Gephardt News

2019 Ethic of Service Award Ceremony Honors Exceptional Community Members

The 16th annual Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award was presented to an outstanding group of honorees at a special ceremony last month, celebrating the passionate dedication of these individuals to serving the Washington University and St. Louis communities. This year’s ceremony saw a record number of attendees, with nearly 200 guests gathering to honor the award recipients and hear their inspiring stories.

The evening opened with remarks from Stephanie Kurtzman, Peter G. Sortino Director of the Gephardt Institute, and John Beuerlein, MBA ’77, Trustee and Gephardt Institute National Council Chair. Bob Virgil, one of the award’s namesakes, was in attendance. For more than 30 years, Gerry and Bob Virgil have represented the qualities of service and giving exemplified by the Ethic of Service Award, both together and individually. Provost Holden Thorp also attended and shared his congratulations and appreciation of the Gephardt Institute’s work across the university.

The honorees come from a variety of backgrounds and demonstrate the range of forms that civic engagement can take.

  • Jared Lalmansingh, a doctoral candidate in the department of physics, has worked to expand the Physics Outreach Committee to connect with the community in previously unimagined ways.
  • Rupa Patel, assistant professor of medicine, founded and directs the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention (PrEP) Program, advocating for accessibility for all.
  • Laurie Punch, associate professor of surgery in the School of Medicine, directs Power4STL, a non-profit that aims to reduce harm from violence through community health outreach.
  • Alexis Vidaurreta, class of 2019, leads projects focused on sustainability and environmental justice, seeking community-based solutions.
  • Aaron Williams, AB ’08, seeks ways to uplift and celebrate The Ville and educate the region about The Ville’s history of Black excellence and the systemic inequities that disrupted it.
  • Olivia Williams, class of 2020, champions equity through her on- and off-campus efforts, creating lasting change through initiatives such as the Student Union (SU) Opportunity Fund, the SU racial bias task force, the SafeSpot, a wellness center that ensures marginalized students receive coordinated and integrated care, and more.

The stories of these remarkable people inspire the WashU community to continue taking action to advance the progress and vitality of the St. Louis region with empathy and humility. 

The ceremony closed with remarks from Congressman Dick Gephardt, founder of the Gephardt Institute, who congratulated the honorees. Congressman Gephardt summarized the themes that ran throughout the award ceremony, ending with a call to action: “We are all citizens of this great country, but that means we have to act as citizens, to be engaged in our community and with each other. We have to love, we have to respect, we have to care about each other.”

Do you know someone who exemplifies an ethic of service and engagement with the St. Louis region? Nominations for the 2020 Ethic of Service Award are due Friday, November 15, 2019. Learn more.