University’s service award honors seven, changes name

At a ceremony on April 21, 2005, seven recipients of the 2005 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award were honored for their dedication to improving the St. Louis Region.

The Ethic of Service Award recognizes a select group of Washington University community members annually who exemplify a character of service and giving to the St. Louis region. Created last year as part of the University’s commemoration of its sesquicentennial anniversary, the award was initially named the Sesquicentennial Ethic of Service Award. This year, the award was renamed to acknowledge the generous support of Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil and to recognize the couple’s service to others.

Stephanie Kurtzman, director of community service at Washington University who administers the award, sees the Virgil name as a perfect fit for this special award.

“The Ethic of Service Award is an inspiring testimony to the good work being done in St. Louis by members of our University community. It is so fitting that the award be attached to the Virgils’ name and their years of dedicated service to St. Louis and to Washington University,” Kurtzman said.

Bob and Gerry Virgil have been outstanding citizens of both the Washington University and St. Louis communities for decades. Bob Virgil has held a variety of leadership positions during his long career at the University. As dean of the Olin School of Business from 1977 to 1993 he led the school through its biggest period of growth and development. In 1992, he was named executive vice chancellor for university relations. The Virgils continued their joint involvement with Washington University after his retirement in 1993 to join Edward Jones as a general partner. Several years later, he volunteered to steer a committee to celebrate the University’s 150th anniversary.

The Virgils both support a number of organizations that advance the region. Gerry Virgil is a member of the Philanthropic Educational Organization and is an active supporter of Kirkwood’s Meals on Wheels program and the Glendale Presbyterian Church. Bob Virgil has been involved in a number of St. Louis organizations, including the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the Magic House, City Academy, Harris Stowe State College, and a citizens’ task force on the Metropolitan Sewer District.

Nominations for next year’s awards will be accepted until February 10, 2006. Any member of the Washington University community who resides in and serves the St. Louis region is eligible for nomination. For more information on the award and to submit a nomination, visit the Web page at or call Stephanie Kurtzman at (314) 935-9659.

The seven recipients of the 2005 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award are:

As the associate dean for diversity, director of the Office of Diversity Programs, and assistant professor in medicine in the renal division at Washington University School of Medicine, Will Ross, M.D., promotes cultural diversity throughout the medical center. A longtime advocate of public health and healthcare for the medically underserved, he has produced educational videos, public service announcements, and monographs on eliminating healthcare disparities. Ross was awarded the “Humanism in Medicine Award” from Washington University School of Medicine in 2001.

In 1993, Bob Hansman, associate professor in the School of Architecture, started a small program for children who were living in poverty in St. Louis to teach them how to draw and paint. In 1999, he began the Hewlett Program in Architecture, which introduces undergraduate students – particularly incoming freshmen – to cultural and social aspects of St. Louis. Hansman received a World of Difference Award in 1996, a Missouri Arts Award and an award from Colin Powell’s America’s Promise campaign in 1999.

For more than 25 years, Elinor Nelson has worked in the financial services department as a grant analyst. In addition to her work at the University, Nelson is active in the community and in her church. In 2000, Nelson founded 2000 Feet, Inc., which provides shoes for children in the St. Louis area. After nearly five years, 2000 Feet has provided 652 children with shoes.

Jami Crespo is a senior majoring in Spanish and social though and analysis. She has served as an executive board member for Dance Marathon and as a program leader for Campus Y’s WU HOPE (HIV Outreach, Prevention, and Education). Crespo’s involvement in WU HOPE has led her to coordinate and teach HIV education programs for her peers and St. Louis community members. This year, Crespo also directed the A.I.D.S. Show (Artistic Interpretation Designed to Stimulate), a variety show that raised campus and community awareness.

Marla Esser, a 1984 alumna of the School of Engineering, was selected for her work organizing and mentoring students to run the Washington University Marrow Registry, WUMR. In 2001, she helped to launch the Million Marrow Donor Program, which added 2,500 donors with its first drive. She has assisted with bone marrow drives at the University and helped to found B Positive, an organization that hosts drives and educates the public about bone marrow diseases.

Sara Lawlyes, a School of Law student, currently serves as a regional alumni coordinator for Teach For America and is considering working for the Teach For America organization after graduation. Through her position as chair of the community service committee of the Student Bar Association, she has coordinated many projects, including the School of Law’s blood drives, public service fair, holiday giving tree and a team for Relay For Life.

Stacy Brock, a senior majoring in psychology and educational studies, established and manages a tutoring program at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club in East St. Louis. Stacy not only runs the program, but she works to educate University students on social issues in an attempt to create an understanding of her program’s mission.