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Ethic of Service Award celebrates 20 years of honorees 

The Gephardt Institute hosts the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Awards each year. Here, our 2023 honorees were honored on April 25, 2023, at Washington University’s Stix House. Click on the icons to view more photos and honoree bios. Photos by Sid Hastings/WUSTL Photos

“The Ethic of Service Award recognizes those in the vanguard who, by their extraordinary example and their extraordinary civic engagement, are out there on the ground, showing the rest of us the way.” – Bob Virgil 

Bob Virgil, who with his spouse Gerry Virgil are the namesakes of the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award, spoke about the importance of recognizing service to the St. Louis community at the ceremony honoring the 2023 awardees.  

Held on April 25, the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Awards ceremony marked its 20th anniversary. Barbara Baumgartner, Nkemjika Abad Emenike, Daniel Keating, and Duana Russell-Thomas were selected for the 2023 honors from a slate of nominations gathered last fall.  

Virgil, Dean Emeritus of Olin Business School, recognized a need to uplift exemplary service to the St. Louis region—a stake in the ground to honor and support those who are actively committed to our local community. The 20th anniversary of the award, and honorees’ engagement with St. Louis, was highlighted in an article in The Source.  

The 2023 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Awards ceremony, in which more than 100 gathered to celebrate the honorees, began with a reception and cocktail hour before the awards were presented.  

“I’m delighted to welcome all of you here to an extra special occasion as we celebrate the honorees of the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award, as well as the 20th anniversary of this very special award,” said Stephanie Kurtzman, Executive Director of the Gephardt Institute, as she opened the program. 

Bob and Gerry Virgil (center) helped celebrate the honorees of their namesake award on April 25, 2023. Photo by Sid Hastings/WUSTL photos

Many guests attended the event alongside the honorees’ families, friends, and colleagues/ past honorees, Congressman Dick Gephardt, founder of the Gephardt Institute, Provost Beverly Wendland, and members of the Gephardt Institute’s National Advisory Council were also in attendance.  

“This award uplifts the people within the WashU community who are exemplars of civic engagement. We know that you might have come to honor one person or might have come curious about all four of our honorees. I assure you that you will walk away inspired by all of them whether you knew them before or not,” Kurtzman said.  

Before presenting the Ethic of Service Awards, Wendland spoke about the importance of the program, especially in the context that it exemplifies the Washington University mission to be “in, for and with St. Louis.” 

“[Washington University] Chancellor Martin’s commitment to St. Louis rests on the deep partnerships and community service that so many people have sought to build over the years,” she said. “And so, it’s really appropriate that we pause and honor those previous recipients of the Gerry and Bob Ethic of Service Award. And importantly, the community partners who have worked to do so much for our city.” 

Reflecting on his vision in founding the Gephardt Institute, Congressman Gephardt expanded on the importance of recognizing community and civic service.  

“To me, this award is much more important and consequential than any Oscar award, or any Emmy award, or any ESPY award, or any award that you’ve ever heard of,” said Gephardt, addressing the crowd. “The only way to long-term happiness and contentment is human relationships and helping other people who need help. That is your reward. And that’s the most important reward that any of us can ever have.” 

Founded during Washington University in St. Louis’ Sesquicentennial year, the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award is an annual award recognizing a select group of WashU community members who exemplify a character of service and engagement with the St. Louis region.  

Any member of the WashU community, past or current, who resides in and serves the St. Louis community is eligible to receive the award. This includes students, faculty, staff, alumni, retirees, and volunteers* of the university. Nominations for the 2024 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Awards will open this fall.  

*For purposes of the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award, university volunteers have a formal, active, and sustained role with a Washington University organization, usually in a leadership capacity, through the Board of Trustees, National Advisory Councils, or recognized university auxiliary organizations.