Annual Awards of the UWPIAA

Each year, the UWPIAA recognizes alumni who continue to embrace the mission of Up with People in their everyday lives. Whether the words award, honor, tribute, commendation, acknowledgement, or others are used, the purpose of this part of the alumni experience is to shine a light on those who make a difference in the lives of others by living the ideals of what we learned through the Up with People experience. Award nominations for recognition during Annual Alumni Week will open February 1, 2024. Please watch for the announcement. In the meantime, please review the qualifications below and consider who you know that is deserving of one of these honors.


  1. Nominees can include anyone who participated in any capacity of the UWP program since its inception in 1965.
  2. Nominations will not be accepted or considered for posthumous awards. Nominees selected to receive an award who pass away prior to receipt of the award will be duly recognized.
  3. Nominations will not be accepted or considered for a past recipient for the same or a different award for efforts previously recognized by the UWPIAA.
  4. Nominations will be accepted and considered for a past recipient for the same or a different award for efforts NOT previously recognized by the UWPIAA.


The J. Blanton Belk Outstanding Alumnus/Alumna Award 

J. Blanton Belk’s vision has impacted more than 22,000 alumni and millions of people around the globe. Alumni considered for this award are those who have made an exceptional contribution to humankind by carrying forward the ideals of Up with People. Previous J. Blanton Belk Award honorees have sacrificed economic and/or personal security to serve others. Examples of past honorees’ achievements in bettering the world include: working within an existing NGO (non-government organization); creating, launching, and leading (even temporarily) an organization which makes a positive difference in the lives of others; making an ongoing compassionate contribution; volunteering a substantial amount of time to help those in need; inspiring, teaching, or challenging others through passion, leadership, and vision; and overcoming great personal barriers or tragedy to persevere as a model of courage and involvement. The J. Blanton Belk Award may be given annually to an individual, chosen from all alumni, not only those who are celebrating a reunion in a particular year.

Samuel Lanham Award for Extraordinary Service to the UWPIAA

Samuel Lanham, ‘70A, was one of the original founders of the IAA, and the legal counsel for its creation. This award is for an individual who mirrors the dedication of Sam Lanham, and has made significant contributions to the UWPIAA. This may include work done over multiple years, such as service on the Board of Governors, long term financial support, active participation in association endeavors over an extended timeframe, and/or innovation to enhance and further the goals of the association to benefit a broad spectrum of alumni. This award may be given annually to an individual, chosen from all alumni, not only those who are celebrating a reunion in a particular year.

The James E. MacLennan Everyday Hero Award

James MacLennan traveled in the early years of UWP and then as a cast director with his wife. Ultimately, he served as Chief Operating Officer of UWP for decades. It recognizes those who, in their everyday lives, have served their communities with countless small, selfless acts of kindness, time commitment, and those who founded, have been involved in, or led community service projects, and/or responded to domestic or foreign emergencies. This award may be presented to one or more alumni celebrating a reunion in a particular year.

Outstanding Cast/Crew Representative Award

Cast/Crew Reps provide service to both their casts/crews and the alumni body as a whole. This award may be given in recognition of those who sacrifice long hours and resources to keep their casts/crews connected and informed all year round. This award may be presented to one or more alumni celebrating a reunion in a particular year.


The Nomination Form is made available each spring for awards to be bestowed at the reunion of the same calendar year. The form and supporting documents must be submitted to the Awards Committee by the published deadline.

While you know your nominee, the members of the Awards Committee may not. Include as much information as possible regarding the nominee’s qualifications and accomplishments. Please include as many specifics as possible to support your nomination, such as articles, letters, writings, videos, photos or anything else you feel would help us know this individual.

Nominees may be endorsed by multiple alumni. While it is okay for non-alumni to participate in the nomination process, (particularly the J. Blanton Belk and James E. MacLennan Everyday Hero awards), the actual nomination must come from an alum.

At times, multiple people may want to nominate an individual for an award. We encourage you to designate a primary nominator to complete that nomination form for that individual, have that primary nominator collect endorsement letters from others interested in nominating an individual, and include those letters with the nomination form. However, all nomination information submitted on behalf of any individual nominated will be considered as part of the entire nomination.

The final determination of qualification for all awards is the responsibility of the Awards Committee, which will make its selection based on a review and evaluation of each candidate’s nomination information.


The Awards Committee is comprised of alumni from different eras and regions. The committee reviews all nominations and makes a recommendation to the UWPIAA Board of Governors, who selects the honorees. Nominators will be contacted if additional documentation is needed.

Need more information or interested in serving on the Awards Committee? Please contact our Awards Committee Chair.