(Ashland, Ore.) — A contingent from Southern Oregon University will visit sister institution Universidad de Guanajuato in the coming days to present SOU’s highest service award to prominent Mexican politician and SOU alumnus Juan Carlos Romero Hicks and his wife, Frances “Faffie” Siekman Romero.
“Juan Carlos and Faffie are true and longstanding friends of SOU and our entire community,” said SOU President Rick Bailey, who will present the couple with the SOU President’s Medal in a ceremony on Monday, Aug. 8. “They have honored their ties to SOU and the city of Ashland throughout their remarkable careers, and have gone to great lengths to strengthen the social and academic cross-cultural partnerships that we all enjoy.”
The two have tirelessly supported connections between the two universities – and the communities of Ashland and Guanajuato – since Romero Hicks enrolled at SOU for the first time in 1978. He earned master’s degrees from SOU in business administration and social sciences and has since served as rector (president) of the Universidad de Guanajuato, governor of the state of Guanajuato, a federal senator and currently as minority leader for the National Action Party (PAN) in the lower chamber of Mexico’s legislative branch. He has announced his 2024 presidential candidacy.
Faffie Siekman has focused on humanitarianism and philanthropy, supporting causes such as adequate eye care for the people of Mexico, building materials for families in need and animal welfare – including a burro rescue program near Guanajuato. She has matched donations to the Ashland Amigo Club’s Endowed Scholarship Fund – managed by the SOU Foundation – since the fund was established in 2017; it has resulted in 10 scholarships to date for students to study in either Ashland or Guanajuato.
The couple’s first child was born in Ashland, the day before Romero Hicks began classes at SOU. He has often said that his life was changed by the Amistad Program, which enables student exchanges between SOU and UG.
“When I became president of the University of Guanajuato, I said none of that would have happened if it weren’t for my experiences with the exchange program,” Romero Hicks said. “It gave me the education and the global perspective that shaped who I am.”
The SOU President’s Medal, established in 1984, is the university’s highest tribute and is awarded as often as once per year to a community member who is distinguished by her or his actions and contributions. It has previously been presented to 57 individuals and organizations, most recently in August 2019 to Confederated Tribes of the Siletz elder Agnes “Grandma Aggie” Pilgrim.
Recipients of the medal are recognized for their exemplary service to the university and community, and for demonstrating compassion, integrity, generosity, leadership and courage. The SOU president determines when and to whom the award is presented.
President Bailey, SOU Board of Trustees Chair Daniel Santos and Janet Fratella, SOU’s vice president for university advancement and executive director of the SOU Foundation, will represent the university in Guanajuato.