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COLUMBUS, Miss. – The Town & Tower Club presented awards for outstanding service at its annual holiday luncheon held at Mississippi University for Women Friday.


This year’s award winners were Campus Service Award recipient LeAnn Alexander, director of campus recreation at The W; and Community Service Award recipients Sandra DePriest, founder of the H.E.A.R.T.S. after school tutoring program; and the Columbus Arts Council.

The Campus Service Award is presented to an individual and/or organization demonstrating any of the following: Long-serving contributions to the campus community or to a local community organization, nonprofit or city initiative, accomplishments that have brought positive recognition to The W and the area, volunteerism that has improved the quality of life, health, education, or potential for economic growth in the area and notable recognition beyond the area.

In just three years, Alexander has risen from assistant director to director of campus recreation. She oversees daily operations of the 87,000 square foot Pohl/Stark Recreation Center.

With support from her team, the Stark Recreation Center has seen increased memberships from the campus and the community, bringing new energy to The W’s recreational program.

Most recently, she co-chaired a university-wide taskforce which resulted in The W becoming a tobacco-free campus on July 1. She has also served on many campus committees, including searches for the athletic director and dean of students. She is a member of the University Priorities Committee and the Sustainability Committee.

Alexander also serves on the advisory board of the Life Enrichment Program. This past year she was involved with the Homecoming Planning Committee, helping to recruit a record-number of African-American alumni for last year’s festivities. She will soon complete the Mississippi Community College Leadership Academy.

Her presentations at regional conferences and on campus have focused on healthy habits and lifestyles. In 2010, she was named Campus Recreation Employee of the Year.

She is an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., which has a history of transforming communities through volunteer services. She also is adviser to the undergraduate chapter on campus.

“LeAnn has made great strides early in her professional career. In addition, she is very giving of her time and talents. LeAnn is one of the most positive people that I know and never says no to a challenge,” said Anika Mitchell Perkins, Town & Tower Club member.

The Community Service Award is presented to an individual and/or organization demonstrating any of the following: Long-serving contributions to a local community organization, nonprofit or city initiative, accomplishments that have brought positive recognition to Columbus and the Golden Triangle, volunteerism that has improved the quality of life, health, education, or potential for economic growth in the area and notable recognition beyond the area.

In addition to finding H.E.A.R.T.S., DePriest is the founder of the Golden Triangle Regional Homeless Coalition, which seeks to provide sustainable housing for homeless in the area. She is also a founding member of Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen.

DePriest was active in the Columbus Pilgrimage Association for many years, opening her antebellum home for tours and civic and charitable functions.

She is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbus and the Episcopal Church in Aberdeen. DePriest leads multiple Bible studies in Columbus and Aberdeen, as well as youth programs in both towns.

Her involvement in the community also includes promoting and encouraging citizens to get involved in politics and registering to vote. She is an active member of the DAR.

DePriest has represent Columbus numerous statewide and national, church, political and civice fronts.

“I have known Sandra for 30 years. She is a tireless worker for all mankind, but especially the downtrodden. She has had a positive effect on countless lives in this area,” said John Davis, executive vice president of trust services at Cadence Bank, who accepted DePriest’s award on her behalf.

Since its inception in 1965, The Columbus Arts Council has consistently brought programming for a variety of ages and interests, providing a vibrant addition to the quality of life in our community.

A strong believer in partnerships, the CAC has worked with the Starkville/MSU Symphony and The W to help bring free performances to Columbus, and through a partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, brought the “Big Read” to the community.

Among the many opportunities the CAC provides is monthly exhibits, small concerts in the Omnova Theatre, master classes and a wide variety of diverse programming, including African folklore and Native American history.

For the fourth year, the CAC is managing the Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA program. It has provided to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Father’s Child ministry, the YMCA, United and the Boys & Girls Club.

“The Columbus Arts Council is at the heart of our downtown geographically and in a very significant way, culturally,” said Town & Tower President Maridith Geuder. “Town & Tower is pleased to present the Community Service Award to the Columbus Arts Council for its many contributions to the quality of life in Columbus and for its continuing service to the community.