Willamette honors outstanding employees

by University Communications,

One Willamette staff member has such fine interpersonal skills, he knows the partners, relatives and offspring — and perhaps even the dogs — of everyone he meets.

Another has spent 18 years transforming scattered ideas and initiatives into successful projects while displaying an unwavering positive attitude.

In such terms, members of of Willamette’s community praised their most valued colleagues at the Willamette Employee Awards Luncheon on May 24. Strong applause, selfies and hugs punctuated the ceremony held in Cat Cavern.

President Steve Thorsett, who presented the awards, said he’s “very proud to work with such a dedicated and committed group of colleagues … and the work that we do together to make Willamette an outstanding place.”

Six staff members who demonstrated exemplary innovation, spirit and service to Willamette over the last year received awards. More than 30 recipients were nominated by members of the campus community.

The Richard “Buzz” Yocum Campus Service Award went to Robbin Grover, facilities support technician, and Andrew Toney JD’02, theatre manager.

Chief Communications Officer Russ Yost MBA’05, who presented Grover’s award, said, “When we first floated the idea of nominating this person, enthusiasm and excitement traveled through Waller Hall faster than the three fires that have engulfed that building in its 150-year history.”

Nominators marveled at the way Grover displays a “gentle kindness, always holding the elevator, always asking after our well-being and always, always excited about Fridays.”

Nominations for Toney, who was unable to attend the ceremony, described him as someone who “underpins the fabric of his department, solves problems, soothes nerves and provides support to everyone.”

Dean Wentworth, botanical garden and greenhouse curator, and Mike Bennett ‘70, senior director of development for principal gifts, received The Motto Award for best embodying the concept “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.”

Nominators noted Wentworth is “unselfish” with his time and “you can’t step foot on the campus without seeing his presence.” Grounds Manager Jim Anderson, who presented the award, said, “It’s even hard to get through Salem or the Mid-Willamette Valley and find someone who doesn’t know Dean or hasn’t been helped by his generosity.”

According to Dave Rigsby ‘00, associate vice president for advancement who presented Bennett’s award, Bennett is so deeply involved with the Willamette, Salem and Oregon communities that “hundreds, if not thousands, of alumni, colleagues and community members think of him when they think of Willamette.”

Pamela Smith, an administrative assistant, and Casey Feskens, director of infrastructure services, received The Alvan F. Waller Stewardship Award.

Smith was nominated for all three awards. Karen Howard, executive support specialist, who presented her with the Waller Stewardship Award, described her as possessing the rare ability “to bridge the worlds of academics and administration” and as “a resource of common sense, historical knowledge and good humor.”

Jackie Barretta, chief information officer of Willamette Integrated Technology Services, presented Feskens’ award. She praised Feskens for greatly expanding his small team’s capabilities, supporting innumerable projects, communicating technical concepts with ease and being “adamant about doing things right and doing them efficiently.”

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