The Defense Department’s Spirit of Hope Award was awarded to six people and a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping military families during a Pentagon ceremony on September 14, 2023.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense recipient is Walter E. Penk (’54, M.S. ’64, Ph.D. ’65), a clinical and research psychologist, now retired after 60 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Penk improved the treatment of wounded and injured veterans and changed the nation’s outlook about the critical role of post-service employment as service members transition into civilian life.
He worked with The Department of Veterans Affairs and consulted with the Defense Department, after completing at The University of Houston his Bachelor’s degree in 1954, his Master’s degree in 1964, and his PhD degree in Clinical Psychology in 1965, while training at the Houston VA medical center.
The award is presented annually to recipients who epitomize the values of comedian Bob Hope: duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity and selfless dedication. Recipients are nominated and selected by each of the military services.
Hope was also a frequent visitor of wounded service members, as well as veterans in hospitals. “These values of Bob Hope in service to the warfighter are also embodied by the recipients we are paying tribute to today.”Awards & Honors