Three Arches Alumni Award Winners Announced

Two graduates will receive the Three Arches Alumni Award during Homecoming 2012.  James Copes ’76 and Chris Willis ’94 were selected in recognition for their outstanding achievements in a chosen career field and outstanding commitment and service to their community.  The Office of Alumni Relations will acknowledge their achievements during an Alumni & Friends Recognition breakfast at 10 a.m. in the Student Center.  

James Copes ‘76 had an amazing career in education, teaching in the Tecumseh School District in New Carlisle.  He inspired his students by instilling a strong passion for literature, theatre, and the written word.  Jim directed more than 25 school plays while he served as a high school English teacher for 32 years at Tecumseh. His love of theatre began right here at what was then called Urbana College.  He is loved and respected by his former students as a role model for exemplary communication of the written word and ability to artfully teach.

Retired from teaching, Jim spends his free time behind the lens of a camera.  Following a devastating fall from a ladder, Jim took over two years to learn how to walk again.  He decided to take up an old hobby he had as a child and as a young man.  Although he picked up the camera just to get his mind off of his foot, he soon found that he had developed a real talent for photography and began a new chapter in his life.  He now has his photographs showcased by three different newspapers.  He has photographed the United States Olympics Wrestling team, and he photographs the Tecumseh Arrows and the Xenia High School Buccaneers football teams.  Jim is currently preparing to photograph the Cincinnati Bengals and also has a project pending to photograph the Ohio State Buckeyes football team.

When he is not behind the camera, Jim is a real estate professional dealing in commercial real estate.

Although photography and real estate keep him busy, his first love will always be teaching, and that love of teaching began right here at Urbana University.  Jim is so proud to have graduated from Urbana and is honored to receive this award.

Chris Willis ‘94 has worked at NFL Films as head of the Research Library since 1996. His first book, Old Leather: An Oral History of Early Pro Football in Ohio, 1920-1935, was published in 2005 by Scarecrow Press. Old Leather was given the 2005 Nelson Ross Award by the Professional Football Researchers Association for recent Achievement in Football Research and Historiography. His second book, The Columbus Panhandles: A Complete History of Pro Football’s Toughest Team, 1900-1922, was published in 2007 by Scarecrow Press. His third book, The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr, was published by Scarecrow Press in 2010. Willis’s latest release, Dutch Clark: The Life of an NFL Legend and the Birth of the Detroit Lions, was released in July of 2012.

As the resident historian at NFL Films, he helps oversee all aspects of research for the company and their producers. In 2002, he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the HBO documentary The Game of Their Lives: Pro Football in the 1950’s. He is a member of the College Football Historical Society (CFHS) and the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA). Several of his articles, including “The Pro Football Hall of Fame-The Beginning,” “The Bodyguard and Johnny U,” “Ralph Hay: Forgotten Pioneer” and “Joe Carr’s Vision,” have been published in the PFRA publication The Coffin Corner.

In 1997 and 1998, he gave oral presentations at the “Pro Football and American Life” Symposiums held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Before starting his career at NFL Films, he graduated with a BS in physical education from Urbana University while playing four years on the Blue Knights football team. He then attended graduate school at the Ohio State University in sports history for one year.  Chris Willis is a native of Columbus, Ohio and currently resides in Audubon, New Jersey.

The Office of Alumni Relations has presented alumni awards to recognize, honor, and reward outstanding accomplishments and service to the University and the community since 1994.  The Awards and Nominations committee meet several times to discuss the processes and to review nominations.  The committee members used a matrix system to determine the awards winner.  Awards are received throughout the year.   
The Office of Alumni Relations is dedicated to serving the University and its diverse alumni, students, and friends. The office serves more than 7,000 graduates worldwide and provides many programs and services to alumni, the community, and the University.  For more information, call 937-484-1282.


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