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Spanish professor honored by IU for commitment to service

Faculty Apr 14, 2023
A woman and a man pose for a picture holding an award certificate
A woman and a man pose for a picture holding an award certificate

KOKOMO, Ind. — An Indiana University Kokomo faculty member was honored for a lifetime of philanthropy, receiving the W. George Pinnell Award for Outstanding Service.

J.R. Pico, teaching professor of Spanish and humanities, received the award from IU President Pamela Whitten at the annual Celebration of Teaching and Service dinner in Bloomington.

He hopes his example inspires others to pursue higher education and give back.

“There’s always room for helping others, there’s always room for service,” Pico said. “I make time for it, even when I’m busy. I’m a minority, and I was able to achieve my dream because I worked hard for it, but education is key. I’m able to do this because of my education.”

Chancellor Mark Canada congratulated Pico on receiving the award.

“I can honestly say that I’ve never known a colleague who has contributed more productively, shared more generously, or served more enthusiastically and selflessly than Professor Pico,” Canada said. “Whether he is broadening our students’ horizons, serving a single local individual in need, or collaborating with others on an international relief effort, he puts the needs of others before himself, setting an outstanding example for all of us to aspire to emulate.”

Pico’s service ranges from class food drives for a local pantry all the way to leading family nurse practitioner students to provide medical care to underserved people in Colombia. Individually he sets an example for his students with his own service, including teaching free Spanish classes for faculty and staff, providing translation services for counseling for a client of the Family Service Association of Howard County’s domestic violence shelter, and assisting in recruiting efforts for potential IU Kokomo students from Hispanic families.

“It has to be within you to know the meaning of service, and of gratitude, and gives you a sense of belonging,” Pico said. “I proudly talk about IU Kokomo and IU. I’m happy to be here. I plan to be here until retirement.”

Pico grew up in Colombia, and is especially passionate about working with Hispanic families, knowing the opportunities that opened to him through education and travel. Now an American citizen, he’s visited 81 countries. He’s particularly proud of his recent trip to Antarctica.

As a language teacher, he taught a free two-month basic English class for new immigrants, bringing in IU Kokomo students as volunteers to teach American culture. He’s also helped faculty and staff learn Spanish, a skill he says is important with a growing number of Hispanic students.

“It was valuable of me to share my culture and language, and overcome stereotypes,” he said, especially the stereotype that Hispanics are uneducated.

He’s led multiple trips to his home country, inviting the campus community to participate in cultural activities, meet local people, and provide humanitarian service.

They learn what it is to experience another language firsthand,” he said.

Pico also was a founder of Latinos Unidos: Hispanic Center, part of the campus Multicultural Center. It provides support for Hispanic students and their families, and programming for all students.

Established in 1988, the award is named after W. George Pinnell, former executive vice president of Indiana University and former president of the IU Foundation, who was known for his stewardship, leadership, initiative, and service to state and national government.

This award honors faculty members and librarians who have proven to be deeply committed to serving the university, their profession, or the public. Their work has created greater capacity at the university, impacted their field in a significant way, or benefited a community at local, state, national, or international levels.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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