$1 million gift establishes need-based scholarships
Peace Sullivan, a former Furman University trustee, has made a $1 million donation to the university to support the Mary Peace Endowed Scholarship, an endowed fund named for her mother, Mary Peace Sterling, and herself. Scholarships from the endowment will be given to students with demonstrated financial need.
“I understand how hard it is for many students to come up with tuition,” Sullivan said. “I like the thought that many students will be able to take advantage of this scholarship. My hope is that Furman will be able to reach out and embrace students who wouldn’t otherwise think of the university as a possibility” because of finances.
“The Mary Peace Endowed Scholarship will indeed open doors for many students for whom college might otherwise be unattainable,” said Elizabeth Davis, Furman University president. “Furman is deeply grateful to Peace Sullivan for this generous gift, and we are proud that the scholarships will continue a legacy of two women who have worked so diligently on behalf of the university and our students.”
Sullivan grew up in Greenville and has long ties to Furman. Her grandmother, Frances Bunnelle, was a 1929 graduate, and her father, Charles Sterling, graduated in 1949. Her mother served on a presidential advisory board from 1976 to 1994, and on the Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2001. Sullivan was a trustee from 2008 to 2021.
As a young girl Sullivan and her family were regulars at Furman basketball games. “We were huge basketball fans,” she said. They always sat courtside, where her father was known for his animated responses when he disagreed with an official’s call.
But the Peace family have a much more significant reputation as pillars of Greenville. In 1917, Bony Peace, Sullivan’s great grandfather, bought the city’s newspaper, The Greenville News, and later bought the afternoon newspaper, The Greenville Piedmont. The family also opened the first radio station in Greenville, WFBC-AM (now ESPN Upstate), purchased other newspapers and formed a company called Multimedia, which was sold to Gannett in 1995. The family has been long-time benefactors in Greenville.
Generations of the Peace family worked at the newspapers, including Sullivan, who started a journalism career there after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She went on to work at The Associated Press in New York City.
One thing that stands out about working in the family business, Sullivan said, was the importance of helping fill unmet needs. For example, the newspapers established a fund that paid for the children of employees to attend college.
“It was just something that we did,” Sullivan said. “It’s what I’m always trying to do, find a way to support students who wouldn’t be able to continue their education, or even apply to Furman.”
In 2008, she led the trustees to establish the Furman United Fund, which provides scholarship support to students facing unexpected hardships and providing them the opportunity to complete their Furman education. She has also led philanthropic efforts for The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities and The Riley Institute. She wanted to make a gift during her last year as a trustee to honor her mother and to make a lasting impact on Furman students.
Living overseas for 11 years – in Argentina, Brazil and Ireland – taught Sullivan to be open to how other cultures experience the world. Similarly, she sees Furman as a place that fosters diversity.
“Furman provides a place where students learn to be together and to be with people whose views may be different from their own but who tolerate differences,” she said. “In these increasingly divisive times it’s important to provide an environment where students can be together and understand differences.”
Sullivan received a master’s degree in social work and for many years was a psychoanalyst in New York City. She has served on numerous boards for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a member of Furman’s Board of Trustees, Sullivan served on several committees, including the Student Experience and Outcomes Committee and the External Engagement Committee. She chaired the Athletics and the Executive Committees.
To students who might receive a Mary Peace Endowed Scholarship, Sullivan asks this: “Use it wisely and always be curious. Always be curious.”