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Committee on the Status of Women Recognizes Faculty, Staff and Administrators for Mentoring Efforts
In addressing event organizers and attendees, Jingping Xu, PhD, MPH, summed up the spirit of the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) annual awards event, held March 19 at the Fayez S. Sarofim Research Building.
"By honoring my mentor you are honoring me and all the mentees by showing us that our development is important to you."
The Distinguished Professional Woman Award was established by CSW in 1984 to honor a woman who has been recognized as an outstanding achiever in the Houston community, the state of Texas or the nation. In 1995, the President's Award for Mentoring Women was created. This distinction and a cash award, sponsored by the Office of the President, is given to one University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston employee in each of three categories: Classified Staff, Faculty and Administrative and Professional (A&P).
The purpose of CSW is to encourage open communication regarding the recruitment, retention and advancement of women at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. All award recipients must be nominated by women. As each woman introduced the award recipient she nominated, a clear theme echoed in their words. All award recipients are skilled listeners, experienced leaders and above all, compassionate mentors.
Xu nominated the recipient of the faculty category for the President's Award for Mentoring Women, Robert Roberts, PhD, professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health.
Xu said that before she met Roberts, she encountered his reputation among students.
"I had classmates warn me, 'Dr. Roberts is very strict,'" Xu recalled. "I admit there were a couple of times I wanted to cry."
Xu said that Roberts also made her want to try harder and she eventually received a graded research paper on which Roberts wrote "excellent" across the top.
"From wanting to cry to getting high praises is a long way, but we got here," Xu said with a smile.
"Dr. Roberts has a keen eye and can look at students and see which ones have potential. He was the first one, besides myself, who believed I could become a PhD," Xu added.
Roberts was unable to attend the ceremony.
Classified Staff Award
The recipient of the classified staff award, Lt. John Wayner, was nominated by Sgt. Angelina Lemmonds. Both work for the UT Police Department.
"Lt. Wayner once told me that a negative attitude will sabotage any success I may see," Lemmonds said, "but if I had a positive attitude with great passion, I could succeed at anything. He was right."
Lemmonds met Wayner 10 years ago when she was still in the academy and she said he has been a steadfast supporter of her career in law enforcement ever since.
"He impacted my personal growth by helping me identify my strengths and weaknesses.
He helped me identify those things I did best and encouraged me to do more of them.
The things I did the worst, he encouraged me to stop doing," Lemmonds joked.
Wayner has served on the UTPD for more than 30 years. Hired as a cadet in December 1978, he was promoted to Sergeant in 1980 and to Lieutenant in 2004.
"I think it's a privilege and an honor to be a mentor and to get to work with all these people," Wayner said of his work at the health science center and UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "One of the most important things about mentoring is the ability to listen intently."
Administration and Professional Award
Sudarat Kiat-Amnuay, DDS, introduced the winner of the Administration and Professional award, Richard D. Bebermeyer, DDS, chair and professor of Restorative Dentistry at the Dental Branch, by noting that "each year, he nominates others for awards with no expectation of anything in return."
"Because he expects the best from everyone, he brings out the best," she said
"Dr. Bebermeyer has been a wonderful mentor and is always ready to help. He is passionate about teaching and improving the quality of education."
Displaying characteristic modesty, Bebermeyer accepted the award by saying, "I am honored and humbled by this award. I think there were many mentors who were deserving."
He added his thanks to his many mentors, including Dental Branch Dean Catherine Flaitz, DDS.
"This makes me enjoy and appreciate my work. Each day's a new day," Bebermeyer said.
Distinguished Professional Woman Award
The final award presented at the event, the Distinguished Professional Woman Award, went to Cheryl Perry, PhD, regional dean of the UT School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus. Steven Kelder, PhD, co-director of the UT School of Public Health Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, nominated Perry.
"She really launched me in my career," Kelder said, recalling his years of working as one of Perry's graduate students at the University of Minnesota.
If not for Perry's encouragement, Kelder might not have pursued a doctorate degree.
"I grew up in Northern Illinois. My family is a blue-collar family that works in factories. I had this idea I would go to graduate school and get a Master's Degree to work in health promotion," Kelder recalled. "Somewhere along the line, Cheryl said, 'Steve, I think you can do a PhD.' So, that was the beginning of our mentoring relationship."
Perry gave Kelder data from a seven-year cohort study on a heart health community education program. It was this research that marked the beginning of Kelder's academic career.
"We published several papers and a couple of book chapters on the study," Kelder said. "What Cheryl did for me is teach me how to act and behave in an academic environment. She coached me on what it means to be on faculty, what it means to be a professional."
Kelder added, "because of the quality of work she's engaged in and because of who she is as a professional, she's been able to give those that she mentors some real blue chip opportunities."
Perry's research involves the design, development, implementation and evaluation of school and community programs for youth, especially in the areas of tobacco and alcohol use, eating and physical activity. She is senior scientific editor for the 2010 Surgeon General's Report on youth and tobacco use. She earned her Bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles; her Master's in education from the University of California, Davis; and her PhD in education from Stanford University.
"I was blessed with very intelligent, unusual and indulgent parents. They were not bound by what is right for a girl to do or not do as a professional," Perry said.
She said the loss of both her parents at relatively young ages prompted her interest in public health and community education.
"I really believe that having the right mentor is important for a long career in research," Perry added.
She recited a portion of a poem by Archie Ammons, Tape, that she said described the essence of her career philosophies.
Don't establish the boundaries first, the squares, triangles, boxes of preconceived possibility, and then pour life into them, trimming off left-over edges, ending potential: let centers proliferate from self-justifying motions!
Perry concluded by saying, "I hope to keep proliferating for some time to come."
By Wendy K. Mohon, Institutional Advancement