Spring 1998

Alumni News


Commerce secretary ('81) Gives Founders Lecture

Alumnus and Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Barry E. DuVal ('81) addresses the 1998 Founders Day Convocation in March.

Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Barry E. DuVal ('81) gave the James Madison Lecture during JMU's annual Founders Day Convocation, held March 18.

Founders Day commemorates the establishment of JMU on March 14, 1908, and James Madison's birth date, March 16, 1751.

In addition to DuVal's lecture, the convocation ceremony included awards presentations to senior class valedictorians Zakir Abdut-Hamid, Melissa M. Kidd, Krista K. Soplop and Nicole D. Steffey; and outstanding juniors Scott H. Brewer, Elizabeth L. Harman and Tracey N. Panos.

Psychology professor Virginia Andreoli Mathie received the 1998 Dolley Madison Award for community enhancement, which recognizes public service.

DuVal's appointment as secretary of commerce and trade by Gov. James S. Gilmore III on Jan. 5 has topped a highly visible and successful political and business career.

DuVal was elected to the City Council of Newport News in 1988, elected mayor in 1990 and re-elected in 1992 with the largest number of votes recorded in the city's history. As mayor, he had been an international ambassador for the Virginia peninsula, traveling throughout the United States and to Japan, Europe and the Middle East to promote his region's economic development assets. He also served as chairman of the Hampton Roads Mayors and Chairs Caucus.

After six years as mayor, in January 1996, DuVal announced that he would not seek re-election. Later that year, the Hampton Roads Partnership selected him to serve as its president and chief executive officer.

In 1983, he co-founded DuVal Associates Inc., a diversified real estate firm, and served as president and principal broker until July 1996. DuVal and JMU accounting graduate Cindy Wermers DuVal ('81), a certified public accountant, have three children, Rachel, 13, Daniel, 10, and Catherine, 6.

Mark of Distinction
by Angela Krum ('98)

Lentz ('73), Leeolou ('78) Receive Alumni Awards

The JMU Alumni Association has chosen Carl Lentz ('73) and Stephen R. Leeolou ('78) to receive the 1998 Distinguished Alumni Service Award and Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award respectively. JMU Alumni Association Board of Directors President Hugh Lantz ('73) presented the awards during the Founders Day Convocation March 18.

Stephen R. Leeolou ('78)

What began as an investment opportunity into cellular phones turned Leeolou into the president, chief executive officer and co-founder of Vanguard Cellular Systems Inc.

Leeolou applied for his own cellular phone patent, researched the industry and in 1983 made a life-transforming move. Leaving behind his five-year career as a TV news anchor, he and his friend and Vanguard co-founder, Rich Prior, finally "quit each of our careers, drove a Subaru to Greensboro and began to build a business."

Today, Vanguard employs about 2,000 people, covers a population of 7.9 million and is the second-largest independent cellular phone company in the United States. But getting there was not easy.

"We almost got wiped out in the mid-'80s," Leeolou recalls. However, taking the company public and getting involved in the stock exchange in 1988 was the smartest pioneer accomplishment Leeolou says he made, and it ended up making Vanguard what it is today.

Carl Lentz ('73)

Leeolou credits JMU for giving him the overall skills he needed to be successful. "It wasn't too small to be inhibiting," he says, "but small enough to offer good opportunities."

Along with Vanguard, Leeolou is a member of International Wireless Communications Inc. and director of the North Carolina Electronics & Information Technologies Association.

Leeolou and his wife and JMU alumna, Mary "Dee Dee" Collins Leeolou ('78), live in Greensboro, N.C., with their children, Ryan, 11, Brittany, 9, and Collin, 6. As director for Commercial Development at Eastman Fine Chemicals in Kingsport, Tenn., Carl Lentz is also a proud businessman.

"I always had a love for science and mathematics," Lentz says. "I thought it would be a good place to be."

After graduating from JMU, Lentz earned a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from Johns Hopkins University and then jumped right into the chemical business. Today, he spends most of his time process developing, imaging and commercially developing chemicals. After 19 years in the business, Lentz says he is "proud of being able to grow this business from where it was to where it is today. We're a major player in the world arena."

Lentz, a chemical expert with more than 20 published articles and 17 patents, gives back to JMU by giving lectures on campus. As a member of the executive board for JMU's College of Science and Mathematics, he is helping to devise a strategic direction for JMU professors and students to take concerning academics.

"This benefits alumni and the school," Lentz says, "because the students and professors will not be so grounded in academics, but understand what's going on in the outside world. Education is only as good as what you can do with it," he notes. "Also, alumni have the opportunity to see what's going on in the academic arena."

His own JMU education gave him a sound science and liberal arts background, and taught him how to interact with people. "JMU instills a work ethic in students. It gives them the ability to think, solve problems and use skills," he says.

Lentz and his wife and JMU alumna, Andrea Parish Lentz ('73), and their son, Daniel, 13, live in Kingsport.

Six Students Receive Alumni Scholarships
The JMU Alumni Association has awarded six scholarships to JMU students for 1997-98.

Scholarships include the association's annual legacy awards, which are given annually to incoming freshmen whose parents or siblings have attended JMU. In addition to the legacy scholarships, several alumni chapters also offer scholarships to students from their geographic areas.

Recipients of the association's 1997-98 scholarships are:

1997 Alumni Legacy Scholarship Recipients
Ryan C. Blair ('01), Freshman, Sykesville, Md.
Lindsey Arwen Pack ('01), Freshman, Mount Crawford, Va.
Julianne K. Cook ('99), Junior, Colonial Heights, Va.
Richmond Alumni Chapter Scholarship
Faithea Flowers ('97)
Small Business Management and Marketing, Hopewell, Va.
Black Alumni Chapter Scholarship
Mylia Brown ('01), Communication Science and Disorders, Williamsburg, Va.
Metro-Washington Alumni Chapter Scholarship
Sharon Cohen ('98), Marketing, Herndon, Va.
Champion Swimmer

Evelyn Dickson Dowling ('49)

Upon her retirement in 1978, when she began coaching swimming at a private Florida pool, Evelyn Dickson Dowling ('49) began a new career and found a new passion. Today, at 72, Dowling is a nationally recognized synchronized swimmer and the winner of two silver medals and one gold at the U.S. Synchro Masters National Championships.

Dowling, who took her first synchronized swimming class in 1985, competes nationally in the Masters Competition for Synchronized Swimming in both solo and duet competitions, and has brought home a first, second or third place finish every year in her age group.

To keep herself in competitive form, Dowling stretches and exercises daily at home and swims laps at least three times a week. When she is not practicing for her own competitions, she coaches 30 girls, who range in age from 8 to 18, in the art of synchronized swimming. Becoming a synchronized swimmer "takes a person who is a strong basic swimmer, who can swim underwater and someone who is not afraid to get their hair wet," Dowling says.

Coalition Builder

Charles Cunningham ('81)

The Christian Coalition's National Operations Director and JMU Board of Visitors member Charles Cunningham ('81) received the Ronald Reagan Award and a $50,000 honorarium to recognize his achievements as a conservative political leader. The award was given by the Conservative Political Action Conference.

"... Chuck has become one of the unsung heroes of the conservative movement," CPAC Chairman David Keene said in a press release.

The former JMU Student Government Association president was also recognized by Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, as one of the nation's 50 most influential and effective political operatives. As the Christian Coalition's director, Cunningham organizes activist training, voter registration drives and voter guide distribution, activation of local chapters, community networks, church liaisons, and neighborhood coordinators.

Previously, Cunningham served as the Christian Coalition's voter education director and spearheaded the distribution of more than 66 million voter guides across the nation in 1996. The result, he says, was the largest turnout of religious conservative voters in a presidential election. Charles and his wife Maria have seven children.

Corporate Draw

David Rennyson ('91)

Double economics and history major David Rennyson ('91) had hopes of one day becoming a college professor. But his involvement in JMU's highly selective Miller Fellows internship program changed those plans for good. Today, he is director of strategic planning for Bell Atlantic and attributes his success to being "in the right place at the right time."

As a Miller Fellow, a program in which students shadow JMU administrators, Rennyson interned alongside his first mentor, Barbara Castello, now vice president for university relations and external programs. He found himself in the company of executives and gaining corporate experience. Rennyson followed Castello's advice and entered the arena of technology, telecommunications, marketing and industry through a JMU international internship with Contel ASC, a satellite telecommunications firm. There was no turning back.

After JMU, he stepped into Bell Atlantic's Executive Development Program, which then led him - through the Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship - to University College London and a master's in information technology programs.

Throughout his corporate advancement, Rennyson says he has missed just one Homecoming, when he was studying in England. He and his wife, Alisa (B.S.W. '92), now live in Centreville, Va., with their daughter, Katelyn, 21 months. Rennyson's sister, Andrea ('90), and brother, Stephen ('96), also graduated from JMU.

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