Stiritz Honored with Ethic of Service Award

Community Engagement; Faculty; Social Work

Founded in 2004 to celebrate Washington University’s 150th year, the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award recognizes a select group of individuals from the WashU community who show exemplary commitment to service and engagement within the St. Louis area. This year’s honorees possess compassion, selflessness and a talent to inspire action in others — qualities embodied by Gerry Virgil, who died in 2023. 

“Gerry Virgil was a model of service for the WashU campus and the St. Louis region,” said Stephanie Kurtzman, the Peter G. Sortino Executive Director of the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. “This year’s recipients honor her legacy.” 

The 2024 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award honorees are:

Andrew de las Alas: A junior majoring in global studies in Arts & Sciences, de las Alas is vice president of engagement in Student Union, a Gephardt Institute St. Louis Fellow, a Merle Kling Fellow and co-president of the Asian Multicultural Council, among other activities. De las Alas also has supported voter outreach efforts, worked for legislation that recognizes May as Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Missouri and spearheaded a partnership with a St. Louis-based mutual aid organization to host a voter registration and social services event.

Sneha Chaturvedi: An MD/PhD candidate in neuroscience, Chaturvedi led a team of more than 200 students in creating medical training resources regarding sex differences and racial justice in education and gender bias in medicine and started a monthly journal club to discuss the ethical issues surrounding autism research. She also serves as a teaching assistant for younger medical students, volunteers as a Spanish medical interpreter at a community clinic and helps refugees and immigrants living in St. Louis by driving and accompanying them to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement appointments.

Bella Gomez: A sophomore majoring in Latin American studies and global studies in Arts & Sciences, Gomez is a Danforth Scholar and a member of academic honorary groups Lock and Chain and Sigma Iota Rho. She volunteers with East Side Aligned and the Thirst Project as a grant writer. She also volunteers with KidsVision for Life, serves as a mentor with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis and tutors at Jefferson Elementary School. Gomez is a research assistant at the youth startup “ThinkPlayful,” and joined the 2024 cohort of LeadNext Fellows with the Asia Foundation.

Dwayne T. James: The director of equity, diversity and inclusion for the University of Missouri Extension, an adjunct instructor for the Civic Scholars Program and a former Ferguson council member, James has co-led programs such as the Neighborhood Leadership Fellows and Youth Empowerment Program to amplify the voices of North St. Louis city and county residents and train youth in community leadership. James is chair of the St. Louis County Human Relations Commission and serves on the boards of Cultural Leadership/LEADStL and One West Florissant Community Development Corp. He is also a founding member of the Ferguson Youth Initiative.

Susan E. StiritzAn alumna and a professor of practice at the Brown School, Stiritz teaches the importance of student health, safety and well-being and conducts sex research centered on holistic sexuality education and developmental sexuality. She also serves as the chair of the sexual health and education specialization in the master of social work program at the Brown School and as a board member and chair of the education committee of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

Stiritz (center), the 2024 recipient of the Virgil Ethic of Service Award, with Dalychia Saah, assistant professor of practice and Paz Galupo, the Audre Lorde Distinguished Professor of Sexual Health & Education, at the reception for the Virgil Ethic of Service Awards. (Photo: Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement)