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February 6, 2003

Staff recognized for work community involvement

Five winners of the annual Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award for Staff were announced this week.

The service award, the highest award that Pitt grants to staff members, honors staff who demonstrate dedication to the University that extends beyond the normal responsibilities of their jobs and in their community service, according to guidelines issued by the chancellor’s office.

This year’s winners are Christine A. Chergi, manager of the William Pitt Union, Student Life Office, Division of Student Affairs; Betsy A. Goenner, executive assistant to the president at the Johnstown campus; Joseph P. Healey III, University truck driver in the Department of Parking, Transportation and Services; Dean M. Julian, senior academic counselor at the College of General Studies (CGS), and Cheryl Ruffin, client services representative/recruiter in Human Resources.

This year, 24 staff members were nominated, according to Robert G. Houston, business manager in the Division of Student Affairs, who chaired the selection committee.

“The committee found many of the nominees to be highly qualified for the award and, after significant deliberation,” recommended the winners to the chancellor, Houston said.

There are two main criteria for the staff service award, according to published guidelines. First, candidates must demonstrate “a consistent pattern of extraordinary dedication to the University above and beyond the candidate’s job responsibilities.”

Second, the candidate must demonstrate voluntary service activity at the University or in the local community or with professional organizations.

Each winner will receive $2,500 and be acknowledged at the honors convocation, set for Feb. 28. Winners’ names also will be inscribed on a plaque in the William Pitt Union.

• William Pitt Union manager Christine Chergi has been a staff member at Pitt for more than 30 years, beginning her career as secretary in the WPU reservation office. She served as operations assistant and operations manager prior to being named WPU manager in 1979. In that capacity, she served as project manager for the $14 million union restoration in 1985.

Chergi has long been an active member and volunteer of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) at both the regional and national levels. Through regional committees, conferences and newsletters, ACUI trains staff and students on the role of student unions in university life and as an integral part of the educational mission.

ACUI has recognized Chergi for outstanding service several times, including for her roles as: host director of the ACUI-sponsored international billiards tournament (1991); sub-region A representative of Region 4 Service and Leadership group (1992-1995) and regional representative for that group (1998-2000); member of the ACUI commission on educational programs and service (1995-1998); host director/conference chair at Pitt (1996), and conference chair at Penn State (2002).

Chergi is credited with increasing membership and stabilizing the finances of ACUI Region 4, being innovative and cultivating professionalism through the college union association.

She also was recommended for the staff award for her dedication to the WPU and Pitt students, faculty and staff who enjoy the facilities, programs and services there.

• Johnstown’s Betsy Goenner began her career at Pitt in 1985 as a cashier in the UPJ Office of Student Accounts. Later, she served as secretary II in UPJ’s development office and as executive secretary to the campus president. Since 2000 she has served as executive assistant to the president at Johnstown.

Goenner is active in the UPJ Campus Association, the Staff Activities and Concerns Association, Friends of the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center and the Phi Kappa Phi campus chapter, which she helped establish at UPJ. In addition, she serves as secretary to the UPJ Advisory Board.

Her community service activities include volunteering at the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce, the Easter Seals Advisory Council, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the American Heart Association and the annual Salvation Army Project Bundle-Up. She serves as a member of the Parish Council at the First United Methodist Church in Johnstown.

Goenner also was named the 2002 winner of the UPJ President’s Award for Excellence in Service, an annual award for Johnstown campus staff members.

• Parking and Transportation’s Joseph Healey started at Pitt in 1993 as a member of the moving staff. Currently a University truck driver in Receiving Services, Healey is credited with recommending and implementing several safety devices for the moving staff, including construction of movable dollies that facilitate handling large or heavy furniture or equipment; the expansion of metal dock plates to loading docks that bridge docks and trucks and enhance safety by increasing work space for movers, and procuring hydraulic pump tables with wheels that improve worker efficiency and safety.

Healey’s community service activities include participating in youth athletics in the Penn Hills area, delivering food to the Rainbow Kitchen, collecting toys for the annual Toys for Tots campaign and volunteering for the annual Race for the Cure.

In Penn Hills, Healey is a volunteer coach for the high school varsity baseball team, and is working with parking and recreation officials to organize athletic clinics for swimming, baseball, soccer and other youth sports, and to join Big Leagues of Pittsburgh, a subsidiary of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In support of his nomination for the staff service award, Healey has received a number of endorsements attesting to the quality of his work and extra-effort contributions to the University, the selection committee said.

• CGS’s Dean Julian started at Pitt in 1992 as a Service Employees International Union cleaner. Since then, he has earned a B.S. in psychology (1995), an M.Ed. in psychology in education (1997) and an Ed.D. in administration and policy studies in higher education (2001), all at Pitt. He also is a national certified counselor (1998) and holds a webmaster certificate (2002). He is member of a number of professional associations, including the National Board of Certified Counselors, the National Academic Advising Association and the Continuing Education Association of Pennsylvania.

In 1997, Julian joined the CGS staff as recruitment/enrollment management specialist, and in 1998 accepted his present position as senior academic counselor at CGS. He has won several awards for his nontraditional-student retention efforts.

Julian pioneered electronic advising services at CGS and established an advisee database to facilitate scheduling and registration and to alert nontraditional students electronically to deadlines and benefits information.

He also designed a workshop for staff through the Faculty and Staff Development Program that encourages staff members to take classes using their educational benefits.

He serves as a sponsor for the African American Community of Entrepreneurial Students, among several Pitt organizational ties.

Julian’s community service activities include numerous stints as an educational and career conference presenter and motivational speaker for area high school and middle school students. He also is a fund-raiser for the Rednal Retreat House in Ligonier and frequently volunteers his services to the Campus Ministry.

• Cheryl Ruffin of Human Resources was hired in 1993 as a collection specialist in student loans and special accounts, Office of Budget and Controller.

In 2000, she transferred to Human Resources as a client services representative I/recruiter, and was promoted to CSR II/recruiter with special attention to diversity initiatives.

Through HR, she has helped coordinate community job fairs, such as “Partnering for Job Success,” which is hosted by Pitt in cooperation with UPMC, The Carnegie and several community groups.

Her community activities include participation in Jesus Is the Answer Ministries, the Hilltop Health Ministries, the Solid Rock Foundation Ministries of Pittsburgh and, with her home church, St. Paul AME Church.

Ruffin also prepares holiday meals and food baskets for 40 elderly persons and drives the church van.

She is studying to enter the pastoral ministry.

—Peter Hart

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