Employees of the Year express shock, gratitude for their awards

by University Communications,

Students tell her things they don’t tell anyone else.

They don’t have money for food. Their parents want them to drop out of school. They’re failing their classes and could lose their scholarships.

Every time this happens, Renee Jaime, an administrative assistant for Student Activities, calmly listens to their concerns and helps them form a plan. Later, when the crises have passed and the students express their thanks, Jaime is fueled to begin another day.

“This is what keeps me going,” says Jaime, who particularly enjoys mentoring first-generation Latino college students. “They make me a part of their lives and they trust that I will help them. If I don’t know the answer, I will find out.”

Award Winners

Jaime’s dedication to students helps explain why she was named one of six Employees of the Year at the May 28 ACE Awards Luncheon. Attended by a couple hundred people, the event recognizes classified and administrative staff for their tenure and service to the university.

A panel of judges evaluates nominations from faculty, students and staff and selects the employees of the year in three categories: Willamette University Motto Award; Alvin F. Waller Stewardship Award; and the Richard “Buzz” Yocom Campus Service Award. Each winner receives a glass trophy and $100.

This year, Jaime and Assistant Athletics Director Rob Passage received the motto award for their civic engagement and commitment to community service.

Digital Press Operator Mark Bernt and Deborah Dancik, associate vice president of Academic Affairs, received the stewardship award for their efforts to promote teamwork, enhance communications and inspire commitment and productivity.

The campus service award went to Shanel Parette, access manager for the Hatfield Library, and Cherri Miles, library accounts manager and web specialist for the law library. The two were commended for their friendly, helpful attitudes and their superior customer-service skills.

Emotional Response

In a nomination letter, Passage is described as likeable, professional and effective. Humbled and flattered by these words, Passage says they reaffirm a decision he made three years ago, when he moved across the country to accept his job.

Even then, he was struck by Willamette’s strong sense of community.

“Now, to be recognized for my contribution to that community makes me very proud to be a Bearcat,” he says.

Dancik, meanwhile, was credited for overseeing major technological revisions for the library systems and making the physical spaces in Hatfield Library more productive and attractive for users.

Although gratified by the award, she says she’s among many who deserve praise for what they do.

“It feels right to share this honor with the other recipients because our success is seldom just of our own making,” she says.

When named a winner of the campus service award, Parette was overcome with emotion.

From her perspective, the primary — and most enjoyable — aspect of her job is serving people.

“If there’s a problem, let’s solve it. Let’s not make a big deal about it,” she says. “We’re here for the people. Having that basic foundation is everything.”

Miles agrees. Dubbed “The Person Who Knows How Everything Works,” she says everyone on campus is a winner based on the simple acts they do every day.

“​​The award has made me want to tell those around me that they are appreciated,​” she says. “And to work harder as a player in this team we call ‘Willamette.’”