At the end of May, after all the dust settled from this year’s Commencement and Alumni Reunion, Amherst staff gathered for an afternoon of food and fun, celebrating a job well done, and inaugurated a new tradition to honor those who make the college run.
“I'm really proud to be the president of a college with employees who work as hard and are as dedicated to the core mission of a college as you obviously are,” President Biddy Martin told the crowd. Martin presented awards to 14 Amherst College employees, inaugurating a new tradition “honoring your good fellow employees who whose work is deemed by their colleagues to be extraordinary.”
Faculty, staff and students nominated 180 candidates for the prize, which includes a trophy and a $200 bonus. A nine-member committee selected the 14 honorees from the nominations. The 2012 honorees are:
1. Pamela Stawasz, Area Coordinator/LGBTQIA Ed/Asst Dir of Residential Life for the Dean of Students. “She was selected for her dedicated service to the lesbian/gay/bisexual /transgender and queer communities, and her support of students generally,” Martin said.
2. Patricia Allen, Events Coordinator, Public Affairs. According to President Martin, Pat’s work at putting together events “is so spectacular, I’ve not seen anything like it…she was selected for her extraordinary event-planning skills and her professionalism, including the organization of the two-day symposium on women teaching at Amherst, Gender Matters, [and] this spectacular Commencement, and her contributions to Reunion, and to every major event that occurs at Amherst.”
3. Alice Simmoneau, Office Manager/Secretary, Dean of Students office. Martin said, “Alice was selected in particular for the work she does assisting students, for modernizing her department, for her exceptional ability to communicate with colleagues throughout the college, her extraordinary reliability, and her dedication to each and every one of us.”
4. Paul Sorrentino, Director of Religious Life was honored for “his inspiration, cheerleading, organization and implementation” of the Campus Challenge initiative, Martin said. “He brought all of us together to support the survival center in Amherst, and they report that the leadership of Amherst College, under Paul's leadership, helped them get through the winter this year.”
5. Roberta Helinski, Academic Department Coordinator, Departments of French & Spanish: “She has provided many years of service to French and Spanish, and has incredible perseverance,” the president said. “She completes every project with an efficiency that's amazing, with accuracy, and is an enormous contribution to the departments.”
6. Rhea Cabin, Academic Department Coordinator, History. “She was selected for her outstanding job performance, exemplary collaboration and service for her department for 30 years, taking extraordinarily good care of students, “ Martin said. “She's known among other academic department coordinators as a reliable and consistent colleague who can be counted on for advice and help at any time.”
7. Richard Scorpio, Studio & Gallery Coordinator, Art & the History of Art. “He was selected for his dedication to the teaching and support of students, students who say they enjoy his classroom, but also the life lessons he gives, and his endless generosity toward them.”
8. Robert O’Connor, Network & Telecommunications Technician was selected for his ingenuity in devising a system that allows Amherst to webcast the men and women's soccer games at Hitchcock Field. “His personal involvement, agility, tenacity, are fundamental to the completion of a number of tasks and important milestones here,” Martin said.
9. Edmund M. Keyes, Special Services Custodian at the Arms Music Center. “Ted's viewpoint and advice is sought and valued by all of his colleagues in Music, and he's really, truly a vital figure in the department,” she said.
10. Herardo Rivas, Custodian. “You were selected for your ability to face what are described as some… undesirable conditions in the dorms,” Martin said, eliciting some laughter. “Yet you continue to wear a smile and work hard and serve the students, who really appreciate your dedication and your work and your interactions with them.”
11. Andy Anderson; Academic Technology Specialist. Andy was selected for teaching students about how to explore a geographic information system, in order to understand historical issues from a spatial perspective. “He supports their research over and over, and spends countless hours advising, discussing, collecting and analyzing data with students, “ Martin said.
12. Richard Mears, Environmental Health & Safety Manager. “It's not unusual for him to work extremely long days and evenings and weekends to come in, in the middle of the night for emergencies, and in general to do everything he can to keep all of us from the college safe.”
13. Erika Shelburne, Director of Leadership Giving. “It is to her credit that she has sought out and fostered our alumni and donors, and been responsible for some of Amherst College's major gifts.”
14. Sarah Barr, Director of Academic Engagement Programs, Center Community Engagement. “Sarah is an extremely effective part of the Center for Community Engagement, but she's also been nominated and awarded this honor because of her all around work on behalf of the college. She's served on the Employee Council and on the Committee on Priorities and Resources, always thinking positive ways to improve interactions on the campus. She could not have a stronger commitment to the college.”
“There are so many people here whose work is extraordinary, so it’s always dangerous to select some and not all,” Martin said. “But this is a tradition that will over time honor so many of you, and it’s a way to make the exemplary work that you do visible to the entire community.”