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The Delta State University Alumni Association recently named the recipients of the 2012 Alumni Award Winners. Each year, the Alumni Association presents four service awards: the Hugh Ellis Walker Alumni Service Award, the Kent Wyatt Young Alumnus Service Award, the Gladys Castle Friend of Delta State Award, and the Legacy Award.
The Hugh Ellis Walker Alumni Service Award was established to recognize outstanding service and contributions to Delta State University by an alumnus. This year’s recipient is Nan Sanders. A native of Cleveland, Sanders earned her B.A. and B.S.E. in English from Delta State University in 1967. She was named Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities and was a member of the Phi Phi Chapter of the Delta Delta Delta Fraternity. She is currently serving her third term on the Delta State University Foundation Board.
Her enthusiasm for the arts is found throughout the community and especially on the Delta State campus. The Sanders family built the Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden on the front lawn of the Bologna Performing Arts Center, dedicated to the memory of her late friend Pam Mathews, who founded the garden in 1999. It showcases 27 pieces of sculpture in the garden and around campus. Sanders won the Delta State “Year of the Arts” Community Service Award in 2009 and the Bologna Performing Arts Center’s President’s Award in 2010. She serves as first vice-chair of the Mississippi Arts Commission Board and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, the Board of Directors of the Delta Arts Alliance and the Cleveland Music Foundation (Grammy Museum Project).
Sanders has been married to Mike for 43 years. They have three children, Ellen Voelkel, Amanda Turner, and Michael Sanders, and six grandchildren: Jackson Voelkel, Mary Michael and Martin Turner, and Willis, Elizabeth James, and Catherine Sanders.
The Kent Wyatt Young Alumnus Service Award is given each year to an alumnus who is 36 years or younger and has given outstanding service and contributions to Delta State University. This year’s recipient is Paul “Bubba” Mancini Jr.
A native of Indianola and a 1996 Indianola Academy graduate, Mancini earned a biology degree from Delta State University in 2000. Mancini graduated from the Nuclear Medicine Program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2001. Following graduation, he was employed with Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in Clarksdale for seven years before accepting his current position with Bolivar Medical Center in Cleveland.
As a student at Delta State, Mancini was very active on campus. He was a student worker for the Alumni Association and served as an officer of the Student Alumni Association. He was a leader in his Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order and was elected by his peers to serve two terms as the vice-president of the Student Government Association. Mancini was a student orientation leader, the business manager for The Delta Statement, and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and four other honor societies. His senior year he was elected as Mr. Delta State University and was inducted into the DSU Student Hall of Fame.
Mancini has volunteered many years with the Alumni Association and recently served as President of the Bolivar County Alumni Chapter. As President, he created a scholarship auction that is held at the annual Bolivar County Alumni Meeting and established the Bolivar County Alumni Basketball night. Mancini also volunteers with Teach for America, the Italian Festival of Mississippi, the United Way, the Cleveland Park Commission and served on the Crosstie Arts Council Board. He is a member of the DSU Community Pride Task Force with the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce and serves as an usher, and a children’s church volunteer at First United Methodist Church where he also serves on the administrative board and is involved with the Methodist Men’s Group. Mancini, an active member of the Hayes Cooper Center Parent and Teacher Organization, was named one of the Top Volunteers of the Delta by the Delta Business Journal in 2011.
Mancini and his wife Lesley (2000), both Life Alumni Members, currently reside in Cleveland and have two children, Marleigh and Sela.
The Gladys Castle Friend of Delta State Service Award is presented to a non-alumnus who has made outstanding service and contributions to Delta State. Homer Sledge III is this year’s Gladys Castle Friend of Delta State Service Award. Sledge is a native of Cleveland and the vice president of Nehi Bottling Company. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in business.
Sledge is a member of the Delta State Alumni Association and the Delta State Foundation Board of Directors and is a recipient of the DSU Athletics Lawrence Stewart Award. He is an active member of the Cleveland Rotary Club having served as sergeant at arms, director, and president and is a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow, the highest award given to an individual in Rotary. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of Presbyterian Day School.
Sledge has served in various capacities on numerous boards, including director of Team Cleveland, chairman of the Industrial Development Board, president of the Cleveland Country Club, and president of the Beverage Association of Mississippi. He has been a member of the Cleveland Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Royal Crown Cola Marketing Board, and the National Soft Drink Association.
An active member of the First United Methodist Church, Sledge has served on the finance, past-parish, and administrative boards and is a former chairman of the Mothers Morning Out program.
He and his wife, Susan Brown Sledge, have two children, Maggie Helene and Homer Sledge IV.
The Legacy Award was established to honor an alumnus who made an institutional changing impact on the university. This year’s recipient of the Legacy Award is Gene Ayers. Ayers is a native of Grenada and a graduate of Delta State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. He began working in the Music Department at Delta State in 1974 and is best known for forming and directing Renaissance, a musical group that is known for performances throughout the Mid-South, Europe, Mexico, and several Caribbean Islands. He was the director of Renaissance for 34 years.
Ayers is a member of the National Association of Jazz Educator’s National Conference, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity. Ayers has served as president of the Mississippi chapter of the National Association of Jazz Educators from 1984-1987. In 1977, 1980, and 1982, he was selected to the annual edition of Personalities of the South. Ayers is a member of the Leadership Mississippi Alumni Association and has also served as an adjudicator for musical events in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Ayers has one daughter, Madelyn Elizabeth Marley and two grandsons, Leyton-3 and Hunter-1. He retired in 2008 and now resides in Biloxi.
The award recipients will be honored during Homecoming on Friday, October 26th at the Alumni Awards and Gala Dinner held at 7 p.m. in the Walter Sillers Coliseum. Tickets for the event are $20 and can be purchased at the Hugh Ellis Walker Alumni House. The award winners will also be recognized in the Alumni Association’s annual Homecoming publication which will be mailed to dues-paying members of the Alumni Association and Annual Fund donors prior to Homecoming. To update your membership or to join the Alumni Association, call 662-846-4660. For a full schedule of Homecoming events, visit www.deltastate.ede/alumni.