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North Georgia wins 2017 DII Award of Excellence

School recognized for its tribute to fallen service members

The University of North Georgia was announced Saturday as the winner of the 2017 Division II Award of Excellence, an annual accolade recognizing positive campus and community engagement events. The award was presented during the Division II business session at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. 

North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs, Athletics Director Lindsay Reeves and national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member and student-athlete Hannah Peevy accepted the award, which comes with a $1,500 grand prize for future community engagement initiatives and a nationally televised football or basketball game during the 2017-18 season.

The award recognized North Georgia’s Operation Nighthawks of Honor initiative, which spanned the 2015-16 academic year. Through the program, athletics teams at North Georgia paid tribute throughout their seasons to a North Georgia graduate or former student killed during their military service. Each team was assigned a fallen service member and dedicated one home competition to the Nighthawks of Honor night. At the end of their seasons, memorabilia the teams used to commemorate their service member was sold through an online auction to benefit the University of North Georgia Corp of Cadets Endowment Fund. A celebration last spring with the families of the 13 honorees capped off the initiative.

“It was the student-athletes who came up with this, of course,” Reeves said when she accepted the award. “They are the ones who put their minds and their creative souls together to bring this program to the forefront.”

The second-place awardee and winner of $1,250 was Hawaii Pacific University for its “Kam’s Helmets” program, which was started in honor of a student-athlete who died in a skateboarding accident. The athletics department purchased multipurpose helmets with funds raised from basketball game ticket sales and private donations and gave the helmets away at a PacWest basketball game.

The University of New Haven, which held a Make-A-Wish wish reveal for a local boy, and Winona State University, where student-athletes spent a week raising mental illness awareness, tied for the third-place award. Both schools will receive a $1,000 prize.

Each year, Division II selects one finalist from each conference and one independent representative to be recognized for events that exemplify any of the Division II core attributes: learning, balance, resourcefulness, sportsmanship, passion and service.

See the full list of 2017 finalists here.