Five receive annual Virgil Ethic of Service awards

Awards honor Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil for the couple’s dedicated service to St. Louis and WUSTL

From organizing a kitchen that prepares weekly meals for underserved populations in St. Louis to providing private music instruction to under-resourced youth in the area, the five outstanding individuals who received Washington University’s 2011 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award exemplify a character of service and giving to the St. Louis region.

Founded during WUSTL’s Sesquicentennial year in 2003-04, the Ethic of Service award annually recognizes select members of the university community for their dedication to improving the St. Louis region.

The award is named for Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil, former dean of the Olin Business School and executive vice chancellor for university relations, to recognize the couple’s dedicated service to St. Louis and to Washington University for more than four decades.

This year’s winners, who were recognized at an awards ceremony April 21 in the Knight Center, are Helen Davis, executive director of the Campus YMCA at Washington University from 1976-1995; Kristen Grant, a second-year medical student in the School of Medicine; Larry McCord, WUSTL alumnus (EN ’74, UC ’77); Karin Underwood, a senior biology major in Arts & Sciences and a member of the women’s swim team; and Max Woods, a senior majoring in mathematics and in comparative literature, both in Arts & Sciences, and a member of the men’s tennis team.

Davis has strived for peace and justice for all people throughout her life. Under her leadership, the Campus Y became a diverse and vibrant community of students, who learned about critical social issues and contributed service to the broader community. Through almost two dozen student-led programs, Davis encouraged students to embrace the ethic of service, diversity and commitment to one’s community.

Since her retirement in 1995, Davis continues to actively support social justice in the St. Louis community. She serves St. Louis through her strong commitment to interracial and interfaith understanding; active contributions to both the YMCA and her faith community; and many other volunteer activities in the region. She is working within her church, Pilgrim Congregational, United Church of Christ, toward its becoming officially “Open and Affirming” of persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

Grant is the outreach coordinator for the Community Health in Partnership Services clinic, which serves as a permanent health home for St. Louis’ under- and uninsured communities. Through her work, she has inspired incoming students to see medicine as a service to the community.

She has served as a site leader for Healthy Eating nutrition classes, an instructor for Students Teaching AIDS to Students, and a teacher and curriculum developer for the Health Profession Recruitment Education Program. She also leads the Family Medicine Interest Group. Grant and two of her peers received a Social Change Grant from WUSTL, which allowed her to return to the Marshall Islands, where she had taught for two years, and develop a culturally sensitive nutrition and health curriculum for the schools.

McCord, who had spent years volunteering as a coach for more than 70 youth track teams and leading Boy Scouts, founded with his wife, Marian, CHADS Coalition for Mental Health in memory of their son Chad, who suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2004. The mission of CHADS Coalition is to advance the knowledge and prevention of adolescent depression and suicide through awareness, education, family support and research.

More than 220 schools and community health organizations across Missouri and Southern Illinois are taking proactive measure against depression and suicide in children because of efforts by the staff and volunteers with CHADS Coalition. Since its founding in 2005, CHADS also has raised more than a half a million dollars to fund five research projects, 18 summer fellowships and a senior investigator for five years.

Underwood immersed herself in the St. Louis community soon after arriving at WUSTL in an effort to better understand local hunger and homelessness. As president of the university’s Feed St. Louis student group, she oversaw the group’s efforts to salvage and deliver leftover food from Dining Services.

At the same time, she led a lengthy effort to become affiliated with the Campus Kitchens Project, a national organization with kitchens at more than 20 schools across the United States. Because of Underwood’s steadfast leadership, there is now a Campus Kitchen at Washington University that plays a central role in fighting hunger in St. Louis. Each week, the members of the student-run group salvage high-quality donated food from on- and off-campus sources and repurposes it into meals they prepare and then deliver to some 140 clients.

Woods has developed a lifelong dedication to the educational and artistic needs of his community. A violinist since the age of 5, Woods received a Social Change Grant from WUSTL to co-found Orchestrating Diversity, a high-level orchestral music education program for the under-resourced youth of St. Louis with a focus on personal mastery.

Through Orchestrating Diversity, Woods provides young musicians of St. Louis the opportunity to engage in private instruction with qualified teachers; take classes in music theory, music history, and musicianship; and become part of a skilled ensemble — all at no charge to the students. He also serves on the board of directors for the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, a local nonprofit organization supporting the intellectual and creative growth of St. Louis’ young people.

For more information and complete biographies of this year’s honorees, visit