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 Montpelier Magazine

From left to right: Hugh and Nancy Lantz, Phil Vassar and Jeff Grass

Awards celebrate alumni in country music, entrepreneurship and Madison spirit

During Homecoming weekend, the JMU Alumni Association honored four alumni for outstanding career achievement and service.

Phil Vassar ('85) and Jeff Grass ('92) received the Ronald E. Carrier Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for successful careers in country music and business. Hugh ('73) and Nancy Bowman Lantz ('71) received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, recognizing their service to JMU and the Harrisonburg community.

The Academy of Country Music named Vassar its 2002 top new male vocalist. Vassar has won numerous other industry awards including Billboard's 2000 new country artist of the year and 1998 country songwriter of the year. Vassar's self-titled album went gold in 2002 and produced two No. 1. hits, Carlene and Just Another Day in Paradise. In conjunction with the grand opening celebration of the Leeolou Alumni Center, Vassar performed in concert during Homecoming weekend.

Jeff Grass established, a service that pays customers' monthly bills for a fee. He and his partners later sold the company to Paytrust. Grass has served as a consultant for McKinsey and Co. in Los Angeles, and in spring 2002 taught a course in the JMU College of Business.

Hugh Lantz is a senior vice president with First Union Securities in Harrisonburg and serves on the Harrisonburg City Council and JMU Foundation Board of Directors. Nancy Lantz is the principal at Plains Elementary School in Timberville. The couple served as co-chairs of the Volunteer Leadership Committee of the Leeolou Alumni Center Program Fund during Hugh's four-year term as president of the alumni association.

'JMU decided to locate the alumni center right next to the College Center to enhance and encourage interaction among alumni and students,' says Lantz. 'I think we've seen that important interaction at Homecoming.'

'The alumni center fund gave every graduate the opportunity to feel a sense of ownership in the creation of the Leeolou Center,' says Nancy. 'It's wonderful to celebrate this grand opening with so many alumni and a concert by one of our own.'

The alumni association also presented the first Alumni-Corporation Partnership Award to First USA/Bank One to recognize their annual contributions to JMU and especially to the Leeolou Alumni Center building fund.

JMU Alumni Association awards are selected annually from nominations to the alumni board. To submit a nomination for the 2003 awards, visit the alumni association online at www.jmu/edu/alumni and click on the Awards and Scholarships link. The dead-line for nominations is May 3.


Michelle Hite ('88)