Brady Surles, longtime chapter advisor at Southwest Virginia Community College and Virginia Regional Coordinator, is the 2006 recipient of Phi Theta Kappa’s Board of Directors Alumni Achievement Award.
“I was quite surprised, but I deeply appreciate this honor,” said Surles. “Phi Theta Kappa has been an extremely rewarding part of my professional life, and I have also made a number of close friends through my association with the Society.”
Surles became a member of Phi Theta Kappa at Bluefield Junior College in 1957. For those times, the chapter was unusually active – Surles recalls that Phi Theta Kappa members were responsible for securing guest speakers for the college, and also handled the sales of used textbooks.
He also attended his first Convention as a member – in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1957 – “the first of very many,” said Surles, who has attended almost all International Conventions since becoming an advisor.
Surles received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Baylor University in Texas, where he met his wife Carolyn. He then entered the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, where he received a theological degree with a focus on church history. He has also done doctoral studies at the University of North Carolina.
After teaching at his two-year alma mater, Bluefield, where he was also Dean of Men, Surles joined the history faculty at Southwest Virginia, and in 1974 he became Phi Theta Kappa advisor. Five years later, while attending an Honors Institute, “I was persuaded by Dr. Margaret Mosal to become Virginia Regional Coordinator.”
Highlights of his association with Phi Theta Kappa include participating in Honors Institutes as a seminar leader and serving on the first Honors Committee. Surles was also elected by his fellow advisors to the maximum two terms as the Regional Coordinator Representative on the Society’s Board of Directors. “This was a fantastic experience,” he said. “I was able to be involved in two very special initiatives, the development of the Leadership Program and the Capitol Campaign to construct the Center for Excellence.”
One of the first gifts for the Center – sent long before construction began – was a bust of Thomas Jefferson, given by the Virginia Region. Jefferson’s home Monticello, which the the fourth president designed, was the inspiration for the design of the Center.
Surles has received numerous Phi Theta Kappa awards, including a Mosal Scholarship, which he used to develop an international studies program at his college. Surles has worked on curriculum development in Russia on a State Department grant, and was a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Norway.
The biggest rewards, he has, comes in seeing the students grow and develop through the Phi Theta Kappa experience. “As they explore the Honors Study Topic, they expand their horizons. They have a better and stronger academic experience. That’s what keeps us going as advisors.”
“I had worked with many outstanding advisors and regional officers in Virginia, and I have been privileged to have wonderful support from my college president, Dr. Charles King. He has always opened doors for us.”
Surles’ leadership extends to the community as well. He has been a member of the board of Virginia’s Special Olympics and Foundation for the Humanities.
Surles will receive the Board of Directors Alumni Achievement Award at the International Convention in Seattle.