FSU Faculty Senate bestows Torch Awards on esteemed members of university community

(From L to R) Bob Howard, Ben Crump, Charles Nam, Ruth and Les Akers. (FSU Photography Services)
(L to R) Bob Howard, Ben Crump, Charles Nam, Ruth and Les Akers. (FSU Photography Services)

Florida State University’s Faculty Senate bestowed five members of the university community with Torch Awards in a ceremony Thursday, Jan. 18, recognizing their contributions to advancing the university’s academic excellence.

“You embody the values that Florida State University holds dear,” FSU President Richard McCullough told honorees during the ceremony. “We appreciate everything you have done to make the university what it is today.”

FSU Provost James Clark presided over the ceremony, held at the Heritage Museum in Dodd Hall.

The Faculty Senate Torch Awards were established in 1996 as a way for faculty to honor friends of FSU who have made sustained and significant contributions to the university’s academic mission.

Awards are named for the three torches emblazoned upon the FSU seal. The three categories of Torch Awards are: Vires, representing moral, physical and intellectual strength; Artes, conveying an appreciation of aesthetics and the beauty of intellectual pursuits; and Mores, symbolizing respect for customs, character and tradition.

This year, the Faculty Senate bestowed two Artes and two Vires awards.

The 2023 winners are:


The Faculty Senate honored husband and wife Les and Ruth Akers for their work advancing the arts at Florida State and throughout the surrounding community.

Les Akers earned his degree from FSU’s College of Business before embarking on a successful career in the franchised automobile business. Ruth Akers earned her doctorate in musicology at FSU and later joined the faculty of FSU’s College of Music.

Together, the couple was recognized for their lasting impact on music and the arts in the region, including establishing the Fund for Entrepreneurial Activity in Music and funding a joint medical music therapy program between FSU and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

Their generous philanthropy and voluntarism over many years have greatly benefited the academic and cultural mission of Florida State University.


A two-time alumnus and renowned civil rights attorney, Ben Crump earned his law degree at FSU’s College of Law before embarking on a career that has seen him grow into a leading force in civil rights.

Crump is a nationally recognized advocate who served two terms as president of the FSU Black Student Union. He has represented children subjected to sexual assault in state-run emergency centers, college athletes who suffered sexual hazing and bullying, and inmates who suffered violence while incarcerated.

Crump is a defender of families who lost loved ones to racial violence or police brutality, including the families of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Martin Lee Anderson, and Breonna Taylor. Above all, Crump’s advocacy is aimed at helping Americans who have been without a voice.



As a decades-long employee at FSU, Bob Howard left an indelible imprint across campus. His career at FSU included working in the Department of Theatre, the College of Music, International Programs, and Student Life, where he served as director.

Howard’s work advanced FSU’s mission to extend education outside the classroom. While manager of Downunder, he was responsible for attracting and hosting musical and comedy acts. In his final position at FSU as director of the Askew Student Life Center, he was responsible for all the activities of the center, including lectures, films, and performances.

Since retiring in 2011, Howard has continued to serve FSU, using his formidable photography skills to support many organizations and events, including the FSU Flying High Circus and the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.

He plays an impactful role in chronicling the activities, speakers and events that shape student life at FSU.


A WWII veteran, Charles Nam is a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Research Associate of the Center for Demography and Population Health at FSU, where he has been a faculty member since 1964.

Nam’s innovative work has made him an influential leader in the field of social demography, where he has devoted his career to the integration of the social sciences through population studies. Nam is renowned for his research on social stratification, mortality trends, and population issues.

He has authored 12 books and more than 80 articles. He founded the Center for Demography and Population Health and served as director for 15 years. As an educator, he mentored countless students and taught demography courses around the world.

Since retiring from FSU in 1995, Nam has continued to serve FSU through research, mentoring and generous financial contributions aimed at promoting student and faculty excellence.