Simmons praises U. staff

Monday, January 29, 2007

A large crowd of University employees gathered in the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center Friday afternoon for the third annual Brown Employee Appreciation and Recognition Day, an event that featured President Ruth Simmons.

“Today we acknowledge the consistently good work that you (do) … to support our ongoing mission,” Simmons told the crowd of several hundred, which overflowed into the area behind the rows of seats in front of the podium.

Thirty-four employees, nominated by their peers, were honored with excellence awards in the categories of citizenship, diversity, efficiency, innovation, managing for excellence, service and “rising star.” Winners received a certificate along with a handshake and photo op with Simmons as they crossed the stage. Vice President for Administration Walter Hunter, who introduced the winners, said the excellence awards together totaled about $50,000 in prizes.

Nearly 500 other employees were recognized informally for five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 or more years of service, including Simmons (five years), who was presented with a commemorative pin by Hunter as she took the podium.

Simmons began by acknowledging noteworthy achievements of University employees in 2006 and called the excellence of the staff “truly a cause worth celebrating.”

“It has been a remarkable year at Brown,” she said, “and staff … have made astonishing progress across the campus, on so many levels.”

Among those honored was Richard Hilton, a custodial services supervisor for Facilities Management, who won an excellence award for innovation for starting an effort to recycle cleaning chemical containers in east campus buildings. Sheila Dillon of Brown Alumni Magazine was honored with an efficiency award for revamping the way writers collect class notes, and the seven members of the Family Feud committee received an innovation award for planning a team-building event for Staff Development Day in June.

Those who made the trek to the OMAC despite the frigid temperature were greeted at the door by a high-fiving Brown bear mascot and enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres following Simmons’ speech.

The event seemed to be well-attended, said Kathy Rossi, a financial assistant in the Office of International Programs who is in her third year at Brown. She said she appreciated the events the University organized for its employees, including BEAR Day and Staff Development Day in June, when employees are invited to take the day off and participate in seminars, tours and other team-building activities.

“It’s nice to give recognition to people,” she said, adding that she thinks BEAR Day has a positive effect on morale.

“And it’s nice to interact with people from other departments,” she said.

A group of Facilities Management employees milling about the OMAC before the ceremony said they always attend BEAR Day and enjoyed the opportunity to be recognized once each year. They love working for Simmons, they said.

“I think a lot of her,” said Bill Bell, a Facilities Management employee. “She does right by the community.”

“We love Ruth,” added Pat Mooney, a carpenter for Facilities Management.

BEAR Day was developed in 2004 by the Human Resources Advisory Board and the Staff Advisory Committee. The first BEAR Day took place in January 2005.

One of the goals of BEAR Day is “to create a culture of appreciation and foster a sense of community,” according to the Human Resources Department Web site.

Rossi said she felt adequately appreciated and thought most of her co-workers felt similarly.

“I’m new to Brown,” she said, “but I think it’s a good place to work.”

In her 22-minute speech, Simmons was her usual personable self, comfortably working the crowd and demonstrating an ability to speak off the cuff.

“I just wanted to give a special … shout-out,” she said at one point, trying to recognize the fundraising efforts of the development office. When laughter followed, she admitted, “I like to do that, from time to time.”

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