2010 Inductee Profiles
Benjamin Rush (1745–1813)
Robert Purvis (1810–1898)
Sister Mary Scullion
Benjamin Rush (1745–1813)
Statesman, Physician, Educator, Humanitarian, and Father of American Psychiatry, Benjamin Rush is one of Northeast Philadelphia’s most distinguished citizens. Born in 1745 in Byberry Township, in what is now Morrell Park, and a resident of Frankford in the 1780s–90s (one of the most prolific periods of his professional life), Rush was the foremost American physician of his time and an important figure in the founding of our nation and in the development of American medicine.
After study at Princeton and with prominent doctors in Philadelphia, Benjamin Rush received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 1768. He returned to Philadelphia in 1769 and would go on to a stellar career in politics and medicine. A delegate to the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Rush was a close friend and confidant of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson during the struggle for independence and the formation of American government. He advised Thomas Paine in the writing of Paine’s enormously influential 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, and served for a time as Surgeon General of the Middle Department of the Continental Army. After the War, he was a leader in the effort to secure Pennsylvania’s ratification of the US Constitution and in the development of Pennsylvania’s state constitution. From 1797–1813 he served as Treasurer of the US Mint.
Benjamin Rush was also the most celebrated American physician of his time. He was a popular lecturer and holder of several important positions in chemistry and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was on the staff of Pennsylvania Hospital for 30 years, and was the author of numerous significant medical and scientific tracts. He founded the nation’s first free medical clinic and was a heroic figure during Philadelphia’s 1793 yellow fever epidemic. Among his most enduring contributions is his pioneering work in the study and treatment of mental illness, particularly his efforts to promote humane treatment of the mentally ill. He is considered the Father of American Psychiatry.
In addition to his work in medicine and politics, Benjamin Rush was a leading social reformer. An outspoken opponent of slavery, he wrote an influential anti-slavery tract and was an active member of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. He was also an early proponent of free public schools and education for women, an advocate of prison and judicial reform, and an opponent of capital punishment. He founded Dickinson College and was among the founders of Franklin and Marshall College and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
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Robert Purvis (1810-1898)
Robert Purvis was one of the nation’s foremost abolitionists and was considered the President of the Underground Railroad. A well-known lecturer, writer, and social activist, Robert Purvis was born in 1810 in Charleston, South Carolina, to a white father who was a wealthy cotton broker and a mother who was a free woman of color and daughter of a former slave. In 1819 the family moved to Philadelphia, where Purvis would rise to prominence. Much of his most significant work occurred in the 1840s to 1870s, while he lived in the Byberry section of Northeast Philadelphia.
Educated at Amherst College and groomed for the life of a gentleman, Robert Purvis inherited significant wealth upon his father’s death in 1826. This allowed him to not only become a successful businessman, but to engage in and support numerous social causes. A light-skinned black man who could have easily passed for white, he chose instead to identify with his African American heritage and work tirelessly for his people.
In 1833 Purvis helped noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison establish the American Anti-Slavery Society and served as its vice president. He also contributed to the launching of Garrison's newspaper, The Liberator. In 1838, Purvis drafted the influential Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens Threatened with Disfranchisement, which urged the repeal of a new Pennsylvania constitutional amendment disenfranchising free African Americans.
Living in downtown Philadelphia, Purvis’ abolitionist activities there put his life in danger and in 1844 he moved with his family to Byberry, where he established himself as a gentleman farmer. Active in local affairs, he gave lectures at the Byberry Philosophical Society, worked to integrate the local schools, and was involved in various community organizations. He also continued his national abolitionist activities and helped to establish Byberry as an important center in the anti-slavery and social reform movements. In 1846 he built Byberry Hall for use as a community meeting place. While used mainly for local activities, many famous abolitionists and activists also spoke at Byberry Hall, which is still standing.
Robert Purvis was president of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society from 1845-1850 and was a longtime leader in the Underground Railroad, for which served as chairman of the General Vigilance Committee from 1852-1857. He used his home in Byberry as a station on the Underground Railroad and by his own estimate helped more than 9,000 slaves escape to the North. During the Civil War, Purvis was active in recruiting African American soldiers for the Union Army. He also supported many other progressive causes in his lifetime, including the American Moral Reform Society, the Woman Suffrage Society (for which he served as vice president), and numerous other organizations.
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A renowned drummer who has travelled the world and played with many of the giants of jazz, George Butch Ballard has also been a longtime pillar of the Frankford community. Born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1918, Butch Ballard was a year old when his family moved to Frankford, the neighborhood that he would call home for most of his ninety-two years.
Butch Ballard was about fifteen years old when he began taking drum lessons. He attended Harding Junior High and Northeast High School, where he played in the school band. At the age of sixteen, he snuck into a local club to hear the jazz band and wound up sitting in with them. This led to his being asked to join the band. Thus began a professional career that lasted over seventy years. By the late 1930s Butch Ballard was playing regularly in Philadelphia. In the early 1940s he moved to New York and began playing with some of the biggest names in jazz. Following service in the Navy in World War II, during which he played in his ship’s company band while in the South Pacific, his career really took off. He played and recorded with such jazz luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and others. He is one of the few musicians to have played in both the Count Basie and Duke Ellington big bands.
While his career has taken him around the world, Butch Ballard’s roots have remained strong in Frankford. After time in New York, in the military, and on the road in the 1940s, he moved back to Frankford permanently in 1950. Although he still travelled occasionally for his music, including performances in Europe, he became a well-known and beloved figure in the Frankford community, serving as a trustee of Second Baptist Church, a Democratic ward leader, a block captain, a longtime teacher of young musicians in the area, and a frequent performer at community events. He continued playing and teaching into his ninetieth year. Butch Ballard was honored with the Mellon Bank Community Jazz Award in 2006.
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Sister Mary Scullion
Sister Mary Scullion has been involved in service work and advocacy for the homeless and mentally ill since 1978 and is recognized as a national leader in the efforts to address these issues. Born and raised in Oxford Circle, she attended St. Martin of Tours Elementary School and Little Flower High School before entering the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic religious order, in 1972. She found her calling several years later when she began working with Philadelphia’s homeless population. She was a co-founder in 1985 of Woman of Hope, which provides permanent residences and support services for homeless mentally ill women. In 1988 she helped found the Outreach Coordination Center, an innovative program coordinating private and public agencies doing outreach to chronically homeless persons in Center City Philadelphia.
In 1989 Sister Mary and Joan Dawson McConnon co-founded Project H.O.M.E., a nationally recognized organization that provides supportive housing, employment, education and health care to enable chronically homeless and low-income persons to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. As the organization’s longtime executive director, Sister Mary has overseen the growth of Project H.O.M.E. from an emergency winter shelter to a highly-respected organization with hundreds of units of housing and three businesses that provide employment to formerly homeless persons. Project H.O.M.E has leveraged some $50 million dollars in equity towards housing and economic development and has helped reduced homelessness significantly in Philadelphia.
A powerful voice on political issues affecting the homeless and mentally ill, Sister Mary’s work has earned her numerous awards and honorary doctorates. She was given the Liberty Bell Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Prudential National Nonprofit Leadership Award, and the 1992 Philadelphia Award. In 2002 she was awarded an "Eisenhower Fellowship" and that same year she and Joan Dawson McConnon were national awardees of the Ford Foundation's prestigious "Leadership for a Changing World Award." Sister Mary Scullion was named as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2009.
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SPIN, Inc. (Special People in the Northeast)
Begun in 1971 as a summer camp for children with developmental disabilities, SPIN has grown into one of the region’s leading human service organizations. Its mission is to establish and provide community resources, services, and initiatives in support of people with mental, physical, or sensory impairment, their families and those who provide support so that they may exercise responsibly their choice, preference and right, without limitation, to a fully integrated life as citizens of Pennsylvania. SPIN has provided much-needed services for thousands of Northeast Philadelphia families and individuals over the years and is recognized as a model social service organization.
Camp SPIN was the organization’s first service and came into being when Philadelphia youngsters with special needs were excluded from a summer camp in New Jersey because the camp accepted state funding with a stipulation that only New Jersey residents be served. Many of the Philadelphia children were enrolled in the special education program at the Torresdale School, which was administered by the Philadelphia Public School System. Two young and enthusiastic teachers, David and Trina Losinno, together with a number of the children’s parents, set about establishing their own summer camp for these children. The camp opened in 1971 at the Torresdale School with sixty-five children. This was the beginning of SPIN, Inc. Now in its fortieth year, SPIN is headquartered in far Northeast Philadelphia and manages facilities throughout the region.
Over the years SPIN has grown into a dynamic multi-faceted organization with a staff of over 1,100 providing a wide range of services for nearly 3,000 infants, children, and adults with disabilities and developmental challenges annually. Under the continued leadership of David and Trina Losinno, who serve as President/CEO and Executive Director respectively, SPIN has been recognized with numerous local, national, and international awards for the quality of its services as well as for its forward-thinking organizational culture. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently named SPIN number six among the best 100 large companies to work for in the tri-state area and ranked SPIN number one in quality among large companies.
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For more information contact Project Director Jack McCarthy at 215-824-1636 / firstname.lastname@example.org