The Bush School celebrated Shanon Miller and Roman Napoli, the 2021 and 2020 winners of the Bush School Outstanding Alumni Award, at a ceremony on October 7, 2021 in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center.
Dean Mark Welsh greeted attendees of the ceremony, including members of the Bush School advisory board, Bush School department heads, family of the award winners, and present and former students.
“Of all the things that we do here in terms of honoring students, I think this one would be President [George H.W.] Bush’s favorite. The students honored in this award fulfilled his hope for graduates to perform public service spectacularly well,” said Welsh.
Former students nominate one of their colleagues to receive the Outstanding Alumni Award. Roman Napoli, managing director for policy in the State Department’s Office of Foreign Assistance, was nominated to receive the 2020 award. Concerns related to COVID-19 prevented the Bush School from holding an in-person ceremony. Instead, the Bush School honored Napoli in the 2021 ceremony alongside Miller.
Andy Paloumpis nominated Napoli. “Every time I come to Roman with any news, he’s always so happy to hear these things. He’s so proud of us. His ability to take joy in others’ happiness makes him such a wonderful person,” said Paloumpis in a pre-recorded video.
Paloumpis said to Napoli, “You exemplify everything that I have been taught an Aggie and Bush School alum should be and represent.”
Napoli graduated from the Bush School in 2003, before program split between international affairs and public administration.
“Winning this award was an amazing opportunity to reflect on some of the fun and exciting things that I have done in my career to date, but it also spurred to make sure that the next part of my career is just as action-packed. I also got to see how public service, refined in me at the Bush School, can be a powerful tool for good,” said Napoli.
Napoli reflected on his experience enduring criticism after he joined FEMA a few months after Hurricane Katrine decimated his home state of Louisiana. Recalling how President Bush shared his own response to personal criticism, Napoli determined to do his best regardless of how some responded.
“That was who I was—I was the public servant. What was said about me on some website didn’t matter to me. We cannot lose the noble, thoughtful, reflective, yet bulletproof desire to do good that President Bush instilled in this school.”
Napoli noted that he and Miller, the 2021 awardee, were blessed to attend the Bush School near its inception, when the First Family maintained a strong presence.
“Wow, Shanon and I were probably a perfect pair to share the stage this year,” said Napoli. “We both attended and got to interact with the President and First Lady up close. We could tell first hand stories about what things were like and how they shaped our experiences. It was great that a couple of old timers like us could share [the experience of receiving the awards together]. It seemed especially poignant in a year where the First Family wasn’t with us. The stories are great, but the lessons will keep living.”
Another senior Bush alum, John Curran ’00, nominated Miller, also class of 2000, for the award. “Shanon has found her passion, she’s leading others along the way in pursing it and has really made a difference,” said Curran.
Miller currently works as the historic preservation officer for the City of San Antonio after serving in Franklin, Tennessee and Fort Worth, Texas in the same capacity. Throughout her career, she has successfully tied preservation of the historic built environment to issues facing Americans in the present day, such as affordable housing, climate, and cultural conservation.
“I am honored to have been selected for this year’s award. I so appreciate my time at the bush school and the influence that foundation has had on my career in public service,” said Miller.
“My background at the Bush School has made me uniquely suited, not only to administer the largest perseveration program in the state of Texas and one of the largest in the country, but to grow it from a typical regulatory-type agency to a robust department that’s focused on significant policy initiatives.”
Miller and Napoli will be featured in a display to be installed in the atrium of the Allen Building. The display will continue to highlight future award winners.