Accomplishments, bravery and excellence are recognized at the University of Texas Police at Houston (UT Police) annual Promotions and Awards Ceremony. This year the ceremony returned to coincide with National Police Week in May in a virtual format.
The program opened with a welcome from Chief of Police William H. Adcox praising UT Police employees for their service during a horrible pandemic. “All the work that's been done all the changes and all the ways in which each and every person has adapted is phenomenal,” said Adcox in his opening statement.
Adcox also spoke to social justice movements that have gripped Americans. “Social justice movements are important to our country as we work through these issues, and it comes out much better, on the other end,” said Adcox. “And so, we certainly will do everything within our powers to set the example and in perhaps even be a beacon for others to follow.”
Shibu Varghese, senior vice president of people and business operations, and chief diversity officer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, echoed Adcox’s sentiments, “All this unrest that we've been through over the last 12 months, and especially in your profession, there has been a major spotlight on police departments all across the country, and we continue to heal and focus on change.”
Varghese joined the ceremony to introduce April’s Heart of MD Anderson, which recognizes employees who consistently embody MD Anderson’s core values of Caring, Integrity and Discovery, UT Police Public Safety Officer Elson Ayoub.
“My favorite thing that I learned about Elson is that one of the many little things where goes above and beyond is for every patient that leaves the organization as they're leaving the hospital he offers to cut their wristband their identification band, and once he takes that he puts it in a bag and what he does is, before he shreds all those, he prays over those bands hoping for God's mercy on all of those patients, and you know, I mean, it just really touches me,” said Varghese of Ayoub.
The Heart of MD Anderson recognition was followed by this year’s keynote address by Michael R. Blackburn, Ph.D., executive vice president and chief academic officer at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
In his address, Blackburn congratulated and thanked this year’s promotions and award recipients for their positive attitude, enthusiasm, and dedication to the law enforcement field.
“My wife and I were discussing this event this morning and reflecting on how much, not just UTPD, but how much law enforcement has gone through this last year, and how important it is that we all recognize the hard work that all of our first responders do,” said Blackburn is his address.
Every year, UT Police team members nominate colleagues for notable achievements in their work. An awards committee representing a cross-section of UT Police staff are appointed by the Chief of Police and are tasked with selecting and making commendation medals, which are then approved by the Chief of Police and the UT System Office of the Director of Police.
For the first time, two community members representing the department’s Community Partnership Council participated as voting members this year.
Stacy LeBlanc, research department administrator in veterinary medicine and surgery, and Kevina Othieno, business services manager in the nursing administration, both shared their appreciation for UT Police and shared personal experiences as first-time Awards Committee members.
“It's an honor to be here, I very much appreciate everything that UTPD does for us in my department and globally,” said LeBlanc. “It's an honor to be involved.”
Concluding the guest speaker portion of the program, Othieno described her experience saying, “it was an honor to serve on the Awards Committee, it was a very humbling experience for me to read through all the nominations.”
The awards portion of the ceremony opened with Chief Adcox announcing two special recognitions for UT Police. One, a new Covid-19 medal to commemorate the sacrifice and successes of the pandemic. And two, a Teamwork Award for the Winter Storm Uri response.
Ceremony speakers announced at the ceremony external award recognitions, educational achievements, professional certifications, teamwork and individual efforts, promotions, and the program concluded with employee of the year awards.
The Executive Leadership Team named the Civilian Employee of the Year, Asset Technician Lamar Pitre, Public Safety Officer of the Year, Public Safety Officer Vera Hayes, Telecommunicator of the Year, Sr. Police Telecommunicator Josselyn Alvarez, Investigator of the Year, Inspector Mary Lentschke, and Officer of the Year, Officer Keylon LaSalle.
Visit the Accolades section and click through the links below for a complete listing of noteworthy accomplishments.