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BEAR day lauds dedicated staff

A large crowd joins President Paxson to celebrate the work of University staff members

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

“When your spouse or loved one or child asks you, ‘What did you do today?’, you probably don’t say, ‘I helped put a child through college,’ or ‘I supported first-rate, cutting-edge research for the common good,’” quipped President Christina Paxson Monday to a filled-to-capacity Salomon 101 crowd of University staff employees and their families. “The truth is — this is what you do.”

Paxson’s speech was a part of her first-ever Brown Employee Appreciation and Recognition Day — BEAR Day — to celebrate staff members and their service to the University. BEAR Day, established by former President Ruth Simmons in 2005 as an annual event, offers special recognition for staff members who have served some increment of 5 years, from those completing their fifth year working at the University to those completing their 30th. It also honors roughly 25 Excellence Award recipients each year — individuals and teams who have done outstanding work at the University — in the areas of citizenship, diversity, efficiency, innovation, managing for excellence, rising star and service, according to the Human Resources website.

Katherine Tameo, director of finance and administration for the Office of Campus Life, served on the selection committee that picked this year’s recipients. The committee, which comprises administrators from various divisions of the University, asked staff members to nominate their peers for the awards in the fall semester, and the committee chose the winners in November.

The process of selecting award recipients is difficult but enjoyable, Tameo said. “We come to the meeting with our top choices, and we have to explain which candidates we’ve picked and why,” she said. Serving on the committee is Tameo’s “favorite thing to do all year,” she said, and she enjoys learning “all the stories behind each nominee.”

“Sometimes we receive nominations for one person from many different people, which is really amazing,” Tameo said.

At this year’s BEAR Day, 22 individual staff members and four staff teams received awards.

“It’s such an honor,” said Myra Liwanag ’91, who received an award for promoting diversity through her position as director of regional and multicultural programs for the Office of Alumni Relations. Liwanag, who focuses on alums of color and LGBTQ alums, has worked to connect these communities with the student body through on- and off-campus events, said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration.

“It’s very humbling,” said Anne Buffington, a nutritionist at Health Services, who received an award in the rising star category. According to the program given at the BEAR Day ceremony, there has been a “35 percent increase in nutrition appointments in the past year,” due in large part to Buffington’s “popularity and effectiveness.”

Hailing from Michigan, Buffington said she never thought she would “be living in the smallest state of the Union,” but was drawn to Brown’s “welcoming culture” and the emphasis it placed on “student independence.” Her parents, John and Beth, joined her from Michigan for the ceremony and the reception which followed in Sayles Hall.

Though Monday was Paxson’s first BEAR Day, she maintained many of the day’s traditions as established by Simmons, Huidekoper said.

“This is a day for staff and their families, a day to see how proud people are to work at and for Brown,” Huidekoper said.

But for Paxson, BEAR Day was in some ways something new and distinct. “There’s a real sense of teamwork and community among the staff here at Brown,” she said, noting that it is uncommon to find a such a cohesive community. “The staff are always willing to pitch in and help each other, which makes it a terrific place to work.”

The atmosphere at the event was genial and relaxed. Staff members reaching 20-, 25- or 30-year anniversaries of service were called on stage for group photos with Paxson, a process that demanded lots of maneuvering and compelled the photographer to bark directions, eliciting laughter from the audience. Some groups posed in formations that evoked images of an athletics team — with some staff members kneeling and others standing, eliciting further laughter from the audience.

Huidekoper read a short description about the awardees before calling them to the stage to receive their certificates from Paxson. Huidekoper joked about many of the awardees, commenting at one point, “There’s that efficiency!” about an awardee in the efficiency category, who received her certificate and quickly left the stage while Huidekoper was still detailing her achievements.

Paxson also made some comic remarks, at one point noting of the 25-year service anniversary awardees that “all of them started working here when they were 12.”