By Ryan Cornell
MIDDLETOWN -- Lord Fairfax Community College has changed quite a bit since Dennis Morris graduated.
The retired Shenandoah County supervisor, a member of the college's first graduating class of 1972, recalled the early days when the college was still under construction.
"I walked by two by sixes, got my dress shoes dirty walking in mud during the first semester because there was no grass, no sidewalks; there was a black tarp hanging down protecting people from the cold weather," he said. "But I found out although the breeze would blow in sometimes, the mud would get on your shoes. The professor was there in a genuine fashion, got a chance to meet the deans. The dean even came to the farm to see me."
Morris said he entered college as a "scared freshman" who had heard "horror stories about college professors who won't acknowledge you," and walked away with great relationships.
"I found out that Lord Fairfax was true blue and the professors really care about the students in every way," he said.
Morris, who now serves on the state leadership council of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office and the board of directors for the Shenandoah County Department of Social Services, was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the President's Appreciation Luncheon at the college on Friday.
Terry Nyhous, chairman of the LFCC Foundation Board of Directors, presented Morris with the award and flipped through a slideshow of news clippings on Morris.
During his time at LFCC, Morris studied agriculture and business -- his family owns Moo Manor farm in Toms Brook -- and served as the first student body vice president and later the first alumni association president.
"And probably the most memorable thing he did was help plan the college's first beauty contest," joked Nyhous.
Morris was elected to the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors at age 24 and served in that position for 36 years.
"For those who were there, his future success has certainly come as no suprise because he showed a whole lot of early leadership as a student and we have the yearbook photos to prove it," Nyhous said.
Another distinction, the Chancellor's Award for Leadership in Philanthropy, was given to Bill Holtzman.
Holtzman is the owner of Holtzman Oil Corporation, Holtzman Propane, Valley Ice, Holtzman Equipment and Construction and several Burger King and Denny's locations. Holtzman Oil is one of the largest employers in Shenandoah County.
LFCC President Cheryl Thompson-Stacy lauded Holtzman's generous contributions, which include supporting the college's Cornerstone Fund and sponsoring its men's rugby team.
The team, the LFCC Lions, was created in 2011 and ended up winning the state championship last fall.
"I think the first year or second year our team played the UVA men's rugby team and we beat them," Thompson-Stacy said. "...But after we beat them, they said, 'Oh, that was our second-string team.' They didn't say that before we played them, but they wouldn't schedule us the next year."
She presented Holtzman with a LFCC rugby jersey and said that a $3,600 scholarship will be given to a LFCC student next year in his name.
Several legislators attended the ceremony, including Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Upperville; Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg; Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall; Del. Mark Berg, R-Winchester; and Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org