2014 Distinguished Alumni Award: Don and Carol Lemons

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Merriam-Webster defines “distinguished” as being “marked by eminence, distinction, or excellence.” Our 2014 Young Life Distinguished Alumni Award winners, Chief Justice Don and Carol Lemons, truly personify these words.

Don’s connection to Young Life began in the late 1960s when, as a student at the University of Virginia, he was approached by some local parents and a clergyman and was asked to start a Young Life club in Charlottesville. According to Don, “I had never heard of Young Life but immediately recognized how worthwhile this ministry would be.” Meanwhile, Carol was a student at the University of Maryland, and was a Young Life leader at Duval High School alongside Chuck Reinhold. As God planned it, upon graduation, Don accepted an invitation to join Young Life staff and be in a training program led by Reinhold. In Don’s words, “I went to a reception for new staff at a beautiful home in Northwest D.C. At this beautiful home, I met a beautiful volunteer leader who later, by the grace of God and my good fortune, became my wife.” During the years immediately following this meeting, Carol worked on summer staff at both Silver Cliff and Saranac (where she and Don were engaged), and upon being married, the two led the Herndon Young Life club together. During this time Don met a local Juvenile Court judge who was chair of the local Young Life committee. The Judge asked Don to join his staff as a probation officer, and the seeds for a career in the legal field were planted. Not long after this, Don enrolled at the University of Virginia School of Law. After graduation, he served on the faculty of the law school until he and Carol moved to Richmond to raise their growing family and Don began the private practice of law.

While in Richmond, Carol was the area Young Life Amicus representative for five years, and they both served on the local Young Life committee. During these years, the Lemons’ three children attended Young Life camps, while their parents chaperoned junior high camps and served as adult guest hosts at Windy Gap and Saranac.

Today, Don doesn’t have quite as much time to serve Young Life, as he was recently elected to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. In that capacity he is responsible for administering the entire judicial branch of government in Virginia. The new Chief Justice has served as a judge or justice at every level of the judiciary in Virginia and has served as a member of the faculty at the law schools of the University of Virginia, the University of Richmond, and the Washington and Lee University School of Law. He has also recently served as president of the American Inns of Court.

According to long-time friend, Young Life senior vice president of International North, Dr. Lee Corder, “It has been my distinct privilege to share friendship with Don and Carol Lemons since the 1970s. For those many years I witnessed a couple of the highest integrity, professionalism and service, and deep and abiding faith.” Friend and pastor at Swift Creek Presbyterian Church, David “Tuck” Knupp, writes, “As Don’s career trajectory has taken him into ever-greater spheres of influence, he and Carol have never lost their interest in and love for the mission of Young Life. Don’s gifts of wisdom and teaching, and Carol’s gifts of hospitality and friendship, along with the solid Christ-centeredness and sense of humor that they both share, have continued to encourage and mentor many in the Young Life family. They have truly been valued lifelong partners with all of us in Young Life.”

Don and Carol, thank you for your ongoing partnership and for the excellence with which you represent the Young Life mission. We are proud to honor you as our 2014 Distinguished Young Life Alumni Award recipients.