UMass Amherst Will Recognize Distinguished Alumni and Friends During State House Ceremonies April 6

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts Amherst Alumni Association will present its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Tues. April 6 at noon in the Great Hall of the Massachusetts State House. Attendance is by invitation, but reporters are welcome.

The alumni association bestows the Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of extraordinary professional achievement. This year''s recipients are Alberta Sebolt George, ''55, president of Old Sturbridge Village; Andrew J. Gordon ''84, co-executive producer of the television show "Just Shoot Me"; Lt. General John B. Hall Jr. ''67, the senior U.S. military representative in Japan; Martin G. Jacobson ''68, entrepreneur and president of Jayco Associates Inc; Bill Pullman ''80G, actor and star of motion pictures including "Sleepless in Seattle," and "Independence Day"; and Lt. General Richard M. Scofield''61, U.S. Air Force Gray Eagle (aviator with the longest rated service) at his retirement.

The Distinguished Young Alumna Award will be presented to Tsidii M. Le Loka ''98, who originated the role of Rafiki in the Broadway production of "The Lion King." Stephen B. Oates, retired faculty member and noted historian and biographer, and John A. Feudo, former associate vice chancellor and executive director of the alumni association, will be granted honorary alumni status. Keynote speaker for the event will be Matthew P. Golombek ''78G, ''81Ph.D., chief scientist for the Mars Pathfinder Mission and previous Distinguished Alumni Award winner.

Robert Goodhue, immediate past president of the alumni association, said the State House awards ceremony is designed to "show all the people of the commonwealth the fruits of their investment" in UMass. "It''s a great day of pride for the University," he said.

Susan Mattei, director of alumni relations, says the accomplishments of alumni are many and deserve to be honored. She also notes alumni participation in the University is increasing. Alumni giving on the Amherst campus has risen from $2 million in 1990 to $5.4 million in 1998, she says, with most of that increase occurring since the start of Campaign UMass, the campus''s five-year comprehensive campaign to raise $125 million, enlist advocates, and enhance the image of the University. Membership in the alumni association has also increased from 3,000 to 7,000 members in the last three years, she says, as has participation in the Ambassadors Network, a group of alumni volunteers who work to bolster support for UMass. The number of ambassadors has risen from 880 to more than 2,000 since 1995. "It''s like waking a sleeping giant," says Mattei. "Our alumni realize that UMass is a world-class institution and a treasure to the commonwealth."