Annual Awards

UWPIAA Awards and the Nomination Process

Each year at reunion, the UWPIAA recognizes alumni who continue to embrace the mission of Up with People in their everyday lives in a distinct way.  Whether we use the word award, honor, tribute, commendation, recognition, acknowledgment, or other words like these, it is important for us to see and know that the true purpose behind this part of the alumni experience is to help all of us see the possibilities and opportunities that we bring to others, in some small part, because of and beyond the Up with People experience.  Use this as an opportunity to say thank you to someone you know by shining a light on something good and beneficial that they are doing for others.  All award nominations for Reunion are due by midnight EDT 10 April 2022. General qualifications for award eligibility include:

  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.  Nominees will not be accepted or considered for a past award recipient for the same or a different award than previously received for efforts previously recognized by the UWPIAA.
  4.  Nominations will be accepted and considered for a past award recipient for the same or a different award than previously received for efforts NOT previously recognized by the UWPIAA.

Specific award descriptions, award-specific qualifications, and details for submitting a nomination are listed below:

The J. Blanton Belk Outstanding Alumnus/Alumna Award

J. Blanton Belk’s vision and ideals have 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. The nominating committee awards one J. Blanton Belk Award annually to an individual, chosen from all alumni, including previous Everyday Hero Award honorees. Past J. Blanton Belk Award honorees have sacrificed economic and/or personal security to serve others. Examples of past honorees’ contributions to the betterment of the world include: working within an existing NGO (non-government organization); creating, launching, and leading an organization (even temporary) that makes a positive difference in the world; making an ongoing compassionate contribution; volunteering a substantial amount of time to help those in need; inspiring, teaching or challenging others through his/her passion, leadership and vision; and, overcoming great personal barriers or tragedy to persevere as a model of courage and involvement.

The James E. MacLennan Everyday Hero Award

When Up with People was still in its infancy, James E. MacLennan was the Chief Operating Officer, Financial Officer and all-around support person for founder J. Blanton Belk’s vision. Jim and his wife Carol were two of the original cast directors, and Jim enjoyed a long, successful career with Up with People until his retirement. More than one Every Day Hero Award can be awarded at each reunion. In previous years, the nominating committee selected alumni who have: served others steadily with countless small, yet effective acts of kindness and time commitment; founded, been involved in, or led community service projects; and/or responded to domestic or foreign emergencies or other human misery.

Outstanding Cast/Crew Representative Award

Since 2010, the UWPIAA Board of Governors has recognized those alumni who serve as Cast/Crew Representatives and provide extraordinary service to both their casts/crews and the alumni body as a whole. Their work is evident as they deliver high percentage turnouts at each reunion year, yet do much more than just getting their cast/crew to reunion. They also sacrifice long hours and resources to keep their casts/crews connected and informed all year-round. This award recognizes a person who has served as a Cast/Crew Representative for at least two reunion years (including the current year), whose cast/crew consistently competes for the reunion’s highest percentage attendance honor, and who consistently keeps their cast/crew connected during non-reunion years. Additional consideration will be given to those Cast/Crew Representatives who support either Up with People, the UWPIAA, their programs and missions (through volunteer work and/or fundraising), and who organize mini-reunions during non-reunion years.


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. 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 Everyday Hero awards), the actual nomination must come from an alumnus. 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. J. Blanton Belk Outstanding Alumnus nominees not selected for this award who are in their reunion year will, by default, also be considered for the James E. MacLennan Everyday Hero Award.


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. Nominators will be contacted if additional documentation is needed. Need more information? Please use our contact form if you have additional questions for the Awards Committee Chair or would like to inquire about serving on the Awards Committee.