Robert W. Hite DISTINGUISHED LEADERSHIP AWARD
In 2008, Water For People announced the creation of a water and wastewater industry award named in honor of longtime volunteer Robert W. Hite, who was posthumously given the inaugural award.
The Robert W. Hite Distinguished Leadership Award recognizes a person (or couple) who has demonstrated active leadership to benefit others and is supportive of Water For People’s mission – someone who inspires a shared vision, is forward-thinking, and truly envisions a world where all people have access to safe water and sanitation facilities. The award is annually presented at WEFTEC.
Adam Conner is an FNI Water Resources Hydrologist responsible for water supply and demand planning. Prior to joining FNI, he worked at the San Antonio Water System and collaborated across departments on contractual, regulatory, and integration initiatives required for current and future water supplies. Additionally, Adam coordinated the internal deliberation, facilitated community input, and served as lead author for the San Antonio Water System’s 2017 Water Management Plan process. He is engaged in various TWDB Regional Water Planning Groups, including Regions C, G, H and L. Adam is well-versed in groundwater law, policy and regulation.
In his spare time, Adam leads the WEA-Texas Water For People Committee as they fundraise and advocate for clean water and sustainable sanitation solutions for everyone, forever. His dedication as Chair of his Committee has been evident in their engagement as he oversees more than 10 different fundraisers across the state of Texas, raising more than $200,000 in the last two years for Water For People.
George Patrick has been an invaluable Champion on behalf of Water For People for decades. In 2008, George created the WEFTEC Pedal With Purpose cycling event as part of the WEF annual conference in Chicago. As WEFTEC moved to other cities, George moved his Water For People fundraiser along and provided conferees an opportunity to tour the host city at an up close and personal pace. The event featured the Water For People logo on a colorful ride t-shirt designed by George and all of the proceeds would then be donated to Water For People.
In 2019 George was set to host the 12th Annual Pedal With Purpose event, but due to inclement weather, the race was canceled. That did not deter George from continuing to engage sponsors and cyclists in their quest to fundraise for Water For People and he was able to continue with their annual donation. George’s creation of a unique event that continues to serve the organization and its supporters along with his years of support of Water For People show that he is indeed someone who inspires a shared vision, is forward-thinking, and truly envisions a world where all people have access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Congratulations, George, on being named the 2019-2020 Robert W. Hite Award winner!
We look forward to celebrating you on-stage at WEFTEC21.
2018 - 2019
Irene’s career in the water environment world began in 1986 when she joined HDR’s Seattle office in their two person marketing department. Shortly afterward, her boss volunteered Irene to help with the annual PNCWA conference. That involvement grew over the years including climbing the rungs of leadership ladder to becoming president in 1999. In her past president year, she worked with the MA Association Board to establish the Water for Humanity Project. After a few years, the Board agreed to graduate the project into an official PNCWA Water for People Committee. In 2003 Irene joined Tetra Tech and continued as chair of the Water for People committee. Over the years Irene and her stalwart committee members staged fun and wacky events at the PNCWA annual conference to provide an easy opportunity for members and vendors to make donations. When a wave of retirements and other commitments took its toll on the committee, Irene decided it was time to recruited young professional stars to take over and continue the work of raising funds and awareness of the important work and mission of Water for People. The PNCWA Water for People committee has become an indelible institution with the PNCWA MA and will continue onward.
2017 - 2018
Water For People is pleased to bring to light the many years of passionate work and active leadership that Don Hoekstra has dedicated to further Water For People’s mission.
In addition to a strong 30+ year history in the wastewater treatment and residuals/biosolids management sector, Don has been on the Water For People – Canada Board of Directors for 6 years, serving as President for 2 of those years.
Don’s support of Water For People began in 2005 when he became an active member and leader of the Ontario WEA Water For People Committee. In 2007, Don joined the Ride With Purpose Association as a Water Buffalo. To date, Don has participated in 10 WEF & AWWA motorcycle rides with the Buffalos. He’s also encouraged others from Canada to join the predominantly US-based herd. Don has always kept the focus on promoting Water For People through Water Buffalo activities including spending numerous hours during conferences to help run fundraising activities and soliciting sponsorships. Currently, Don is still an active member of both associations, and acts as a mentor to newer Committee members and leaders. Don has, with passion, energy and enthusiasm, touched many in the water/wastewater industry – especially those that he works with regularly to advance Water For People’s mission.
With this nomination, we celebrate Don’s many achievements, integrity and strong leadership devoted to the global water sector.
From a fellow Water Buffalo and close friend of Don’s:
One of the first things I learned when I met Don was his passion for Water For People. Don has been in the water/wastewater industry for more years than I should say, so his knowledge is incredibly deep. But he does not take what we have here for granted. He knows and understands the struggles other countries go through to gain access to something most of us think absolutely nothing about as we turn on our taps or flush our toilets. When Don talks about Water For People you can't help but understand and believe in what he's saying because HE believes in the organization does, and believes in the Everyone Forever model. From packaging water, wastewater & hygiene education and getting the local people and governments involved all the way to making sure everything required to make things work are local and that the finished product can be run locally and is sustainable for generations. Don understands that other charities have their hearts in the right place in what they are trying to do, he just knows they aren't doing it right. It needs to last forever and that’s where Water For People comes in.
Don is retiring this year and he has confided in me that it is his dream to go and tour one of the program countries. Don is not done "working", but being able to retire gives him more time to spend with Water For People. He has so much more to give and this is where his heart is.
Gary and Linda De Kock
2016 - 2017
Gary and Linda DeKock
The Hite Leadership Award Committee is thrilled to nominate Gary and Linda DeKock for this distinguished honor. Gary and Linda are WEF members and lead the Michigan WEA Water For People Committee. Annually, they host a bicycle ride fundraiser at WEFTEC to engage WEF members around Water For People’s cause. They lead riders on tours of Chicago or New Orleans, and enlisted the support of their daughter to be a tour guide.
On July 19, 2014, Gary and Linda set out to do something extraordinary, taking their longstanding support of Water For People to a new level with "Paddle With Purpose." The retired couple spent 70 days kayaking 2,291 miles across 10 states on the Mississippi River to raise funds for Water For People. They started in Grand Rapids, Michigan and successfully paddled the river’s treacherous currents all the way to WEFTEC, which was being held at the mouth of the Mississippi in New Orleans, Louisiana. They raised over $16,000 for Water For People through corporate sponsorships of their journey and individual donations from friends, family, and colleagues. They completed another journey to WEFTEC in Chicago in 2015, but arrived so early that they went back to Michigan and then rode their bikes from Michigan to Chicago for the conference, all in the name of Water For People!
In 2017, Gary and Linda are at it again. Their "Five Rivers Voyage" begins August 1, 2017. They will begin a canoe trip that will take them down two rivers and up three rivers to end up at WEFTEC in Chicago in late-September/early-October. The entire journey will be 1,176 river miles. You can see their fundraising page here, and visit their Facebook page here.
The Committee wholeheartedly supports Gary and Linda DeKock as the recipients of the 2017 Hite Award. As former Hite winners ourselves, we know that Gary and Linda embody the spirit of service and commitment to clean water that was Bob Hite’s legacy for all of us.
Marlo and Matt Berg
2015 - 2016
Marlo and Matt Berg
Water For People is proud to award the 2015-2016 Robert W. Hite Outstanding Leadership Award to Marlo and Matt Berg. The Berg’s support of Water For People began in the early 2000s as they became active in their local Texas Water For People Committee. As volunteers, they have helped organize fundraisers including silent auctions, golf and volleyball tournaments, social events, and fundraisers through local schools and religious organizations.
The Bergs helped to strengthen volunteerism for Water For People across their state, which led to fundraisers being organized by local volunteers in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, and Dallas. In 2004, Marlo and Matt traveled to Guatemala as part of an Impact Tour to see Water For People’s programming first-hand, which allowed them to share the organization’s story more widely throughout their community. Matt continues his support of Water For People at his work, where he is a strong proponent of CH2M’s workplace giving program, and has promoted a Water For People workplace giving program to local utilities in Texas.
For the Bergs, their dedication to ending global water poverty is personal – they requested that donations be made to Water For People in lieu of wedding presents, and have recognized Water For People in their will. Marlo and Matt have been strong leaders who inspire a shared vision, are forward-thinking and truly envision a world where all people have access to safe water and sanitation for generations.
Elisa M. Speranza
2014 - 2015
Elisa M. Speranza
Water For People is proud to award the 2014-2015 Robert W. Hite Outstanding Leadership Award to Elisa M. Speranza. Elisa has dedicated many years of passionate work and active leadership to further Water For People’s mission. She has, with passion, energy, and enthusiasm for Water For People and its cause, touched everyone in the water sector. Elisa lives and promotes the shared vision of innovative thinking and a world where all people have access to safe water and sanitation.
She has served Water For People in several leadership positions, including Board Member, Vice-Chair, and Chairperson. Her leadership has taken Water For People to new heights with great focus on the holistic WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health) approach - one community at a time. As a leader of Water For People and a long-standing active member of Water Environment Federation, she has continued to bring Water For People and WEF closer together. She has inspired both organizations, their volunteers, and members to work together, fundraise, and draw on each other’s expertise to the benefit of those in need.
She is the powerful nexus between private enterprise, the public and the NGOs exemplified by her instrumental role in developing and working on the Value of Water Coalition. This new organization is a private-public partnership whose purpose is to develop and enhance public awareness of the importance of water. She coordinated leadership of many private firms, including CH2M, and others in this effort.
2013 - 2014
The Nominating Committee is pleased to unanimously bring the light on the many years of passionate work and active leadership that Dick Kuchenrither has dedicated to further Water For People’s mission. He has tirelessly promoted the need for clean water as a volunteer, a member of the Water For People Board, and as a Leader in WEF. His term of service on the Water For People Board was 2006 through 2010, where he served on the Volunteer Services, Training and Applied Research, and the all-important Strategic Planning Committees. He was president of WEF in 1995-1996 and received the very prestigious WEF Honorary Membership in 2004 and the Emerson Medal in 2009. He has inspired members, volunteers, and staff in both organizations.
Dick lives and promotes the shared vision of forward-thinking and a world where all people have access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. Dick has been an active supporter for Water For People and a great spokesman on their behalf. He supported the Building Fund Campaign and numerous special events including the Water For People Golf Tournament at Sanctuary as well as hosting a significant cultivation event in his Boulder residence 2012. He has donated silent auction items to benefit Water For People since 2007 and continues to do so.
Dick has participated in-country visits to see Water For People’s work in Honduras in 2007 and Peru and Bolivia in 2008, and currently serves as an Ambassador of Water For People.
Now, Dr. Kuchenrither is a Scholar in Residence for the University of Colorado Boulder and is the Director of the Water Engineering & Management Graduate Program. The WE&M program provides tools and skills for leadership, management, communication, and finance for graduate students and young water professionals. These skills are applicable and have been applied in small communities in emerging countries on water projects . As a personal friend of Robert Hite, and one who was instrumental in establishing this award, this is a fitting tribute to Dr. Richard Kuchenrither.