Bridgewater College honored three alumni at the College Awards ceremony on Saturday, April 15, for their achievements and humanitarian service.
The 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to John W. Cox II of Sarasota, Fla., class of 1988; the 2023 Young Alumna Award was presented to Laura Billhimer Fike of McHenry, Md., class of 2006; and the 2023 West-Whitelow Humanitarian Service Award was presented to Taryn Nida Lloyd of Midlothian, Va., class of 1995.
About the 2023 honorees:
John W. Cox II ’88, Distinguished Alumnus Award
A former football player and 1988 Bridgewater College graduate with a degree in health and physical education, Cox would go on to a 27-year career as a deputy in the Sarasota County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Department, including 15 years on the SWAT team.
Cox originally planned on being a high school physical education teacher and coach, which he did for four years after his graduation from Bridgewater. Throughout his police career, Cox still prioritized working with children, whether as a school resource officer, running various after-school programs or directing a Saturday program for at-risk youth.
Several years ago, Cox met a paralyzed dog at an animal shelter, who remained motionless in a crate while other dogs played around him. Cox was inspired to raise funds to obtain a mobile cart for the dog by getting donation pledges for each mile he ran while wearing a rucksack on his back. During the spring of 2021, he completed 56 miles. He has since founded the nonprofit organization RUCK9 (Rescuing Uniquely Created K-9s) to further his mission of pairing special needs animals with the mobility devices they need to get around. As of March 2023, he had funded wheelchairs for 195 animals, mostly dogs, but also including five cats, a duck, a goose, a sheep and even a mini zebu (a type of miniature cow).
RUCK9’s wheelchairs and devices come from Walkin’ Pets, a company that makes custom mobility equipment for all types of animals who are paralyzed or missing limbs. Now retired, Cox stays busy procuring equipment for his “wheelie warriors,” and he loves to share photos and videos on Facebook, showing the latest animal with its new wheels.
“All the money that comes into RUCK9 goes right back out to help dogs, cats, goats, whatever I can help, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to try and help as many as I can,” Cox said.
Laura Billhimer Fike ’06, Young Alumna Award
In 2006, Fike graduated from Bridgewater College with a B.S. in family and consumer sciences, along with completing the teacher education program, and married Jared Fike ‘05. She began her career in Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools (MCPS) from 2006-2012, teaching second grade from 2006-2008 at Takoma Park Elementary School and teaching child and adolescent development in the Sherwood High School family and consumer sciences department from 2008-2012, where she also served as the school’s Student Service Learning Coordinator.
After relocating to Garrett County, Md., Fike became the Executive Director of Garrett Mentors Inc. in 2013. Garrett Mentors, which has grown significantly under her leadership, is a nonprofit organization pairing local PreK-6 students with volunteer mentors who meet the children once a week during lunchtime at their schools. Mentors provide emotional and social support, help with schoolwork and become trusted adults in the children’s lives.
In 2022, Fike was named to the Maryland Daily Record’s list of Top 40 Leading Women Under 40 in the state for her work with Garrett Mentors. She was acknowledged for her leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the organization to be creative and flexible in resources and programming to continue connecting with the children they serve outside of school. Mentors and students participated in a pen pal program to keep in touch and took advantage of other unique opportunities.
“Through my work as a teacher and as director of Garrett Mentors, as well as volunteer work both locally and at an orphanage in South America, I have had the blessing of working with many children and young people who come out of difficult situations and seeing them become stronger and better equipped for futures they may never have imagined,” Fike said. “It’s amazing and encouraging to witness and an honor to be part of that process.”
Taryn Nida Lloyd ’95, West-Whitelow Humanitarian Service Award
After graduating from Bridgewater College with a B.S. in business administration, Lloyd married Richard Lloyd ’94 and opened a women’s clothing boutique in Richmond, Va. She eventually sold it to be at home with their three daughters and began volunteering her time in schools as well as other organizations, such as the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation and the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
In 2017, Lloyd learned about tower gardens, small aeroponic container gardens that are ideal for classrooms. The gardens, which can grow inside all year long, come with lesson plans related to literacy, math and science, so the teachers can integrate the gardens into instruction.
Over the next two years, Lloyd raised funds to purchase tower gardens for more than 30 schools in the greater Richmond area and elsewhere in Virginia, working closely with administrators, teachers, parent-teacher associations (PTAs) and nonprofits to place them in classrooms.
The Caring Carver Holiday Gift Drive, started in 2019, provides items such as hats, gloves, socks, art supplies and more to the more than 400 children at George Washington Carver Elementary School, in Richmond. Lloyd coordinated the efforts with the school’s principal and the Embrace Carver Elementary School Foundation, which advocates and fundraises to meet the needs of the school.
“I couldn’t have done it alone,” Lloyd said. “This was a community-based effort, with help from my kids, family, friends and community.”
One of her goals for the drive was to inspire children from one community to help children in another. Everyone joined in collecting contributions, packing bags and distributing them to students during the holiday season.
“Doing something meaningful is important to me,” Lloyd said. She hopes the values she lives by—integrity, kindness, compassion and humility—inspire her daughters to do even more.