WACO, Texas (Jan. 12, 2023) – Baylor University today announced the recipients of the 2023 Baylor Alumni Awards, which honor individuals who embody the distinctive mission of the University and their remarkable achievements. A celebration honoring the impact of Baylor alumni around the world and recognizing this year’s recipients will be held on campus Feb. 24, 2023.
“Baylor is blessed with amazing alumni serving their communities and through their professions around the world. The 2023 Baylor Alumni Award honorees represent the far-reaching impact of the University mission, to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service, and provide meaningful examples of how Baylor’s unique experience as a Christian research university transforms lives and helps students find and follow their callings,” said President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “We are honored to recognize this remarkable group of Baylor Alumni Award recipients for their outstanding contributions to Baylor and society.”
This year’s Baylor Alumni Awards recipients are:
Alumni of the Year
The Alumni of the Year honor is awarded to a graduate who has achieved distinction through exceptional contributions to our international, national, state or community welfare. This year’s Baylor Alumnus of the Year is Maj. Gen. Joel Carey, B.A. ’92, Director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration – United States Air Force in Europe and Africa.
In his current role, Carey oversees a directorate staff and the 603rd Air Operations Center, enabling integrated air and space operations for Europe and Africa. He is a pilot with more than 3,200 hours, primarily in fighter aircraft, including more than 600 combat hours. Carey’s 29-year Air Force career includes serving as commander of a fighter squadron, vice commander of two air expeditionary wings and commander of three wings, including a flying training wing, air expeditionary wing and the Air Force’s largest overseas combat wing.
Prior to his current position, Carey was the Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Headquarters Allied Air Command at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He has been awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and multiple Air Medals, among others. While a Baylor student, he played football for Coach Grant Teaff from 1988-90, was active in Kappa Omega Tau and was a member of Air Force ROTC.
Young Alumni of the Year
The Young Alumni of the Year honor is awarded to a graduate under age 40 who has achieved distinction through exceptional contributions to our international, national, state or community welfare. This year’s Baylor Young Alumna of the Year is Richa Sirohi, B.S. ’18, of Pasadena, California, End-to End Information Systems Engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Sirohi works on the communication architecture for the NISAR project – an advanced radar imaging satellite system that will provide unprecedented, detailed views of Earth’s most complex processes. In addition, she has worked on the Psyche Mission, the Mars Perseverance Rover, the Cold Atom Laboratory and a Lunar Mission Concept, among others.
Sirohi is passionate about building diverse communities, engaging in educational outreach in schools, mentoring student interns and inspiring young women to pursue careers in STEM. Sirohi founded the Jet Propulsion Lab’s Early Career Community and is the 2021 recipient of the NASA-JPL Bruce Murray Award for her work in educational outreach.
Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service
The Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service is awarded to individuals whose broad contributions to Christian ministry have made an immeasurable impact. This year’s Medal of Service is awarded to David Hardage, B.A. ’79, D.Min., of Dallas, retired Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
For the past 11 years, Hardage has led the state’s oldest Baptist convention in its work to support local churches, activate social ministries, support missions and spread the Word of God. He led the BGCT through a time of transition as it reorganized its ministry centers to be more focused and effective, divested the building owned by the Convention and relocated offices to streamline costs.
Throughout his career, Hardage has been deeply engaged in denominational life, serving as chair of the BGCT State Missions Commission, chair of the Missions Funding Committee and trustee at East Texas Baptist University. Hardage also has served as director of development for Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary and director of the Waco Baptist Association and has pastored churches in Texas and Oklahoma.
Pro Texana Medal of Service
The Pro Texana Medal of Service recognizes an individual or individuals whose contributions in furthering the mission of Baylor have made an immeasurable impact in the public or nonprofit sector. This year’s recipients are Alan, B.A. ’92, M.D., and Vicki (Hicks), B.A. ’92, Keister of Amarillo.
Alan, an internal medicine physician with Amarillo Medical Specialists, provides primary care to adults in his community. Vicki served as a physical therapist before leaving practice to raise the couple’s four daughters.
In 2013, Alan began offering free health screenings at various schools in Amarillo. The response demonstrated a drastic lack of access to healthcare in the area. The overwhelming response from community members and the generous support of numerous medical partners, donors and volunteers led to the 2015 purchase of an old YMCA building to house the Heal The City free clinic. The clinic now sees thousands of patients each year, offers wellness classes, provides whole person care, connects patients to food, shelter, clothing, transportation and other assistance in the area and continues to exemplify Christ’s love and hope to those they serve.
W.R. White Meritorious Service Award
The W.R. White Meritorious Service Award is presented in recognition of outstanding service to Baylor and continued loyalty to the University. This year’s recipient is Allison Dickson, J.D. ’07, of Temple.
Dickson has lived by the motto, “I don’t need easy. I just need possible,” and her journey has been anything but easy. Dickson was diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman Muscular Dystrophy when she was 15 months old and was given only a year to live. Today, she serves as a role model for all students to further their education despite their circumstances.
Dickson is of counsel with the Patterson Law Group and a legal research assistant with Baylor Law School, as well as an active community volunteer and philanthropist who champions a range of causes. She founded and organizes an annual Holiday Gift Drive for Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center and collects through community outreach necessary supplies for the homeless and at-risk students in Temple ISD. She also has established multiple scholarships to support college and law students and formed the Allison Dickson Just Need Possible Foundation in 2021 to further her philanthropic projects.
Distinguished Achievement Award
The Distinguished Achievement Award is bestowed on individuals who have made a distinct contribution to their particular profession, business or vocation and in doing so have brought honor to Baylor. Baylor University is proud to honor the late John Cheng, B.A. ’91, M.D., of Aliso Viejo, California, with this year’s award.
Dr. Cheng was Medical Director for the South Coast Medical Group in South Orange County and was widely known for his kind manner and humble spirit. He established a culture of care that encouraged his staff to approach their medical practice with attention to the whole person.
Dr. Cheng died a hero on May 15, 2022, when he charged and attempted to disarm a gunman who attacked the parishioners of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, where he was visiting with his mother. The church worshiped at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California. Dr. Cheng’s actions allowed others to intervene and subdue the shooter and saved dozens of lives. Dr. Cheng was the lone fatality in the attempted mass shooting. During his time at Baylor Dr. Cheng was a member of Kappa Omega Tau (KOT) fraternity. His friends and fraternity brothers remember him as a servant leader who put others before himself and for his favorite quote: “Character is not developed in a crisis; it is only exhibited.”
Merrie Beckham Alumni By Choice of the Year
The Merrie Beckham Alumni By Choice of the Year, named in honor of the first recipient of a Baylor Alumni By Choice Decree and inaugural recipient of Alumni By Choice of the Year in 2021, is presented to an individual who was previously nominated and selected as an Alumni By Choice recipient and who has achieved distinction through exceptional contribution to Baylor’s international, national, state or community welfare. The 2023 honor is awarded to Marie E. Chiles of Dallas.
Marie Chiles received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Chatham University and was named a Baylor Alumna By Choice in 1986. Marie met her husband, John, B.B.A. ’50, J.D. ’52, when she was serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in England, where they married in 1955. Upon returning to Texas, John served as an attorney for Humble Oil and Refining Co., which later became ExxonMobil, until his retirement in 1982.
Marie and John have been among Baylor’s most loyal benefactors for more than 50 years. The Chiles are longtime advocates of Baylor Law School and the Louise Herrington School of Nursing and were the organizers of the Mayborn Museum Complex support group. In 2012, the Chiles were awarded The Founders Medal, the University’s most distinguished honor.
Marie is a devoted member of the Louise Herrington School of Nursing Board of Advocates, and she and John received the first Friends of Nursing Award. They established the Dean’s Good Samaritan Fund and donated three simulators to equip Baylor nursing graduates with the hands-on experience and skills necessary to transition successfully into their medical careers.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
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