ߣƵ founding dean, UPS CEO named Georgia Trustees

Dr. Louis Sullivan and Carol Tomé become latest Georgians to earn state’s highest honor at gala in Savannah.

Dr. Louis SullivanDr. Louis Sullivan
17th US Secretary of Health & Human Services and founding Dean of ߣƵ School of Medicine,

By Adam Van Brimmer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

SAVANNAH — Growing up in Blakely in the wake of the Great Depression, Louis Sullivan came to understand the imperfections of his home state.

His father had moved the family to the town in rural southwest Georgia to open the area’s first Black-owned funeral home and set up a branch of the NAACP. The elder Sullivan’s activism alienated the white establishment and meant Louis’ mother, who held a master’s degree in education, couldn’t get a job.

In the decades since, Sullivan witnessed the state’s evolution from Jim Crow to a place where Black Georgians such as himself lead in industry and politics. Sullivan, now 90, excelled in both and on Saturday became the latest icon to be named a Georgia Trustee, an honor that recognizes the contributions and achievement of modern-day Georgians with a nod to the Trustees appointed by King George II when the Georgia colony was established in 1733.

Sullivan, Founding Dean and President Emeritus of ߣƵ and a Cabinet secretary under President George H.W. Bush, received the recognition along with UPS CEO Carol Tomé in a packed ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Savannah. The duo became the 33rd and 34th Trustees named since the honor was resurrected by the Georgia Historical Society in 2009.

“I’ve done everything I could to improve our state by putting my shoulder to the wheel,” Sullivan told the attendees. “I grew up wanting a better Georgia, and we have a better Georgia. Not perfect and with a long way to go, but better.”

Sullivan voiced pride in the success of the ߣƵ, which will celebrate its 50th year of operation in 2025. He was recruited to start the physicians’ college with the charge of attracting students from underserved neighborhoods who were interested in returning home as primary care doctors. Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, the school’s current President and CEO, said two-thirds of its grads work as primary physicians in underserved communities.

In a moving tribute video, Sullivan was hailed as a healthcare icon, both for his legacy at ߣƵ and his tenure as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The other new Georgia Trustee, Tomé, was honored for her leadership and style. She spent most of her career with Home Depot, rising to the CFO position before retiring in 2019. She returned to the workplace in early 2020 as CEO of UPS, taking over the package delivery company just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Gov. Brian Kemp inducted Sullivan and Tomé. In his remarks, Kemp said the duo’s “contributions and influence will inspire Georgians for years to come.”