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Lee University named Division II Award of Excellence winner

School recognized for women's volleyball fundraiser

Charles Conn, president of Lee University, speaks to delegates at the the Division II Business Session at the NCAA Convention in San Antonio after his school was named the recipient of the Award of Excellence.

Lee University on Saturday was named the 2016 Division II Award of Excellence winner, an annual accolade recognizing positive initiatives at Division II schools. The award was presented before a crowd of college administrators and student-athletes during the Division II Business Session at the 2016 NCAA Convention in San Antonio.

Lee University President Charles Conn accepted the honor, which comes with a $1,500 grand prize for future community engagement initiatives and a nationally televised football or basketball game during the 2016-17 seasons. Twenty-four other finalists – one representing each Division II conference and an independent representative – were also recognized for initiatives that exemplify any of the six Division II attributes: learning, balance, resourcefulness, sportsmanship, passion and service.

Lee earned the top honor for its women’s volleyball fundraising event, Volley for a Cure: Real Heroes Wear Pink. For the eighth year, the women’s volleyball program partnered with the MaryEllen Locher Foundation, a local charity, to generate awareness about breast cancer and raise funds for local families. The event, held in November, raised more than $20,000 and included a survivors luncheon, a pre-game Pink Party, a silent auction, a conference volleyball game and the awarding of the Volley for a Cure scholarship.

“Like most of you, we have a required community service component in our curriculum, but at Lee it is the athletes who for many years have truly led the way and made service cool on our campus,” Conn said. “The women on our women’s volleyball team don’t just raise awareness. They get acquainted with cancer patients, survivors and their children, they hear and repeat their stories, and in the process, their own lives are changed. They become not just aware, but they come to deeply care, and from there, to make a difference.”

The second-place awardee and winner of $1,250 was Augusta University for Operation JAGMAW, its military appreciation week. All nine colleges of the university engaged in military initiatives during homecoming week, which included special recognition of 1,000 active-duty Fort Gordon soldiers on game day and a swearing-in ceremony for new recruits.

Johnson C. Smith University was named the third-place winner and recipient of a $1,000 prize for its Purple Game of Honor. The volleyball game paid tribute to the victims of the shootings last summer in Charleston, South Carolina, which claimed the life of Depayne Middleton-Doctor, the mother of Johnson C. Smith senior volleyball player Gracyn Doctor and her younger sisters. The school hosted a home match on Oct. 1 against Johnson & Wales University, where Gracyn’s sister, Kaylin, is a freshman volleyball player. All attendees were asked to wear purple.

The other Award of Excellence finalists each received a $500 prize. The full list of 2016 conference and independent winners is available here.