SOU President's Medal, highest award, goes to three retired faculty members

SOU’s highest award to go to three retired faculty members

(Ashland, Ore.) — SOU President Rick Bailey will present three retired faculty members with the highest recognition of service to the university during a celebration from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union.

The SOU President’s Medal will be awarded to poet Lawson Fusao Inada, artist Betty LaDuke and linguist “Señora Chela” Grace Tapp Kocks.

“These three extraordinary scholars and teachers served our university and our students with brilliance for a combined 99 years, and also distinguished themselves as significant innovators in their individual fields of study,” President Bailey said in an announcement to campus. “Each has earned the deepest respect and gratitude of our campus community, and has made a lasting impression on our world.”

Inada joined the SOU faculty in 1966 and taught until 2002. He is a third-generation Japanese American, and the betrayal that he felt when his family was confined in internment camps during World War II shaped much of the poetry that would lead him to prominence. His four published collections of poetry included winners of the Oregon Book Award and the American Book Award, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, was named Oregon’s poet laureate in 2006 and his words are inscribed in stone at the Japanese American Historical Plaza in Portland. Inada received a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Oregon.

LaDuke arrived at SOU in 1964 and taught until 1996. She was the second woman art teacher when she joined the SOU faculty and was the only woman in the Art Department for 18 years. She has traveled the world for more than 65 years, sketching, painting and telling stories through her art of people linked to the land and community, during peace and war – from civil rights struggles in the 1960s and 1970s, to recent works focused on farms and farmworkers. She received the Oregon Governor’s Award in the Arts in 1993 and the National Art Education Association’s Ziegfield Award for distinguished international leadership in 1996. The National Museum of Eritrea dedicated a gallery to her paintings in 2017. LaDuke received a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in printmaking, both from California State University, Los Angeles

“Señora Chela” came to SOU in 1966 to teach Spanish and French, and soon became the university’s cornerstone of multicultural outreach. She directed SOU’s international shows for 25 years, serving as a conduit between the university and the Rogue Valley’s Hispanic community. She is the architect of both a 54-year sister city relationship between Ashland and the Mexican city of Guanajuato, and SOU’s Amistad exchange program with the Universidad de Guanajuato. More than 750 students have participated in the exchange program since 1969, and hundreds of Ashland and Guanajuato residents have visited their sister cities. She was named an emeritus member of the SOU faculty in 1997. She received a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University, Greeley, and a master’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The SOU President’s Medal, established in 1984, is the university’s highest tribute and is awarded as often as once per year to one or more community members who are distinguished by their actions and contributions. It has previously been presented to 59 individuals and organizations, most recently in August 2022 to Mexican politician and SOU alumnus Juan Carlos Romero Hicks and his wife, Frances “Faffie” Siekman Romero.

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.