Ron Orta Award

Picture of Ron Orta Allentown Logo
District 8 AALAS would like to thank Allentown for their generous support of this award to honor a man who meant so much to us and them.

The Ron Orta Humanitarian Award honors the memory of a beloved friend and colleague in the lab animal community.  The award was created after Ron’s sudden death in November of 2007 from acute respiratory disease. Ron was a sales representative with Allentown for many years of his distinguished career in laboratory animal science. He was revered for his outgoing nature, big heart, and inclusive demeanor. The District 8 Council, in conjunction with Allentown Inc., created the award to honor Ron’s compassion, dedication, humility, and friendship. 

To date, we have had the following deserving recipients: Timothy Martin, Robert and Dee DryeRoy Hoglund, Christian Stoffers, Monte Matthews, Sonja Wallace, Katherine Marshall, DeVere Charron, Drew Martin, Joy Gallagher, Rick Alvarez, Bill Heckt, Debra Hickman, and Grace Aranda.


Call for Nominations for 2023 - Nominations are open!  The application deadline is June 1, 2023

National AALAS will be in Salt Lake City, UT in October 22-26, 2023, the award will be presented at the District 8 caucus.

A person deserving of this award is a well-rounded individual who can be found assisting co-workers and going the extra mile to help others whenever possible.  She or he volunteers for community activities, and is either working on becoming certified or involved in obtaining or providing continuing education at any level, or participating in planning education seminars, symposiums, or similar activities.  The nominee is involved in some way with AALAS activities, on a local or national level.

EVERYONE is invited to nominate someone! Please don’t feel intimidated about submitting a nomination. Ron was a man who loved everyone and would never want an award bearing his name to be used as a promotional ploy or popularity contest.  The award winner will be selected by a panel of District 8 Council members, plus a representative from Allentown, Inc.  Nomination packets are kept confidential.  The award winner receives an engraved crystal plaque and a cash award.

You should be able to find at least one colleague, maybe several, who would qualify in your facility! Maybe it's you!

Guidelines for Nominating a Candidate

1) Nominee must be a member of a Branch within District 8.

  a) Animal Caregiver, Technician, Secretary, IACUC Coordinator, Manager/Supervisor, Trainer, Veterinarian, Director, Branch Officer, Branch Member, or Commercial Member.

  b) You may nominate yourself.

2) SPREAD THE NEWS! Send out e-mails or call people who know the nominee and ask them to write letters of support. Letters of support should begin by generally stating why the person believes this nominee should receive the Ron Orta Humanitarian Award and then adding the following:

  a) Examples of how he/she exhibits compassion towards peers, or “walks the extra mile" specific

  b) Examples of cooperation and involvement in the community. Volunteerism examples might include things like working with local animal shelters, Habitat for Humanity, 4-H, the FFA, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, judging science fairs, or volunteering at/with schools, clubs, or other organizations. 

  c) Examples of continuing education. Mention how the nominee has been achieving/working on certifications or degrees, or participates as a presenter, or is involved in promoting or planning a seminar, assisting others with learning, organizing a study group, symposium or similar educational event.

  d) Involvement with AALAS activities, local or national.

  e) Letters of support ideally describe some of the items in 3) a-d above, and discuss specifically how the writer or others have been affected by the nominee’s involvement in these activities

  f) Writing a letter of support should not be intimidating. A letter can be long or short; its content is what will be judged, not its appearance. (Suggestion: Get as many meaningful reference letters as you can).

3) Please email for the Nomination form.

4)  Nomination packets are held over from prior years for re-consideration the next two years. These packets may be updated with additional reference letters.

Submissions must be received by June 1, 2023.  Packets may be scanned and submitted via email to or mailed to:  Penny Noel, University of Utah, 50 N. 2030 E., Salt Lake City, UT  84112.  If submitting a packet by email or through mail, please be sure all of the questions of the nomination form have been answered.

  Timothy Martin - 2022 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

I've known Tim since he was at the UA for a residency program back in the 90s and even then, he showed he would be a great supporter of his coworkers and community. All the technicians knew that if they had an animal issue they could go to him and he would listen and be sure to take care of the problem with a sound solution and take extra time to make the incident a training opportunity. He took his responsibility for training the technicians seriously and came up with many novel seminars that made the material interesting and definitely memorable. During this time, although his schedule was incredibly busy with work and school, he took the time to drive me to my and from my chemo treatments. This kind of support and encouragement really embodies just how much Tim really believes in friendship and how much he puts himself out for others.

Tim has moved on to do great things as Director and Veterinarian for several facilities in the Phoenix area and has always stressed the importance of AALAS membership and participation for all his technicians – even supporting branch membership for their dues out of his own pocket! He has taken it upon himself to reach out to the AZAALAS membership chair for years and sponsor numerous member scholarships for those in other areas of the state as well. Tim’s interest in getting involved in AALAS not only extends to his technicians, he walks the walk too. He has lead our branch as President more than once, and guided us as we put on multiple annual symposia, District meetings and frequently presenting at these and other meetings. Tim served as our branch liaison to our regional biomedical research organization: Southwest Association for Education in Biomedical Research, SwAEBR, ensuring our branch continues to serve as a leader in outreach for our state.

Tim encourages his employees and indeed all technicians to succeed and further their careers by attending state, regional and national meetings and achieving all they can through certification programs and higher education. Several of his technicians have gone on to get their degrees and have him to thank for it! Tim has been involved in public outreach for years with SwAEBR and has not only spoken to hundreds of kids and teachers about the importance of science and research, but also mentored high school kids through summer internships, and his involvement with the local, regional, and international science and engineering fairs.

Tim has been involved not only with charity events at his own institution, but also charity walks in memory of his father, and the annual Heart Walk in the Phoenix area. He has also served as an annual emcee of our own Louise Brook Memorial Raffle raising money for three worthwhile children’s charities: the Flagstaff Medical Center Pediatric Family Room, Arizona Special Olympics, and Children’s Research Center’s Kids of Steele. As you can see Tim more than personifies all that Ron believed and lived up to.

Robert & Dee Drye - 2021 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winners

Robert and Dee Drye have been well known faces involved in AALAS regionally and nationally.  They are known not only for their willingness to get involved, rolling up their sleeves to help out a new member, institution or branch with patience, expertise and support. If you have a question about almost anything they will step up to find ann answer and make it all look so easy. They were some of the first people in AALAS I had the luck to meet and have been there with advice, wisdom and friendship over the years.

They are real believers in AALAS and the importance of getting everyone involved in training to make the most of our organization for our members.  They make themselves available to all our branches and are the first to volunteer when help is needed. Their support has been instrumental in seeing that District 8 and our meetings are instructional and successful. 

When this award was first started they ensured our first winner was in attendance by personally supporting her attendance. Whether assisting with getting a new member necessary medication at a meeting or mentoring a new branch into fruition they have do whatever is needed in much the same manner as Ron himself.  That is why they are perfect example for this year's award.


 Roy Hoglund - 2019 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Roy possesses the commitment, compassion, dedication and work ethics that the field of Lab Animal Science is lucky to have. He became Associate Director for UC Davis Center for Lab Animal Science (CLAS) and was my supervisor. His quiet, calm, and respectful nature was appreciated by all who worked for him. Roy always led by example with encouraging his staff to grow and develop their careers. One way he encouraged us was through participation in local, district, and National AALAS. He has a true passion for our field and works to educate others either coming into the field for the first time or those who have been in the field and perhaps have forgotten the mission of their work. He commuted for farthest of all board members from Merced to Davis to give of his time as Vice President, President, Director and more for Sacramento Valley AALAS. He has been awarded the Dr Lon V. Kendell Member of the Year Award for his many contributions. Many have said he could truly be names member of the year every year for his dedicated service.

I will always remember on piece of advice Roy offered and now I use when supervising my own staff "always work to train your replacement" and encourage the staff to "come up with their own solutions to problems they encounter". Roy really inspired me to be the best supervisor I can be and to help truly coach and develop staff. Roy is the most understanding and compassionate bosses I ever had. He believes in developing his employees and helping them reach their career goals.  He is an incredible mentor. He continues to share his wealth of knowledge and encourages me to take advantage of every available training opportunity. 

Roy teaches his colleagues and employees through his own example and amazing work ethic.  Whether he is teaching biomethods, holding workshops on animal welfare awareness, setting up classes for AALAS certification of inviting guest speakers for CEU opportunities, he included everyone.  This encouraged camaraderie and dedication among all employees and staff that was unparalleled.  Before he would leave the facility for the evening or weekend, he'd check in with everyone individually and ask "Are you doing okay?" or "Do you need anything?" He was more than willing to assist with cage changing, mopping floors or entering data if meant that everyone got to go home at the same time.  Soon, all the employees were following his example unbidden, and checking in on their fellow employees. A true morale booster!

Roy has been highly involved in the development and growth of our local branch. He often gives a passionate "What AALAS can do for you" speech that is very compelling as he shares his personal career path and how he has benefitted from staying involved in AALAS. Roy is one of those rare, real people exemplifying encouragement, reliability and integrity. He is an amazing role model.  


 Christian Stoffers - 2018 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Christian is Supervisor II at Edwards Life Sciences where we has been since 2005 in roles of increasing responsibility. He is an outstanding candidate for this award as he demonstrates the traits of inclusion, community involvement and commitment to continuing education for which Ron Orta and previous recipients of the award have been recognized.   

Christian is a "Jack-of-all-trades" - supervising the animal care staff, managing the facility and helping out wherever he is needed.  He does a fantastic job of training and mentoring new employees and sharing his enthusiasm for laboratory animal care and facility operations. He is directly involved with developing the next generation of animal care and veterinary technicians. He is on the board of directors for the Mt San Antonio College of Veterinary Technology program where he consults with the college on curriculum, employment opportunities and other technician education issues.  He is passionate about sharing the "alternative" career  potential of biomedical research. Christian helps to illuminate for student the cutting edge field of lab animal medicine and its dynamic contributions to humanity.

He is also active with our local AALAS branches (Palms to Pines and Southern California) serving on board of directors and as president. He has received the Outstanding Service and Supervisor of the Year awards. He has worked on the AALAS Committee on Technician Awareness Development (CTAD) since 2014 and became a valuable asset to the committee by actively participating in monthly teleconferences offering suggestions and ideas that helped create and foster ideas for International Lab Animal Technician Week, AALAS National Meeting Hunter Lecture, and Technician Lunch and Learn. During National AALAS Meetings he can be found in the CTAD Technician Fun Fair booth everyday.  He volunteers in every capacity needed without being asked.

Christian has a great history of volunteerism in the AALAS community. He was a founding member of the District 8 Council and served as branch representative.  He was outstanding to work with, giving he council the benefit of his education and experience.  His contributions were valuable and helped the council stay focused and complete their tasks. As a stalwart supporter of technician education and training he spent much of his volunteer efforts on organizing workshops and working with meeting planning committees. As a strong technician advocate, Christian also has a long record of service to National AALAS.

Christian is calm, patient, and always treats every person with the utmost respect. He listens, learns, and improves.  He is compassionate and caring towards his coworkers and the animals in his charge.  He is also engaged in the community as an Eagle Scout and blood donor. He helps out at a local sheep farm.  He loves animals! His house is full of foster dogs and cats in addition to his own menagerie.  He and his wife foster and rehome countless dogs and cats - sometimes arriving with injuries - and do so in their own home with their own money. He is deserving of this award as a humanitarian from any perspective!


 Monte Matthews - 2017 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Monte is the Director for Animal Welfare Services at the University of Oregon where he administers the University’s campus-wide laboratory animal care and use program. He is one of the original creators and core faculty member of the nationally recognized and NIH grant supported IACUC 101 series. He has published several articles and presented many workshops on Institutional Animal Care and Use (IACUC) issues, as well as the Care and Use of Zebrafish.

Monte is active in several national, animal-related research organizations, including Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIMR) and AALAS at the branch and national levels. He is a founding member of the Council for the PRIMR IACUC certification program, Certified Professional IACUC Administrator (CPIA). He is past board member of the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, and past president of both the Oregon Biomedical Research Association and the Oregon branch of AALAS.

Monte was awarded the Arthur Hall Leadership Award for 2016. 

He enjoys many hobbies, but standing in a river and waving a stick is his favorite passion.

Thank you so much for the award and gift associated with the Ron Orta Humanitarian Award. I am deeply honored and grateful to have been selected for Ron’s namesake award.

I first met Ron within weeks after I began my career in animal care. It was the summer of 1988 and I had only been working for a few weeks when me and my boss, Greg Stickrod, drove up to Washington to be a part of Washington AALAS branch's annual banquet at R&R rabbitry. What a hoot that was. I believe Ron was working at WSU at that time, and when Greg introduced us I think Ron was already busy being the “Master Chef” of the barbecue. Ron was always there lending a helping hand, even with the “chicken poop contest”  I had such a good time meeting so many dedicated and friendly, caring people; and the one person who stood out was Ron. His gentle, warm smile and keen interest in my start into the this world had an indelible impact on me.

Throughout the many years that followed, I would call Ron from time to time to discuss management issues. He was so experienced and I valued his perspective enormously.

I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to be present at the D8 meeting to accept the award. I had no idea I was even nominated until someone told me I had received the award. I was stunned.

I will be giving a seminar on zebrafish issues at Austin, so I look forward to thanking you in person for my deep appreciation and honor to have been selected for Ron’s award. - With deep gratitude - Cheers, Monte


Sonja Wallace - 2016 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Sonja has worked at a number of institutions and is currently the Training Manager in Quality & Regulatory Affairs at Roche Sequencing Solutions. 

She is an expert educator in the field of laboratory animal science, helping and planning educational seminars or symposia, as well as volunteering at the local, regional, and national level of AALAS, AALAS District 8 and NCB-AALAS.   She has served in variety leadership roles in NCB-AALAS including member of Board of Directors, 2 stints as President and member of annual workshop planning committee, and Chair, annual workshop planning committee. She has also continues to serve on California Society for Biomedical Research (CSBR), Board of Directors where she is currently appointed Treasurer.

Sonja is one of the most compassionate and empathetic people I have ever met.  Whether you are a new cage wash staff member in need of new employee orientation training or a Nobel-prize winning scientist who is trying to remediate deficiencies identified during an IACUC inspection, you can rest assured that she will not only effectively impart her vast knowledge but give you her undivided attention, respect and empathy.  This compassion extends to the rest of the animal kingdom as well.  I can think of no better example than her personally authored (in many instances solely) 50+ IACUC-endorsed pre-approved animal procedures or Stanford’s University-Wide Environmental Enrichment Plan which strive to honor the sacrifice that laboratory animals are making by ensuring that we are constantly challenging ourselves to provide the highest levels of animal care, health and welfare.

She is involved in the community.  We worked on Rebuilding Together, a project for a women’s shelter.  She even brought her son to help out, and to show him how important it is to support the community.  Sonja has also done outreach in schools through CBRA’s education program and has volunteered several times as a judge for the annual Science Fairs in the East Bay.

Ive known her as a co-worker, as my supervisor at one time, and as a friend.  I’ve worked with her at a company, on the NCB-AALAS Board, and during two D8 Meetings.  I don’t know of anyone as gracious, compassionate, hardworking, and ‘can-do’ as she.  She goes out of her way to help folks, she can organize like nobody’s business, and she’s able to create calm out of chaos.

A gifted author, effective educator, eloquent speaker, creative developer of learning materials, highly skilled RVT, regulatory subject matter expert, conscientious scientist, “proud and loud” promoter of animal welfare… the list goes on and on and on…I have never met anyone with the scope and scale of talents that she possesses.  One would never know it by talking with her, as she shuns the limelight and always redirects the accolades and acknowledgements to others.

Sonja exemplifies the qualities Ron Orta represented such as exhibiting extraordinary compassion towards peers, displaying a spirit of cooperation and involvement in the activities of one’s local community, and participating in and/or planning continuing education efforts.  District 8 and Allentown are proud to honor her with this prestigious award.


Katie Marshall - 2015 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Kati is the Resource Manager at the Oregon National Primate Research Center where she has been working since 1996 as a Laboratory Animal Technician, a Research Health Technician, a Program Technician, a Lead Technician, and then a Resource Manager starting in 2004. 

She has been an active leader within her local and regional laboratory animal science communities since 1996.  Within the Oregon branch of AALAS she served two 3 year terms as president-elect, president, and past-president.  She has been a member of the OAALAS Executive Board for more than 10 years and chaired the OAALAS Awards Committee from 201-2011.  She has also been an active participant in many of the branches educational and social outreach activities by presenting posters at annual round-up meetings, attending or presenting at branch workshops, and organizing many of the branch’s key events such as the annual awards banquet and round-up meetings.  Regionally, she has been serving as the OAALAS District 8 Council Representative since 2005.

She is a compassionate member, leader, and role model within the laboratory animal community as well as an excellent educator and mentor.

She excels in the pursuit of continuing education by supporting training programs and public outreach initiatives that relate to the care, quality, and humane treatment of laboratory animals.

It is not often you encounter a manager who exhibits such an authentic interest in her employees’ success.  She is an eternal optimist and her ability to look at the human side of situations is refreshing and contagious.  She has a dedicated interest in improving the welfare, happiness, and vitality of all those around her.  She is the most deserving person I can imagine to receive this honor and a true humanitarian.

She reflects the caring attributes in training and management that Ron Orta demonstrated, but with a unique flair that makers her memorable and effective and well loved.  She is dedicated to helping those without whom she works, and those in her community.

She has spent many years mentoring young women in a roller derby league.  Her passion for the sport is equaled by her concern that young women become involved and learn strength, commitment, self-esteem, and sportsmanship through their involvement.

Kati exemplifies the qualities Ron Orta represented such as exhibiting extraordinary compassion towards peers, displaying a spirit of cooperation and involvement in the activities of one’s local community, and participating in and/or planning continuing education efforts.  District 8 and Allentown are proud to honor her with this prestigious award.


DeVere Charron - 2014 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

If you looked up "Giver" in the dictionary, you would find DeVere Charron's picture!  I have known  him for a number of years through NCB-AALAS (Northern California Branch-AALAS).

He served on the board for a number  of years and was also a past president. When his term was up, he continued  to offer support. He has presided over numerous Science Fairs and serves as the official NCB AALAS Learning  Library Liaison.  Believe me these are full time jobs! 

I have been fortunate enough  to be able to observe him in his "real" full time job as well for the last couple of years, as we both work at Stanford now.  I have categorized  a few of his many attributes below for your perusal:

Compassion - DeVere always has a kind word for anyone he meets.  He puts staff at ease with his humor and appears to anticipate exactly what you need at any given time in order to meet a deadline or just complete a task.

Dedication to continuing education - Whenever  NCB-AALAS hosts an educational event, he is the one who makes sure that several of the Animal Caretakers have the opportunity to attend (and makes sure that he signs them up if they have any difficulty doing so on their own).

Friendship - DeVere is well-liked by all of his employees.  This is rare. I have not met one person in that capacity that had anything but praise for his treatment of them.  He has such an "easy manner" about him that people feel really comfortable around him.

Cooperation and involvement - As I mentioned above, DeVere has acted as a judge for many Science fairs in the area.  This is a wonderful way to encourage  young people to become involved  in the sciences.  I know that he has coached a lot of sports teams as well in the recent past.

Humility - Whenever he is praised  for pushing through a request or helping with a project, he seems surprised that you think he has gone over and above normal expectations. This "can do" attitude is just an integral part of his personality.


Drew Martin - 2013 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Drew has been very active within our local laboratory animal science community. She has served as president of OAALAS, the district 8 council representative, and the chairperson of the education committee. Drew co-chaired the Portland 2013 District 8 meeting as well as the program chair. The organization of this meeting has been immense and Drew has been diligently planning all aspects involved.

Within the primate center she provides countless teaching opportunities for all skill levels. As the small lab animal unit head she provides rodent surgical and anesthetic training to surgical, clinical, and investigative staff. She is also the nonhuman primate surgical veterinarian where she diligently works to provide oversight for over 9000 procedures per year. For her own advancement she has created an in depth study regimen and plans to sit for the 2014 ACLAM boards. She has created a preparatory class for the LATG exam that is approximately six months in duration and assist technicians who are pursuing LATG certification. Drew has also coordinated the Certified Veterinary Technician Continuing Education Program since 2007. Technicians can attend this bi-monthly program for continuing education credit required for annual certification. These numerous teaching opportunities made her the perfect candidate for a three year appointment with the AALAS Certification and Registry Board this year. Drew also helps with several local outreach opportunities including teaching high school suturing labs and speaking with current veterinary students about lab animal opportunities.

Drew is very active at a national level within the lab animal community. She presents at several national meetings including AALAS and Association of Primate Veterinarians (APV). Within APV she is currently on the board of directors and the newsletter editor. She is very well known within the primate community and actively participates with the primate center consortium (NHPRC) as an instructor. Recently she traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Research Center located in Bastrop, TX to consult on NHP endoscopy. This trip allowed for individual case management as well as presentations regarding endoscopy for the NHP community there.

Outside of lab animal community Drew continually dedicates time to her Alma mater Cornell University. Drew has served as a stalwart volunteer for the Cornell network for five years. During this time, she has participated in initial applicant interviews and had the opportunity to tell students about her experiences at Cornell and her career. This past year Drew participated as an alumnae mentor to a student from her graduating high school, St. Mary’s Academy. This student has interest in going to veterinary school and following a path similar to Drew’s. I got the opportunity to speak with this student through the nomination process who expressed immense gratitude for the time Drew had spent with her.

Dr. Lauren Drew Martin is an amazing teacher, compassionate lab animal veterinarian, dedicated mentor, and exemplary member of the lab animal community. She has become a very good friend to me over the years and is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet Ron Orta but after speaking to those who have and reading his story I think she is a perfect candidate for this award.


Joy Gallagher - 2012 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

I have worked with Joy Gallagher for the past 7  years.  Her knowledge of all the aspects of animal care and leadership in a research facility were immediately apparent and impressive from the first day she worked here.  Joy had many years of experience when she started at the PVAMC and showed an extremely strong work ethic and skill level. Joy is an ALAAS registered technologist and while working here she earned her CMAR.  She has advanced to an administrative  position that requires leadership skills, patience, and a good sense of humor. 

Many people work hard and can become an extremely good technician, but let me tell you how Joy shines out above others. It is because of her ability to keep a cheerful and cohesive work environment.   She works daily with the entire Veterinary Medical Unit (VMU) staff, and often times she has to deal with stressful situations and/or conflict.  She is professional, but most importantly she demonstrates respect, kindness and concern to every individual that she assists.  She is the morale builder of the VM U.  She volunteers to run all the gatherings and makes meetings festive yet professional.  We· appreciate her so much because she gives so much extra to the unit as a whole.  When anyone works with Joy, not only is the work done efficiently and effectively,  but it is done with positive energy and fun; it is actually a 'Joy" to work with her! 

As with any group, individuals may have problems or trials arise.  Joy is always the first one to find a way to help out our co-workers in need.  She can gather the rest of us to work together to aid those in need. She has a special way of giving money or giving assistance without the receiver feeling awkward or uncomfortable. 

Joy has a special gift of active caring for absolutely everyone.  I Jove working with her, and I have learned tons from her about compassion and giving.  She embodies those qualities sought in the Ron Orta Humanitarian Award candidate: education, participation, leadership, and compassion.


Rick Alvarez - 2011 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Rick has been elected President of SDAALAS and served two non-consecutive terms. He has also served on the SDAALAS Board for ten plus years and was the Branch's TBR for two years. He was co-founder of the District 8 Council and has put much time, money, and effort in keeping this organization going for the good of our District. He served as Council chair for 2 years and as a representative for 3 terms. Even though he is the Director of his facility, his heart has always been for the technician and continuing education. Rick has also volunteered his time on a national committee as co-chair of CTAD for two years and has served a term as Alternate Trustee. He is also on the Planning Committee for the 2012 District 8 meeting and has traveled to Irvine several times to attend these meetings.

Rick keeps himself very busy with AALAS commitments but he also volunteers his time for his community. Every year, Rick does a "turkey run" at Thanksgiving time and a "toy run" at Christmas time. He solicits donations to buy toys and loads a van up every year to deliver toys to less fortunate kids in Mexico. He also donates his talents as a professional DJ. The most recent was a fund-raiser to buy equipment for kids' athletic programs around the San Diego area. The other was for an individual that needs a kidney transplant.

Rick is a very giving individual. He is always willing to pick people up from the airport, or be a chauffeur; and is always buying lunch!  He has also been known to buy an extra cheeseburger combo meal for the homeless on the corner. Rick Alvarez was a fine candidate and well deserving for this prestigious award.


Bill Heckt - 2010 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Bill L. Heckt, MS, LATG, an AALAS member for more than 30 years, was named the recipient of the 2010 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award. After reading the many letters of recommendation for this award, there was one detail that stuck out more than anything— Bill’s knack for creating new programs and curriculums. From the conception of LAMA and ILAM, Bill has been a supporter, a volunteer, and a committee member. If you hear rumors of another program or organization in the works at AALAS, I wouldn’t doubt if Bill is there in the thick of things. Colleagues have described Bill as always tactful, respectful, and resourceful, even when dealing with difficult issues. Bill is a charter member of both the Central Illinois and the Sierra Nevada AALAS branches, and has taken on leadership roles during his tenure in both organizations.

Bill is now retired and reaping the awards of his hard work. He worked at the University of Illinois as supervisor of the laboratory animal facilities in the College of Agriculture in the late seventies until he joined the staff at the University of Nevada in 1994 as Director of the Department of Laboratory Animal Care Services until his retirement in 2008. In addition to his professional and AALAS life, Bill is also active in his community. He is a member of the Lions International Club serving as an Officer and participating in many fundraisers. The club is responsible for building a play ground for children of all abilities in California, fed 60,000 people in a township in South Africa, and sent a team of eye surgeons to Honduras to treat more than 100 adults and children. Bill also has volunteered his time as a ski instructor for a non-profit ski and snowboard program for children of low income families in the Reno area. He has judged and also recruited judges for a science and engineering fair. He was also a founding member of his church.

Continuing education is one of Bill’s passions. He established a training program for his staff and organized and supported hands-on wet labs for several conferences. He was a member of the advisory committee for the Veterinary Technology Program and provided input to the curriculum, and occasionally volunteered his time as an instructor.  The award was presented to Bill, May 6th at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, Arizona at the 2010 District 8 Conference.    


Deb Hickman - 2009 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner

Deb has been very active in District 8 and in National AALAS.  Her particular passion has been the support of technician development.  At the VA Medical Center in Portland, OR, she fostered an environment where technicans were considered an integral member of the research teams.  To that end, she sponsored membership for the local and national branches of AALAS, encouraged her staff to complete the AALAS certification examinations, and arranged for the technicians to attend district and national AALAS meetings as much as possible.  She served on the Certification and Registry Board (CRB) for national AALAS for over 6 years, including a term as Chair.   

In addition to active mentorship of colleagues at all education levels in the field of laboratory animal medicine and science, Deb was also active in local activities including the support of a local early education program and back to school and holiday local fundraising.   

Deb was nominated for this award because she is always willing to listen.  No matter what else is going on, her colleagues recognized that she would drop everything to listen to their problems and suggestions - professional and personal - and be available to assist with advice and resources wherever she was able.  Deb was given the award at the District 8 Meeting in San Francisco, CA.


Grace Aranda - 2008 Ron Orta Humanitarian Award Winner