Princeton employees honored for dedication and service
Six Princeton staff members were recognized for their commitment to excellence and exceptional performance during the University’s annual Service Recognition Luncheon on March 28 in Jadwin Gymnasium. In addition, two staff members were honored for their leadership potential.
Those honored as recipients of the President’s Achievement Award were: Bruce E. Berlinger, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory; Dianna Lauren Blaha, Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students; Maureen McCartin Killeen, University Center for Human Values; Kimberly Elizabeth Leaman, University Library; Mibs Southerland Mara, Office of Alumni Affairs; and Maria Kaloudis Papadakis, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
The award celebrates 20 years, having been established in 1997 to recognize members of the support and administrative staffs with five or more years of service whose dedication, excellent work and special efforts have contributed significantly to the success of their departments and the University. The recipients received a framed certificate and a $2,500 award and their names are inscribed on a plaque displayed in the Office of Human Resources. The President’s Achievement Award is part of the University’s Staff Recognition Program administered by the Office of Human Resources. See photos and an honorees video and a President’s Achievement Award video from the Service Recognition Luncheon.
Staff members with 65, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15 and 10 years of service were honored during the luncheon; those with 25 or more years of service also received commemorative gifts. A total of 478 University staff members with a collective 8,925 years of service were honored for their dedication this year (see “By the numbers” at right).
Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber recognized both the award recipients and the long-serving staff members, praising their talent, skills and experience. He concluded by stating, “Through your loyalty, compassion and commitment to excellence, you embody the values we honor.” What follows are excerpts from his remarks.
Bruce Berlinger is celebrating 40 years of service with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory this year. In his current role as a lead technician at the Lab, Bruce is responsible for some of the most complicated machines on the planet. But he does much more than operate them—in fact, Bruce is often the one that designs and builds them. Allow me to quote briefly from a description provided by Sam Cohen, Director of the Program in Plasma Science and Technology, of just one of Bruce’s areas of responsibility: the PFRC-2, possibly the most advanced magnetic fusion research facility in the US and the only one that uses superconducting coils: “Bruce built every one of the coils and developed the technology to adhere the superconducting tape to its copper mandrel and machined their boron nitride shielding and designed and assembled the cryogenic system that supplies liquid nitrogen and….” I could go on, but you get the picture! Bruce’s astounding technical expertise is matched by his tremendous dedication to the mission of the Lab and his willingness to work with personnel at all levels—maintenance staff, facilities technicians, engineers, students, researchers, and faculty—to move projects forward. Creative and resilient, Bruce can be counted on to work around technical and financial challenges to craft elegant and cost-saving solutions. On research teams, Bruce collaborates at the highest levels, often serving as a co-author or even first author on published physics and technology papers. This is especially striking given that Bruce’s college degree is in philosophy. Bruce, through your skill, creativity, and dedication, you have made a tremendous contribution to the mission of the Plasma Physics Laboratory. In the words of Dr. Clayton Myers, talented technicians like you “are the engines that drive innovation and productivity at places like the Plasma Physics Lab.”
According to her colleagues in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, Dianna Blaha is the kind of person who doesn’t just ask, “What can I do to help?” but instead springs into action whenever she perceives a need, a crisis, or a problem that needs solving. Whether it’s magically producing lunch for a busy colleague, or handling vendor negotiations for a student co-op, or fielding calls from students and parents, Dianna always seems to know what’s needed, and gets it done. Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan describes this gift as Dianna’s “radar beacon.” Says Deignan, Dianna “is one of those profoundly genuine individuals who has the ability to let you know immediately that she cares about what matters to you.” She has been immensely helpful to students with special medical needs. Says Bryant Blount, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students, “She is often the first staff person speaking with students and parents about their individual needs, and her talents in customer service are employed to great effect in helping them feel heard and responded to.” In sum, says Deignan, “Dianna’s work ethic and her untiring consideration of all whom she comes in contact with are gifts. Fortunately for us, Princeton University is the lucky recipient of those gifts.”
Maureen Killeen brings many talents to her role as Assistant Director of the University Center for Human Values. Efficient, congenial, compassionate, creative, and knowledgeable, Maureen “embodies the gold standard of academic management.” For Melissa Lane, the Center’s director, a key quality that defines Maureen’s outstanding performance is her “passion for service.” According to Lane, Maureen has brought this passion, infused with a “deep personal social justice ethic…to the core of the realization of the Center’s vision.” Indeed, continues Lane, “every one of the new initiatives that I have put forward has succeeded only because of Maureen’s passionate dedication to serving the Center’s mission and hence to realizing the values of the University.” Amaney Jamal, Director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, with whom Maureen worked previously, echoes this assessment: “Maureen was not simply fulfilling her job here. She cared about the Center and its mission.” For Jamal, this sense of ‘ownership’ and ‘care’ is a virtue that is fundamental to Maureen’s outstanding performance, and I am sure many others would agree enthusiastically with Professor Jamal’s assessment. From mastering intricate details of the Center’s financial arrangements, to planning its 25th anniversary international conference, to being the welcoming presence that greets visiting fellows, students, and faculty every day, Maureen infuses every task, great or small, with dedication beyond the call of duty.
When we talk about the Princeton University Library, we usually speak in terms of collections and numbers — over 8 million books, 49,000 linear feet of manuscripts, more than 25 special collections, and so on. But talking about numbers misses something essential. Behind every book, or periodical, or manuscript, is the story of someone who recognized that we needed to acquire it, who tracked it down, who cataloged it, and who made sure that scholars, teachers and students would be able to find it and use it. Kimberly Leaman is one of those people. As a special collections assistant in the Near East studies section of the Collection Development Department, she is responsible for maintaining and expanding a world-renowned collection of serial publications in all the languages of the Middle East. With extraordinary initiative, and what Associate University Librarian David Magier describes as “refreshing enthusiasm and can-do attitude,” Kimberly takes on whatever challenges come her way in making sure that a complex collection is complete and available to those who need it. Whether developing more effective workflows to manage daily logistics, “sleuthing sources hidden away in Firestone,” tracking down needed Persian texts from a vendor in Teheran, or leading tours for students in a Persian class, Kimberly brings energy, creativity and a spirit of collaboration to everything she does. She can be counted on not only to do her own job well, but to lend her skills and expertise wherever they are needed, designing the department’s website, for example, or helping get a complicated grant proposal out the door. “Intellectually voracious,” with a “warm heart” and generous style, Kimberly takes delight in learning and in fostering the learning of the Library’s patrons. She is, in the words of David Magier, “a unique gem providing unique value to the total enterprise of the Library and the University.”
Event planning is an art, and we at Princeton are in debt to those at this University who enable us to organize multi-day affairs with meals, entertainment, educational opportunities, parades, and speeches. But even among this talented group, Mibs Mara stands out. For the past 10 years, Mibs has had primary responsibility for the annual Princeton extravaganza we call Reunions, a 25,000 person gathering that goes on rain or shine (and, usually, with a lot of both). Her ability to manage “dizzyingly complex logistics,” to establish good working partnerships with colleagues in nearly every university department, and to be nimble, resourceful, and judicious in dealing with the unexpected, has helped to ensure that this signature university tradition continues to thrive and grow, year after year. Thanks to her innovation and creativity, Reunions is now a safer and more enjoyable experience for all. Whether it’s developing the system of wristbands, holograms, and scanners that let guests in and keep crashers out, or moving the graduate alumni headquarters to a better campus location, or distributing water and pretzels to hot, weary members of the senior class during the P-rade, Mibs is attentive to the needs of all Reunions participants. Gifted in the art of team-building and collaboration, Mibs has forged strong partnerships with a host of Princeton offices, among them public safety, campus dining, building services, housing, the Office of General Counsel, and parking and transportation, to name but a few. She also works with the more than 1,200 students who staff Reunions each year on crews and in entertainment, often inspiring them to become dedicated volunteers after graduation. Princeton’s alumni volunteers love working with Mibs, in part because she’s so dedicated to making their service experience fruitful and positive. They love her so much, in fact, that she’s become an honorary member of 10 different reunion classes so far. Kevin Heaney, vice president for advancement, sums up what makes Mibs so special: “Mibs’s sense of integrity and her willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done well, even at 2 am, is infectious and encourages us all to be the best we can be.”
Ask just about anyone who works with her, whether professor, student or staff member, and they will likely tell you that Maria Papadakis is “one of the best staff persons in the University.” Says Anne McClintock, the A. Barton Hepburn Professor in Gender and Sexuality Studies, where Maria serves as program manager, “in all my years of teaching … I have never met Maria’s equal in administrative brilliance, professional dedication, managerial skill, unflagging generosity and warm generosity of spirit.” Asks Anne Cheng, professor of English and American studies, “Can someone be so bureaucratically savvy yet creative and humane at the same time? Maria is!” One important part of Maria’s role is to assist newly appointed postdocs in their transition to Princeton. For Tala Khanmalek, Maria’s support has helped her “feel a true sense of belonging on campus, which has allowed me to thrive.” Catherine Clune-Taylor is inspired by Maria’s skill, professionalism, efficiency and attention to detail, but most of all by “the ease with which she accomplishes so much, so well, and all while simultaneously completing a doctorate herself.” With doctoral work focused on the assimilation experience of first-generation college students, and given her own experience as a first-generation student, Maria was exceptionally qualified to take on an additional role as a Staff Fellow for the Scholars Institute Fellowship Program, which supports first-generation, low-income undergraduates throughout their four years at Princeton. Bringing her characteristic warm, caring spirit to her role as a mentor, Maria is highly valued for her efforts to “provide an empathic listening ear and creating a space that legitimizes their concerns and experiences,” while also celebrating their accomplishments. I think Professor Dara Strolovitch perhaps sums up best what Maria contributes to her department, and to Princeton, each day: “She sees what is possible, and she helps the rest of us see it and believe it, too.”
Griffin Management Award
In addition to the President’s Achievement Award winners, two staff members were honored as recipients of the Donald Griffin ’23 Management Award. They were Keating Helfrich Debelak, Lewis Center for the Arts, and Michael B. Olin, Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students. The award was established to honor Griffin — a 1923 alumnus who served as the longtime secretary and general secretary of Princeton’s Alumni Council — through a gift from his son James, a 1955 alumnus; his granddaughter, Barbara Griffin Cole, a 1982 alumna; and her husband, Chris Cole, a 1981 alumnus. The award is given by the Office of Human Resources to recognize administrators who would like to develop their leadership and management skills. The winners receive a grant of up to $2,500 to participate in professional activities scheduled within the next year to provide new insights and perspectives, renew motivation and/or enhance skills applicable to their current responsibilities.
Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for Human Resources, spoke about each Griffin Award recipient, and excerpts of her remarks follow.
Keating Helfrich Debelak has been employed in the Lewis Center for the Arts since 2010, first as the assistant to the costume shop manager and then in 2014 taking over as costume shop manager. In her nomination, Anya Klepikov, lecturer in the Lewis Center, described the nature of costume work as being invisible to individuals who are acquainted with the specifics of the trade. By nominating her, Anya hoped to “put Keating in the limelight and applaud” her for her creativity, productivity and “characteristic patience, grace and tirelessness” in how she handled 92 productions since she first began at the Lewis Center.
Anya noted that Keating demonstrates “a dogged devotion” and “consistently goes beyond the call of duty.” Anya stated, “I cannot think of a hard-working, generous and trustworthy team player more deserving.”
By winning the Griffin Award, Keating will be able to register for a series of online courses from The Hat Academy to learn more about the millinery crafts process to create and embellish hats. She expects to share what she learns directly with the costume students. The grant provided by the Griffin Award will also enable Keating to purchase basic supplies and materials.
Michael Olin has worked as the associate dean of undergraduate students in the Office the Dean of Undergraduate Students since 2012. Dean Kathleen Deignan described Michael as someone who “values consensus, appreciates the nuances of building it, and invests the time and attention necessary to achieve it. The trusted relationships and partnerships he has developed with his colleagues reflect these values.”
Dean Deignan said she enthusiastically nominated Michael for the award because his “dedication, accomplishments,and personality are a prime combination for continued success in developing management skills,” and it will enable him to “provide even more positive bearing on the University and in care of our students.”
Through the Griffin Award, Michael will attend a two-day seminar, “Managing Yourself and Leading Others,” at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education. The seminar is designed to help managers become more effective leaders. It focuses specifically on managing oneself, leading teams and motivating others to accomplish organizational goals. Michael hopes to acquire stronger overarching leadership abilities that will assist him in developing a more effective team, especially for handling student-related crises and other challenging cases they encounter.