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16 staff members honored for outstanding performance

by UofL Today last modified Dec 01, 2010 01:08 PM

All of them go the extra mile — from helping employees in need, to exemplary customer service, to helping the university survive the 2009 flood.

For their hard work this past year, University of Louisville Provost Shirley Willihnganz honored 16 staff members with Outstanding Performance Awards during a ceremony Nov. 30 at Amelia Place, the official UofL president’s residence. Each award winner received $1,000 and a plaque.

Here are the recipients (information comes from nomination materials):

Richard Ellis, plumber, Health Sciences Center Physical Plant

Ellis, who has worked at UofL for 22 years, was commended for his willingness to go the extra mile to help out faculty, staff and students at HSC. He began as a general maintenance mechanic and later moved to plumber.

His nomination said he deserved to be recognized for years of hard work. The letter said supervisors always know Ellis’ tasks will be completed in a timely and correct manner. He’s also able to save the university money by fixing items himself, rather than sending repairs out to a contractor.

The nomination described him as a model employee who is always ready and willing to help other employees.

“Rick is the type of person who is polite, helpful and very friendly towards all he comes in contact with,” his nomination read. “Rick goes out of his way to assist others.”

Greg Gittings, grounds foreman, Grounds Maintenance

Gittings, who’s worked at UofL for 33 years, oversees nine employees who perform horticultural maintenance on more than 80 acres of campus grounds. The job varies — lawn care, landscaping, tree care, snow removal.

His nomination said he has a “whatever-it-takes-to-get-it-done mentality.” During the snow and ice storms in recent years, Gittings came to work to make sure campus was cared for despite not having power at his home. He’s also helped other departments with such projects as giving away free mulch, and he helped Parking when workers had problems painting parking lots.

Gittings also was commended for taking extra classes and seminars to further his knowledge of turf management, horticulture and management.

“Greg truly tries to get better every day in work and life, and that should be commended,” his nomination read.

Malcolm Tyler, plumber, Physical Plant

Tyler came to UofL in 1998. His nomination letter commended his work during the 2009 flood.

In particular, Tyler went through the flood waters to shut down gas boilers that were going under flood waters.

“This saved the university from the risk of explosions when the cold water hit the hot water boilers and also stopped the risk of a gas leak from submerged gas valves,” his nomination said.

Tyler also helped rescue employees and others who were trapped in their cars or buildings.

“Malcolm has demonstrated leadership abilities in the work he performs,” according to his nomination letter. “He always makes sure each job is done in the best interest of the university.”

Christopher Winchester, groundskeeper, Physical Plant

Winchester, who came to UofL in 2006, is responsible for maintaining the grounds around Grawemeyer Hall and the Oval. Although Physical Plant has a gardener on staff, Winchester has taken responsibility for maintaining several flower beds in the area.

Besides maintaining UofL’s most visible area, he has stepped up within his department to help as needed. He helps with maintenance duties when the mechanic is out, fixing equipment that is needed on a daily basis to keep the department functioning. He also helps set up graduation ceremonies each semester.

No matter the weather disaster — flood, snow, ice — he lends a hand to help out as needed.

“Chris has always gotten along with his fellow employees and offers to help others anytime it is needed,” his nomination said. “He just has a good attitude about his job at UofL.”

Jeff Wright, bindery operator, Information Technology Printing

Wright operates the cutter, folder and the booklet maker to turn printed pages into finished brochures, business cards and invitations.

Hi nomination letter commended Wright for his extraordinary work during the 2009 flood. He worked for hours pushing water to the drains in Miller Information Technology Center to save the newly renovated student computer center and the iTech Xpress store. He also moved equipment to dry areas and stayed to clean up.

“He was on the job doing whatever he could to help long after many of our colleagues had gone home,” his nomination said.

Wright also was honored for the work he does off-campus. Wright is a volunteer firefighter and EMT. He is also a biker who has volunteered in rides like Toys for Tots.

“Jeff’s rugged exterior is the casing for a kind heart and generous soul,” according to his nomination.

Sally Atcheson, unit business manager, Kent School of Social Work

Atcheson is responsible for providing oversight to numerous project staff to reconcile accounts and budgets of a research portfolio of $10 million to $12 million. She oversees all financial operations related to research funding, ensures compliance and accurate financial accountability and serves as the liaison between the Kent School and the Office of Grants Management.

“Sally Atcheson’s philosophy is to serve others,” her nomination said, noting that in the three years she has been at UofL, hardly a week has gone by that her supervisor doesn’t get a compliment from faculty or staff at Ketn School or elsewhere at UofL about Atcheson’s helpfulness and efficiency.

Atcheson’s nomination included several examples of her willingness to go above and beyond her basic job requirements. For instance, during the 2009 ice storm, she drove to campus to pick up two grant applications, prepare them and deliver them to the post office to ensure they were delivered before the deadline.

The letter also commended her for improving the unit’s fiscal policies and procedures and for creating and executing new strategies to improve accountability.

“Her excellence helps us all,” her nominator said.

Angela Black, associate director for Scholarship, Student Financial Aid Office

Black works with institutional scholarships and collaborates with the offices of admissions, bursar, athletics, registrar, provost and the president to award and manage these funds. The job includes ensuring that scholarship budgets are accurate and the NCAA and federal guidelines are followed appropriately.

“Angela works overtime as needed, and even on some days off, to ensure the deadlines are met and all entities involved are satisfied with the results,” her nominator said.

In addition to her work at UofL, she involved with the Kentucky Association of Student Financial Aid Officers. She is the state coordinator for College Goal Sunday, a national program that offers free and professional assistance to high school seniors planning their college careers.

Her colleagues also commended her problem-solving ability.

“In all the years we have worked with Angela, we have never encountered an issue that could not be resolved by taking a step back and working through all of the details,” her nominators said. “She has an ability to calmly look at things from different points of view and make unbiased, responsible decisions or compromises.

Mary Ellen Burke, program coordinator, Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning

Burke has been an employee of UofL for more than 30 years. Her job involves registration for the hundreds of classes, programs, conferences and workshops at the Delphi Center.

She was commended for her recent work in getting the Student Data Center, her unit’s registration software, workable for the Delphi Center.

”She is the glue that holds Shelby Campus together and one who always goes above and beyond to make sure the registration process at the Delphi Center runs smoothly,” her nominator wrote.

Burke also was recognized by her colleagues for being willing to take on additional responsibilities that aren’t necessarily part of her job, including employee supervision.

“Mary Ellen is the unsung hero of the Delphi Center,” her nomination said.

Lori Fehler, program coordinator senior, Office for the Vice President of Finance

Fehler has worked at the university for more than 12 years. Her job includes supporting the assistant vice president for finance, performing duties in support of the Budget and Financial Planning Office and updating and maintaining the finance division’s website.

Fehler’s nominator commended her positive attitude and willingness to assume responsibilities of the department’s website. She also led the department in the conversion to Plone and in ensuring ADA compliance.

“She accepted this responsibility/challenge with the same smile and positive attitude she approaches all tasks, even though she had no formal Web training,” her nomination letter said.

Besides her specific job functions, Felher’s coworkers recognized her for serving as the division’s unit coordinator for community partnerships and representative for UofL Cares. She organizes the annual vice president for finance office’s annual chili-fest fundraiser and annual adopt-a-thon, two initiatives that benefit UofL families.

“All of these functions are in addition to her ’regular’ job and demonstrate her concern for the university and university community,” her nomination letter said.

David Hatfield, assistant director, intramural sports

Hatfield has worked at UofL for more than 26 years. His responsibilities include overseeing the Student Activities Center recreation space, the Humana Gym and the Intramural Field Complex. He also is responsible for the department’s outside rental program, where recreational facilities are rented to community groups.

Hatfield’s nomination letter complimented his incredible work ethic.

“The amount of time David puts into his job to ensure everything runs smoothly is extraordinary,” the letter said. “Our facilities operate seven days a week, so David is constantly here at night and on the weekends ensuring everything is operating efficiently.”

Hatfield manages six full-time employees and 80 hourly student workers. His letter cited his willingness to work with students on their schedules and the extra mile Hatfield goes to help students and employees who may be in need. It has ranged from loaning money to an employee who needed help keeping the power from being turned off, to visiting employees in the hospital and giving them rides to the doctor’s office.

“This type of compassion is rare in this world but is indicative of David’s character and his commitment to his employees,” his nomination letter said.

Cathy Leist, REACH executive director

Leist was credited by her peers for transforming the REACH Center from a “meager three-room tutoring group into what is now a nationally recognized, award-winning and comprehensive academic support unit that has become a model for similar programs nationwide.”

The program offers online tutoring, small and large group tutoring for more than 100 courses and two math centers, two computer centers and a Digital Media Suite.

Colleagues said Leist regularly meets with other departments and faculty to learn how to improve the program.

She also was recognized for her willingness to serve UofL through committee work. She has served on the Cardinal Covenant Advisory Committee, Financial Literacy Committee, CPE College Readiness Task Force, University of Louisville College Readiness Committee, Military and Veterans Advisory Group, UEPC Provost Committee, Technology in Learning Spaces Committee, Persistence to Graduation Committee and Undergraduate Council.

“Cathy is an inspirational leader,” her nomination letter said. “She serves as a mentor to her professional staff and demonstrates time and again what it means to be a true leader.

“And when times get chaotic and crazy, Cathy reminds us that our purpose is to serve students.”

Michelle Massey, associate director for Support Services, Housing and Residence Life

Dedicated. Determined. Dependable. Those are the words used to describe Massey in her nomination letter.

Her letter states that she often can be found in the office before or after her regular hours, working on a list of student appeals or helping resident assistants polish up their programming.

No matter the hour, “you’ll still see a smile on her face,” her letter said.

“Whether its whipping up a batch of homemade spaghetti for a staff meeting or giving up a Sunday afternoon to support a clothing drive for Haiti’s earthquake victims, Michelle can always be counted on go the extra mile.”

Massey also was commended for her work with the Mid-Managers Institute. She has served on the host committee for the past several years.

“Michelle bestowed countless time and effort in ensuring student affairs professionals from across the nation left Louisville with not only a grand, professional experience but also with a great impression of our city.”

Sandy Russell, insurance and risk manager, Contract Administration and Risk Management

For Russell, the task of recouping more than $20 million in damages from the 2009 flood began the day of the flood — while she was in the middle of a vacation with her family. While her family enjoyed the trip, she spent a significant portion of the trip on the phone, beginning what has been more than a yearlong process to get back the $20 million.

“Those numbers adequately describe the ’big picture’ scope of the flood and the ensuring damage, but it does little to describe the hidden numbers and the amount of work it took on Sandy’s part to remedy my inconvenience and the inconvenience of everyone else that was affected on campus,” her nomination letter said.

An example of her task:

  • Prepared claims for 18,081 content items like desks, tables, chairs, binders, etc. and for 515 computer related items, totaling more than $2.1 million.
  • All of the items had to be sorted and manually categorized to ensure they were properly filed with the insurance company.
  • She had to visit every site with content or computer damage and document the damage. This sometimes meant walking through mud to take photographs.

The flood work alone could have been a full-time job, but Russell also fulfilled her other job responsibilities throughout this period. Among other tasks, she renewed 11 UofL insurance policies, wrote and chaired a request for proposals process for long-term disability insurance and wrote and chaired the RFP process for UofL’s commercial general liability insurance project, processed 248 worker’s compensation claims and closed 118 worker compensation claims. She also reviewed most of the university’s lease agreements, event agreements and miscellaneous procurement agreements.

“She never missed a step,” her nomination letter said.

Kay McGuffin, program assistant senior, Controller’s Office

McGuffin, who’s worked for UofL for 30 years, is a program assistant senior in the controller’s office. Some of her duties include providing post support for all accounts payable activities, processing stale dated payment items and researching all incoming vendor refund check payments.

McGuffin’s nominator commended her for forming relationships with other departments that have come to depend on her knowledge on a regular basis and for her willingness to go the extra mile.

“She receives calls and e-mails on a daily basis that do not especially relate to her duties; however Kaye is always willing to help,” her nomination letter said. “She always goes the extra mile to search for the answer, and she always ensures that her customer’s issue or question is fully resolved.”

McGuffin also was recognized for her “exceptional dependability” and her effective relationships with others. Her nomination included several quotes from people she has worked with noting how helpful she’s been.

Beyond office duties, McGuffin also was recognized for her work helping with fundraisers for the needy in the community. She’s one of the first to donate food, items or her time.

“She has a heart of gold and is always willing to share her good fortune with others,” her letter said.

Marian Vasser, administrative specialist, Office of International, Diversity and Outreach Programs, College of Arts and Sciences

Vasser’s job is to support and assist in the programming efforts of members of her unit. She assists five people who conduct programming that includes diversity workshops for faculty, staff and students; community outreach programs; and such other programming efforts as Saturday Academy and Sistah Summit.

“She is truly invaluable to the unit, and I can say from direct experience that without her commitment, skills and knowledge, our unit’s capacity to conduct diversity and outreach programming would be significantly diminished,” her nomination letter said.

Vasser also has consistently made herself available to work evenings and weekends.

In recent years, she has also asked for, and been assigned, programming responsibilities of her own. She conceived, planned and conducted a new internship program for undergraduates called the Inclusive and Equity Internship. Students attend workshops and lectures and later plan diversity programming for other students. The program has the possibility to be “a national model for engaging students in diversity and social justice work on campus,” her letter said.

Timothy Gornet, manager, Rapid Prototyping Center Operations

In November 1993, the J.B. Speed School of Engineering established the Rapid Prototyping Facility, now a center, with a state-of-the-art process based on advance technology of Selective Laser Sintering of plastic materials. The process allows about 70 consortium member to make plastic prototype parts and structures from a CAD model data base, which reduces the product development cycle time.

“Gornet has taken personal responsibility for the success and ownership of the Rapid Prototyping Center,” his nomination letter said.

Through his initiative, the RPC was awarded contracts with Boeing and Toyota for research and service to develop and understand the process of Selective Laser Slintering for rapid prototyping to be used for direct digital manufacturing of nonstructural plastic parts for aircraft applications.

He also played a role in the Speed School obtaining a $1.16 million grant from the Office of Naval Research on direct digital manufacturing.

Gornet also was helpful in attracting a faculty member for the new Clark Chair of Computer Aided Research.

“Tim is one of a handful of recognized ‘experts’ in the international community of rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing,” his nomination letter said. “His long involvement in this young technology has established UofL as one of the top research universities in this area.”

In addition to the staff who received awards, several received certificates of honorable mention:

Michael Aldi, plumber, Physical Plant

Charlie Sloan, gardener, Physical Plant

Charles Williams, assistant superintendent, Physical Plant Custodial Services

Courtney Kerr, School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies

Irvin Williams, Physical Plant

Rose Hayden, Physical Plant

UofL gives OPAs annually in four employment categories: professional/administrative, clerical/secretarial, technical/paraprofessional and skilled craft/service workers

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