“Señora Chela” Grace Tapp Kocks receives SOU President’s Medal

On Tuesday, January 9, 2024, Señora Chela, along with three other SOU professor emeriti (Betty LaDuke and Lawson Fusao Inada), received the President’s Award from current president Dr. Rick Bailey. The award was created in 1984 to recognize “individuals who by their service and actions have made a significant and lasting impact on Southern Oregon University. This award is reserved for those individuals who demonstrate exemplary leadership and service to Southern Oregon University and the global community. The President’s Medal is the university’s highest honor.” [Much of the language in this post is from SOU’s announcement about the awards. Photos are by Amigo Club Treasurer Sean Van Ausdell.]

Señora Chela is the architect of SOU’s Amistad exchange program with the Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico, and the 54-year sister-city relationship between Ashland and Guanajuato. More than 750 students have participated in the Amistad program since it began in 1969, and hundreds of citizens from Ashland and Guanajuato have traveled between the two cities to embrace the diversity of culture, share ideas and build relationships. Señora Chela also directed SOU’s annual “Las Posadas” during the holiday season—an event that served as a cultural conduit between the local Hispanic community and the university. The positive impact of her activites in both Ashland and Guanajuato is incalculable.

Above, Señora Chela is shown with the award that was presented to her by President Bailey (on her left). Flanking the group are the two people who introduced Señora Chela: Dr. Anne Connor, coordinator of the Spanish Language and Culture program; Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, a prominent politician from Guanajuato who earned two Masters degrees at SOU through the Amistad program.

Three prominent politicians/academics traveled from Guanajuato for the award event. Flanking President Bailey are, from left to right: Dr. Martín J. Pentoja Aquilar, alumnus of the Amistad program and Professor of Business Administration at the Universidad of Guanajuato who has established a business exchange program between our two universities; Dr. José Eleazor Barbosa Corona, Universidad de Guanajuato Provost and representative of the Rector (like our university president); Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, alumnus of the Amistad Program and a Diputado Federal (like our federal Congress). Also attending was Juan Carlos’ wife Frances “Faffie” Siekman de Romero, a strong supporter of the Amigo Club’s student scholarship program. She generously matches the funds raised during the club’s yearly Guanajuato Nights event.

The audience prior to award event. Next to Dr. Pendoja are three students from the Universidad de Guanajuato who have recently arrived to study at SOU through the Amistad program. From left to right, they are: Dana Paola Prieto Salazar, Monica Herrera Zamora, and Isaac Aaron Quintamilla Melgar.

Left-side photo: Señora Chela at the award event. This photo is by Jay Tapp. Right-side photo: Señora Chela with her son Jay Tapp, current Amigo Club president, and his family.