CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Former Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage and volleyball player Milla Ciprian were honored by the Atlantic Coast Conference today (Oct. 18) as Virginia’s recipients of the 2023 ACC UNITE Award.

The award was created to honor individuals affiliated with the league who promote and encourage racial equity and social justice through education, partnerships, engagement and advocacy. Those selected have helped create meaningful, lasting change by improving systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes or have been pioneers and/or helped pave the way for minorities either at the institution or in the community.

The UNITE Award is an initiative of the ACC’s Committee for Racial and Social Justice (CORE – Champions of Racial Equity). Each school selects its two recipients based on the above criteria and can choose to celebrate their selections at campus events throughout the academic year.

Littlepage was named Virginia’s athletics director in 2001, becoming the first African-American athletics director in both ACC and school history. Through his leadership, student-athletes saw success in their sport, in the classroom and in the community. Virginia teams won 13 national championships and 76 ACC titles during his tenure.

As a pioneer in college athletics, Littlepage was named the Black Coaches Association’s “Athletics Administrator of the Year” in 2003 and 2006 and made Sports Illustrated’s list of the 101 most influential minorities in sports in 2003 and 2004. He has presented and mentored at the NCAA’s Ethnic Minority Male Institute and the Black Coaches Administrator Association and was named one of Black Enterprise magazine’s “Most Powerful African-Americans in Sports.” Additionally, he has led NCAA leadership development programs which were designed to help aspiring football and basketball head coach and athletics administrator candidates.

Littlepage retired from his position in 2017 after 35 combined years of service at UVA (16 years as athletic director, 11 years in other administrative capacities and eight years across two stints as an assistant men’s basketball coach) before transitioning to a position in the university president’s office.

His leadership was praised by staff, coaches, and students. ACC Commissioner John Swofford also honored Littlepage: “Craig is one of the most highly respected individuals within the ACC, among his peers, and across the overall landscape of collegiate athletics. Even more impressive is how remarkable he is as a person, which is why I’ve always described him as one of the true gentlemen in our profession.”

Ciprian, a 2022 UVA graduate, created lasting change during her time on Grounds. Ciprian was instrumental in the creation of Black Student-Athletes Offering Service and Support (B.O.S.S.), an affinity group which supports and provides community to black student-athletes at Virginia. As president, she organized events such as game nights, alumni panels and crucial conversations following George Floyd’s death.

Ciprian was also a leader in SAAC; she pushed for the addition of a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice subcommittee and later became vice president. In this role, Ciprian coordinated the first Pride Game at UVA, a Hoo’s Hoo Fair to highlight student affinity groups within the department and a Unity Walk. The purpose of the walk was to educate peers and staff on the historical and lingering effects of structural racism in Charlottesville.

Lastly, Ciprian was a constant volunteer in the local community. A winner of the ACC Top XI for Service Award, she volunteered in lower-income neighborhoods in Charlottesville, at the local Boys and Girls Club, and at the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center. Ciprian left her mark at UVA and in the Charlottesville community, pushing for racial equity and social justice for all of those around her.

2023 UNITE Award Recipients

Boston College: John Austin & Joana Maynard
Dr. James E. (Jim) Bostic Jr. & Dr. Rhondda Thomas
Dr. Kevin White & Marissa Young
Florida State: 
Angel Gray & Corey Simon
Georgia Tech: 
Charles Easley & Carla Gilson
Wade Houston & Alyssa Murphy
Dr. Laura Kohn-Wood & Dr. Donald Spivey
North Carolina: 
Ricky Lanier & Karen Stevenson
NC State: 
Chavonda Jacobs-Young & Cullen Jones
Notre Dame: 
JP Abercrumbie & Justin Morrow
Ron Idoko & Sheila I. Velez Martinez
Clothilde Ewing & Noah Singlemann
Milla Ciprian & Craig Littlepage
Virginia Tech: 
Kahlil Dover & Jacelyn Lazore
Wake Forest: 
Dr. Larry Hopkins & Professor Muriel “Beth” Hopkins