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March 4, 2010

7 staff win chancellor’s awards

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has named the recipients of the 2010 chancellor’s awards for staff excellence in service to the University and to the community.

The awards, open to all classified and union full- and part-time staff who have been employed by the University for at least five years, are the highest awards that Pitt grants to staff members.

The seven honorees, who were recognized at last week’s honors convocation, each will receive a $2,500 cash prize. Winners’ names also will be inscribed on plaques displayed in the William Pitt Union.

(The chancellor’s annual faculty awards were announced previously. See Feb. 18 University Times.)

A selection committee, chaired by Associate Vice Chancellor Jane W. Thompson, recommended the staff winners after reviewing supporting materials. Nordenberg sent congratulatory letters to the honorees, noting some of their qualifications and accomplishments.

Four staff members received the Chancellor’s Award for Staff for Excellence in Service to the University, which recognizes individuals whose performance consistently exceeds standards and expectations and who make a significant impact on the University through their commitment and performance. Those honorees are:

Beverly Bolden, director of student services and diversity recruiter, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business;

Patricia M. Colosimo, assistant director of the arts program at Pitt-Bradford;

Collie M. Henderson, administrative assistant in the Department of Philosophy, and

Blaine R. Walker, manager of University media projects, Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE).

In addition, three staff members received the Chancellor’s Award for Staff for Excellence in Service to the Community, which honors staff members whose work in the community surpasses the expectation of the organizations they serve, whose commitment and effort have made a significant impact on the community and whose dedication has improved the quality of life for others.

The honorees are:

Ernest Dettore Jr., STARS technical assistance consultant, Office of Child Development;

Allie Quick, executive director of principal gifts, Office of Institutional Advancement, and

Debora L. Whitfield, a financial counselor in the School of Dental Medicine.

Service to the University

Beverly Bolden was recognized for “leadership qualities, process improvements, calm demeanor and encouragement of staff development — all of which contribute to your distinction as a provider of ‘above-and-beyond’ service,” the chancellor wrote in his letter.

In particular, Nordenberg cited Bolden’s volunteering to assume the role of diversity recruiter for the Katz MBA program. The number of full-time students from underrepresented populations increased by 60 percent during her first year and by 112 percent during her second year, the chancellor noted.

“The committee was also impressed with your co-development of the ‘Katz School Transformation Framework,’ which has benefited countless students in their transitions to business professionals,” Nordenberg wrote.

Bolden told the University Times she was surprised to have won the award. “I knew I was nominated, but that was a while back and it kind of got put on the back burner and I had forgotten all about it. My exact words when I learned I had won were: ‘Oh, my gosh, thank you, Jesus,’” Bolden said with a laugh. “It’s really nice to be nominated by your peers.”

A staff member at the business school since 1975, Bolden fondly remembers the pre-Mervis Hall days when the then-Graduate School of Business was located on several floors in the Cathedral of Learning. “We were on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 19th floors until we moved to Mervis Hall when it opened in 1983,” Bolden said.

She said the prize money will come in handy for the April cruise to the Panama Canal that she and her husband have planned.


In his letter to Pitt-Bradford’s Patricia Colosimo, Nordenberg wrote, “Your supporters for this award cited your willingness to undertake any task asked of you, even those which are no longer considered your responsibility. You are asked to complete these tasks because of your distinction for getting the job done, and getting it done well.”

In addition to promoting and enhancing Pitt-Bradford’s arts program, Colosimo organizes all of the major events on its campus, including presidential and Institutional Advancement functions.

Committee member and past chancellor’s community service award winner Peter Buchheit said, “You go to Patty because she will get it done whether it’s her job or not.”

Co-workers further praised Colosimo as “an unassuming, behind-the-scenes person that doesn’t desire the spotlight but strives for excellence with everything she is associated with. She puts in countless nights and weekends to make sure the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford maintains its reputation for excellence.”

Colosimo, who started at Pitt-Bradford in 1999 working in conference services before taking on responsibilities as director of the arts program, told the University Times that she loves her job. “I worked up to overseeing, promoting and organizing on-campus special events, and that stayed as part of my job. It really fits my background. I have a bachelor of fine arts, and sometimes I walk around and just want to pinch myself because of how much I enjoy my job. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m really appreciative of the opportunity to work here.”

The cash prize will come in handy, Colosimo said, for meeting the needs of her three children. “My oldest graduated from Pitt-Oakland in 2008, my son is enrolled at Pitt-Bradford and my youngest is a senior in high school, looking into Pitt, but so far undecided about her choice,” Colosimo said. “I’m sure among them the money will be spread out pretty well.”

Collie Henderson has been a University employee since 1973, all in the philosophy department. Nordenberg commended Henderson for her loyalty to her colleagues and Pitt. “Your supporters for this award cited your ability to complete even the most daunting tasks most successfully, while making your work appear effortless,” the chancellor wrote.

“The committee was impressed by the numerous attestations to your very high level of productivity, your successful implementation of cost-savings plans and your generosity in giving your free time to support departmental events, programs and faculty. Clearly, those who rely upon you are deeply appreciative of all that you do for them — and for this University,” Nordenberg wrote.

Co-workers called Henderson invaluable to the philosophy department and its faculty. For example, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Robert Brandom noted “that we all can, without so much as thinking about it, absolutely rely on her to make everything work. … [She] has made it possible for all the rest of us to focus on the things we do well.”

Henderson told the University Times she started as a secretary to senior faculty members in the philosophy department, which then was located in the Schenley Hotel (now the William Pitt Union). “I never expected to stay as long as I have, though I enjoy my job very much. When I started I thought the professors were a little odd, but I’ve gotten used to that and I don’t think I could work anywhere else, nor would I want to work anywhere else,” Henderson said.

“I was certainly surprised and very pleased to win the award, and my family was thrilled,” she said. She plans to tuck some of the prize money away, perhaps buy a treat for herself and take her family out for an expensive dinner.

CIDDE’s Blaine Walker was selected for his more than 30 years of dedication and professionalism in handling University photography and audio/visual presentations. “You have been recognized for going ‘above and beyond’ in your duties by first understanding any given presentation, then striving to enhance it with the most appropriate images, framing and audio,” Nordenberg wrote.

“Your tireless pursuit of perfection ensures that the ultimate objective of each presentation is achieved, every time. In addition, the committee was very impressed with the extra work you did to coordinate the momentous — and flawless — presentations by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the G-20 Summit,” the chancellor wrote.

The nominating committee was impressed by “the sheer amount of overtime that Mr. Walker contributes to the University — the many weekends and evenings that he dedicates — but also by his commitment to excellence.” The committee added, “He doesn’t just put together slides or plug in audio. Instead, Mr. Walker ensures that he understands the content and the goals of any given presentation, then he strives to enhance the message and create a strong visual impact that will support the ultimate objective.”

Walker told the University Times that he felt almost as honored being nominated for the award as he did for winning it. “When I read some of the letters written on my behalf, it was really gratifying to be respected and appreciated, whether I won or not. That was the most meaningful thing for me, although to actually win the award is humbling and I feel very honored,” Walker said. “Also the timing is great because my father is dying of lung cancer and it’s wonderful that he’s still around to enjoy this award with me.”

The prize money will help defer the costs of energy-efficient windows he installed recently in his house, Walker said.

Service to the community

The award selection committee recommended Office of Child Development’s Ernest Dettore, who works as an early childhood care and education consultant and a technical assistance consultant, because of his extensive volunteer work in the area of childhood education. He has been active in serving Heritage Community Initiatives and the 4 Kids Program, Shady Lane School, the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Beginning with Books, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

“Your many supporters for this award all agree that you have greatly enhanced the lives of countless children, their caretakers and their educators,” Nordenberg wrote. “And, that your supporters quoted Fred Rogers in recommending you for this award speaks to the deep admiration and respect you have earned as an advocate for our children.”


The selection committee noted that Dettore’s involvement in the field of child development in the greater community “ranges from speaking at conferences, authoring articles, teaching seminars, working on grants and serving on the boards of community initiatives. [You have] become, by many accounts, a tireless and dedicated advocate for early childhood education.”

Linda Erlich, arts coordinator for the Pittsburgh Public Schools early childhood programs, noted, “More that anyone I know, Ernie makes all of his professional and personal decisions about how to spend his time based on a deep commitment to the needs of children. His vision is that all children are entitled to grow up in nurturing homes, and that early education should be based on the joys of play and creative exploration.”

Dettore, who joined the child development office staff in 2001, earned a PhD in education at Pitt in 1993. He told the University Times, “I was just delighted to win this award. I let out kind of a silent scream of ‘Yes!’ I called my wife right away. But to tell you the truth this great honor didn’t really sink in totally until about a day and half later when I realized what a big deal the honor was.”

He has no specific plans for the prize money, other than to take his wife out for a nice dinner. “Also, it’s tax season,” Dettore said with a laugh.

“When I was getting my degree I always aspired to work at the University,” said Dettore, who previously worked at Edinboro and Duquesne universities. “I saw those as stepping stones to coming to Pitt. I went to an alumni dinner recently, and they showed how Pitt is really playing with the big boys these days in terms of the amount of research dollars coming in, for example. I’m really happy to be working at Pitt and feel very honored to have won this award.”

The chancellor recognized Allie Quick of Institutional Advancement for her service to a number of community organizations, including the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

The selection committee also praised Quick’s passion for supporting U.S. troops, the chancellor wrote. As nominator Al Novak Jr., vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement, wrote, “I continue to be impressed with the quiet, unassuming acts Allie does to make certain those enlisted know they are appreciated.”

In his letter Nordenberg added that the selection committee was “particularly moved by the expression of support you received from 1st Lt. Kevin Farrell in appreciation of your efforts to organize, assemble and mail care packages” to troops deployed to the Middle East. Farrell wrote in support of this effort, “Allie Quick’s selfless, kind-hearted act, in this Army officer’s view, was the single most generous thing I have ever witnessed in uniform.”

Quick joined the Institutional Advancement staff in 1999, now directing IA’s principal gifts program, and earned a master of public policy and management degree at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in 2003. She told the University Times, “When I first was hired, we had planned to stay only two years, but I fell in love with the University and my husband and I both love the city and the community, so now 11 years later, I’m really happy we stayed,” Quick said.

“I was absolutely honored to win this award,” she said, adding that she intends to put some of the prize money into shipping more care packages for the troops. “I have a real passion for them and for the service they do for our country,” Quick said.

Nordenberg selected Debora Whitfield, a financial counselor at the dental medicine school, for the award because of her dedication to her home community. The chancellor also cited her “volunteer efforts that so positively impact our west Pittsburgh communities.

“The committee was very impressed with the amount of personal time you donate to serving as president of the Sheraden Community Council, on the board of directors for the Sheraden chapter of the Kiwanis Club, as deputy grand matron of the Order of the Eastern Star and as a member of the West Pittsburgh Weed and Seed steering committee,” Nordenberg wrote.

According to supporting materials, the selection committee particularly was impressed “by her dedication to revitalizing a struggling community that is striving to address public safety issues of blight, drug dealing and crime.”

Pittsburgh Police Commander Scott Schubert, who nominated Whitfield for the award, noted, “It is refreshing to know that there are people like Mrs. Whitfield who are committed to volunteering much of their free time to help improve their community and strive to make it a better place to live and work. …

“Mrs. Whitfield is without a doubt making a tremendous difference in her neighborhood and her hard work and diligence is having a profound impact of the various quality of life issues in the community.”

Whitfield told the University Times, “I was very pleased, but also surprised to win this award, because I really believe there are a whole lot of people at this University who do good things. I was especially grateful to my co-workers who nominated me and recognized my work.”

Whitfield has been at the School of Dental Medicine since 1998. She earned a degree in public administration from the College of General Studies in 2006 using her educational benefits.

She has no particular plans for the prize money other than to help the family finances.

“The money is nice, but I honestly don’t think I’ve done anything special, because I believe these are things we all should be doing,” she said.

—Peter Hart

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