GW Celebrates Public Servants during Annual Arthur S. Flemming Awards

The 2018 Arthur S. Flemming Award winners stand together with Peter Williams and Kathy Newcomer and Senator Elizabeth Dole
Back row l to r: Brittney Soltes, R Joseph Kline, John Florian, Laura Thoms, Feng Gao. Front row l to r: Peter Williams, Amy Vincent, Deepa Avula, Senator Dole, Elizabeth Argeris Lewis, Khan Pham, John Bolton, Matthew Talcott and Kathy Newcomer
June 05, 2019


What do a swine flu researcher from Iowa, a Navy SEAL Diving Physiologist from Florida, a National Disaster Program Manager from New York and former North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole have in common?

On Monday, June 3, they were among the honorees at the 70thArthur S. Flemming Awards ceremony. Each year, GW’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration hosts the awards in the Grand Ballroom of the Cloyd Heck Marvin Center to honor government employees in the beginning and middle stages of their federal careers. The awards, which typically have more than 60 nominees each year, select 12 yearly winners in categories including basic science; engineering and applied science; legal achievement; management and leadership; and social science, clinical trials and translational research.

Additionally, the ceremony features a keynote address from that year’s Katharine B. Gebbie Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. This year, that honor went to Senator Dole, who was oneof the first women to be honored with a Flemming Award in 1971. She, like Flemming and Gebbie, was honored for her distinguished career in public service, including serving as Secretary of Labor and Transportation and being elected Senator in 2002.

Dole highlighted the need for public servants who persevere, calling them the lifeblood of democracy, and reminding attendees that this has been the case since the Declaration of Independence ended with the words “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

She quoted from public servants including the founding fathers and Dwight Eisenhower as she stressed the characteristics of true leaders, including their willingness to see the humanity in others while being humble themselves.

While preparing her remarks, Dole came across four yellowed index cards containing a speech she’d given during her junior year of high school focused on the importance of public service. She quoted from that speech to inspire this year’s award winners and their guests to be public servants who are servant leaders.

“Scholarship, character and leadership are worthless unless they inspire service in others,” Dole quoted from her high school speech.

“I found her speech to be very moving,” said Dr. Kathryn Newcomer, director of the Trachtenberg School and a host of the ceremony. “She recognized the challenges public servants face each day, and offered encouragement to the people being honored for pursuing careers in government in their efforts to promote the greater good for their fellow citizens.”

This year’s award recipients, organized by award category:


Applied Science and Engineering

John Bolten, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA
Dr. Bolten applies satellite remote sensing, land surface modeling and data assimilation to water resources management, agricultural forecasting and flood monitoring. He helped create satellite data-based soil moisture maps that are used by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, as well as the first maps based on data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive to be available on Google Earth Engine.

Feng Gao, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dr. Gao developed original research using remote sensing for crop and vegetation monitoring. He developed multiple high-impact remote sensing algorithms and tools used to study and inform agricultural decisions. Dr. Gao is a leading expert on remote sensing data fusion, which facilitates daily mapping of land-surface conditions at fine scales and is capable of monitoring individual agricultural fields by fusing information from multiple satellites.

R. Joseph Kline, National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce
Dr. Kline advanced the semiconductor industry with his focus on the molecular structure and orientation of organic electronics materials for flexible electronics. These methods provide the insight needed to design organic materials that can be used in high performance, low-cost devices.

Basic Science

John Florian, Navy Experimental Diving Unit, U.S. Navy
Dr. Florian advances scientific research entered on the physical performance of members of the military, including diving physiology, oxygen toxicity, thermoregulation and biometric monitoring. His work led to a new focus on whole-body oxygen toxicity, a condition that adversely affects divers and SEALs.

Khanh Pham, Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, U.S. Air Force Materiel Command
Dr. Pham is the principal scientific authority and independent researcher in satellite command and control autonomy, assured communications and space situational awareness. He is a pioneer in theory and operations research related to space situational awareness and military communications, which affect military satellite communications. Dr. Pham holds 20 U.S. patents for his work.

Leadership and Management

Deepa Avula, Office of Financial Resources, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Ms. Avula revolutionized the use of data for performance management and changed business practices in the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, leading the effort to consolidate 17 disparate contracts into a single repository for data collection and reporting, in order to monitor $350 million in spending. She partnered with other centers in the administration to assist them in developing and implementing some of the practices and strategies implemented in her own. Ms. Avula managed a $100 million presidential initiative designed to put the choice of provider back into the hands of the client who received services for substance abuse disorders. She received special recognition from the White House Office for Faith-Based Affairs for her work leading this program.

Elizabeth Argeris Lewis (MPA ’08), Office of Inspector General, National Science Foundation
Ms. Lewis implemented significant changes to a long-standing, congressionally-mandated report on management challenges. The new format helped clarify management challenges facing the agency, actions taken to address the challenges and remaining steps to be taken, in a visually appealing, concise way. It caught the attention of agency leadership, congressional staffers and other senior leaders, increasing participation in her movement to make her office’s reports understandable, approachable and accessible for the public and other stakeholders. This is just one example of her readers-first mentality and drive that have changed government reports from the traditional, dense, data-filled documents to concise, readable, well-messaged products.

Brittney Soltes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Ms. Soltes manages a program to inform nonfederal partners of the status and condition of levees and hurricane and shore protection projects to ensure those efforts are still eligible for repair if they are damaged by a storm event. She developed an improved process to significantly shorten the timeframe for obtaining inspection reports from over a year down to just weeks.

Legal Achievement

Matthew Talcott, Central Circuit Trial Judiciary, U.S. Air Force
Lt. Col. Talcott served as a judge advocate in the Air Force for 13 years. He rose quickly through the ranks and became the top-ranked instructor in the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School. He also won major appellate victories and developed training for senior Air Force litigators that focuses on sexual assault litigation. It is the Department of Defense’s only course designed to educate experienced advocates on the nuances and challenges faced when prosecuting and defending sexual assault cases.

Laura Thoms, Environmental Enforcement Section, U.S. Department of Justice
Ms. Thoms engineered one of the most successful environmental enforcement campaigns in the history of the federal Clean Water Act against several Appalachian coal producers. She worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky to redress violations of the Clean Water Act by seven companies representing half of all coal production in Appalachia. Because of her work, companies were required to make $412 million in improvements and pay $55 million in penalties. This effort is expected to reduce water pollution by 150 million pounds.

Social Science, Clinical Trials and Translational Research

Rebecca Dodder, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Dr. Dodder pioneered new ways to examine the environmental and health impacts of energy use, including focusing on biofuels, agriculture and energy markets, hydropower and vehicle emissions standards. She also developed a board game, “Generate,” to help educate people about the environmental effects of energy production. Thousands of students and teachers worldwide have used her game.

Amy Vincent, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dr. Vincent helped identify new types of the influenza A virus. She also led the establishment of a national swine flu monitoring system in the wake of the 2009 rise of the H1N1 virus, spearheading a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several services within the USDA. Dr. Vincent’s research revealed new information about the genetic evolution of the influenza A virus. She led establishment of a global naming system for the virus, enabling worldwide interaction between researchers.

Nominations for the next cohort of Flemming Award winners will open in the fall of 2019.