CU Schools Foundation to Recognize Five of Our Public High School Alumni at 2017 Gala

Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF) will celebrate the accomplishments of five of our public high school alumni on Saturday, April 1 at the 2017 CUSF Alumni Recognition Gala at the Refinery in Champaign.  Three different awards will be presented:  Distinguished Alumni Award, Local Business Community Impact Award and the Local Hero Award.  The 2017 Distinguished Alumni honorees are Lisa Gaye Dixon, Centennial High School graduate, class of 1982; Dr. Robert C. Mock Jr., Urbana High School Class of 1984; and George Shapland, Champaign High School, Class of 1949.

Lisa Gaye Dixon has acted professionally both nationally and internationally, worked as a professional acting coach, directed numerous stage productions and recently appeared in two independent films.  Through her work, Ms. Dixon explores the topics of race, culture, economic class and gender.  Since 2005 she has served as an Associate Professor of Theater at the University of Illinois and in her nominator’s words, “has helped the Theatre Department move from a relatively obscure department to one that is graduating students who are nationally recognized in theatre, film, and television.”  In 2014 and 2015 she played the part of the Ghost of Christmas Present, in A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago where she drew rave reviews.

Dr. Robert C. Mock, Jr. spent the last 20 years of his life working in various capacities in higher education.  He currently serves as the President of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC and is the owner of RBM & Associates, Ltd., a professional consulting firm. Dr. Mock stands out as a remarkable servant leader.  Inspired by the events of 9/11, at the age of 36, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army National Guard and served honorably as an Officer for eight years.  Throughout his life he has consistently given his time to various community organizations including Urban League of Lexington, KY, Goodwill Industries Arkansas Statewide Board, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee in Northwest Arkansas, and Charlotte Regional Partnership Inc.

After graduating from Champaign High School, George Shapland, attended the University of Illinois, graduating in 1955, after serving in the Army Corp of Engineers during the Korean War. He settled in Champaign and started his own construction company. In 1973, he cofounded Flo-Con Systems (now Vesuvius Corporation) in a joint venture with US Steel and served as President until 1990.  Currently he is the President of Shapland Management Company, where he has been involved in numerous residential and commercial developments.  Throughout his career Mr. Shapland has left a positive mark on our community through his business leadership.  His nominator wrote, “What is most incredible to me is the kind, unassuming way George leads and offers his advice.”  He has served as chairman of both the University of Illinois Foundation and Carle Foundation boards and as a director of First Busey, Corp and News Gazette Inc. among many others.

Spencer Atkins of The Atkins Group and 1987 graduate of Central High School will be recognized with the Local Business Community Impact Award.  The Atkins Group strives “to always be committed to the success of Champaign County and actively give back to our community.” They have been instrumental in working with both Champaign and Urbana’s public school districts to ensure quality facilities and fiscal responsibility.

Erin Grace, Urbana High School graduate, class of 2002, will be awarded the Local Hero Award. After graduating from Florida State, Ms. Grace returned to Champaign and started a YoungLives Chapter, which offers support and essential service to teen moms. By providing resources and information about healthcare, jobs, housing and preparing children for school, the organization has positively impacted many young lives.

CUSF solicits nominations for the three alumni awards from the community at large. Distinguished Alumni honorees must have graduated from a Unit 4 or District 116 public high school at least 10 years ago and demonstrate distinguished contributions to our society.  The Local Business Community Impact Award recognizes local business owners who demonstrate an impact on the community through their commitment to philanthropy, service, volunteerism and support.  The Local Hero Award celebrates individuals who willingly volunteer their time and efforts to benefit the local community.  All nominations are reviewed by a selection committee comprised of representatives from the school districts, alumni groups and CU Schools Foundation.

The 2017 CUSF Alumni Recognition Gala will be on Saturday, April 1 at 6:00 pm at the Refinery in Champaign and is open to the public with advance ticket purchase. For tickets or additional information visit: and click on the Benefit Events tab or call 217-398-2873. Proceeds from ticket sales support the mission of CUSF.