memphis
  • 1986 Virginia L. Dunaway, Memphis Food Bank
  • 1985 Father Donald Mowery, Youth Service USA

University of Memphis Awards


For over forty years the Thomas W Briggs Foundation Inc. supported the University of Memphis in various ways.  The Foundation began this relationship by establishing The Eleanor O’Neill Scholarship to assist deserving students with their educational goals.  The scholarship is named in memory of Ms. O’Neill who was a long standing Welcome Wagon employee and University of Memphis Foundation Trustee.

Based on academic merit, each year a student in the University of Memphis journalism program concentrating in public relations and a marketing student in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics are selected.

Teaching Awards

In 1995 the foundation established the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation Excellence in Teaching Awards to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching, and the first awards were given in 1997. The Awards were given through 2018 with the final award being given to Phillip Babin, Accounting.

Past Recipients


Mr. Kevin Hagopian                English

Dr. Phillip Kolbe                      Finance, Insurance & Real Estate


Dr. Ruthbeth Finerman,          Anthropology

Dr. Thomas R. Caplinger         Mathematical Sciences


Dr. Jack Grubaugh                   Biology

Dr. Mark Timmons                  Philosophy


Dr. Julia Heath                        Economics

Dr. David Mason                     Political Science


Ms. Candace Justice               Journalism

Dr. Robert Marcini                  Physics


Dr. Melvin Beck                       Biology

Dr. Charles Camp                    Civil Engineering


Dr. Kantaylieniere Hill-Clark   Education

Dr. Nele Hemple                     Foreign Languages/German


Stephen W. Hancock              Theatre and Dance

Dr. Charles J. Biggers              Biology


Dr. John Hanneken                  Physics

Dr. William Jerman                Electrical and Computer engineering


Dr. Robert Frankle                  History

Dr. Lawrette Axley                  Nursing


Dr. Dennis Laumann               History

Ms. Margaret Quinn               Family and Consumer Sciences


Dr. Joe Hayden                        Journalism

Dr. Nancy Mardis                    Accountancy


Dr. Anna Bess Sorin                Biology

Dr. Fred Albertson                  Art


Dr. Phillip Franceschetti         Physics

Dr. Irvin Tankersley                 Accounting


Ms. Charlotte Spiceland         Accounting

Dr. John Haddock                    Mathematics


Dr. Mark Freilich                     Chemistry

Mr. Kriangsiri Milasri              Computer Science


Dr. Angela Grant                     Mathematics

Leonard Jackson                      Hospitality and Resort Management


Ms. Nataliya Doroshenko       Mathematics

Jacob Allen                                Communication & Fine Arts


Dr. Douglas Campbell              Economics

Dr. Shirleatha Lee                     Nursing


Denis Grele                                 French

JoAnne Rhodes                          Physics


Dr. Scott Marler                          History


Phillip Babin                                Accounting