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January 19, 2006

Staff win chancellor’s service awards

Winners of the chancellor’s awards of excellence for staff have been announced.

The service awards, open to all classified and union full- and part-time staff members who have been employed at the University for at least five years, are the highest awards that Pitt grants to staff members. Up to five honorees are named annually in each of two categories.

The Chancellor’s Award for Staff for Excellence in Service to the Community honors staff members whose commitment and effort have made a significant impact on the community and for dedication to improving the quality of life for others.

Winners of the chancellor’s community service award are Donald O. Johnson, mail carrier at the Bradford campus, and Linus (Ron) Pryal, precision worker in the Division of Engineering Technology at the Johnstown campus.

The Chancellor’s Award for Staff for Excellence in Service to the University recognizes individuals whose performance consistently exceeds standards and expectations set for their staff position.

Winners of this year’s University service excellence award are Margaret Chalus, administrative assistant in the Department of Communication; Andrea Leibfreid, social sciences division secretary at Pitt-Johnstown; William E. McGahey, systems administrator in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Gregory Rodden, electrician foreman in Facilities Management.

The awards carry a $2,500 cash prize and recognition at Pitt’s honors convocation, to be held this year on Feb. 24. Winners’ names also will be inscribed on a plaque in the William Pitt Union.

A selection committee, chaired by Jane W. Thompson, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Budget and Controller, recommended candidates for the awards to the chancellor based on supporting materials provided by nominators.

Community service excellence award

UPB’s Johnson, known across campus as Donny, has been a staff member since 1980. He has been a coach and athlete in the McKean County Special Olympics; a member of the Frown Inversion Clown Troupe; bell ringer for the Salvation Army; scoreboard keeper for the Bradford Little League, and volunteer for the Bradford Area High School’s Owls Athletic Football Boosters, at the Bradford YMCA’s First Night events and at the Pitt Marching Band band camp held each August at Pitt-Bradford.

Johnson also serves as the manager of UPB’s men’s basketball and baseball teams.

According to nominating materials, UPB’s inter-office mail has been dubbed “Donny mail” in recognition of Johnson’s reliable and cheerful delivery service.

Johnson told the University Times he was very surprised to win the award.

Ron Pryal, machine shop supervisor, joined the Johnstown campus staff in 1983. His involvement with the Somerset County Habitat for Humanity dates back to the founding of that organization 11 years ago. Since then, he has donated three out of every four Saturdays to the group building homes and renovating structures as a construction site foreman. In that role his duties include organizing skilled volunteers, negotiating with suppliers and overseeing compliance regulations.

“We’re working on our 13th house right now,” Pryal said.

Pryal also has received this year’s UPJ President’s Award for Excellence in Service to the Community.

“When I found out I won both awards in one year, which I guess is really unusual, I was just overwhelmed,” he said. “I was very surprised. It’s probably the first time in 22 years I’ve been speechless.”

University service excellence award

Communication’s Peg Chalus supports the William Pitt Debating Union, where her travel management background has led to significant cost savings for the department. “I handle all the travel arrangements for the debating team,” she said. “I’ve been able to get cheaper air fares by planning trips in advance, and tax-exempt hotel stays based on Pitt’s non-profit status by finding places on the web that honor that.”

Chalus started at Pitt in the Office of International Services in 1989. She transferred to the English department, where she worked for 11 years, and then to the communication department in 2001.

“I was very excited to win this award. It was something I thought was beyond my reach,” Chalus told the University Times. “But this is really a team thing. Working with Dr. [Gordon] Mitchell and all the wonderful people here makes it so easy. I have a super job. And I just love the kids — I should: I have eight kids of my own.”

Johnstown’s Leibfreid was re-elected recently as president of the UPJ Staff Activities and Concerns (SAC) Association, which organizes and sponsors numerous campus activities. Within the last year, under Leibfreid’s leadership, the SAC association sent “care packages” to UPJ students deployed in the military and collected money and needed items for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

UPJ President Albert Etheridge, one of Leibfreid’s nominators, noted that “Andrea possess a team spirit that enables her to inspire others to become involved in projects supporting not only the SAC association but the campus overall.”

Leibfreid has led the effort to implement a recognition program for new staff, and she coordinates UPJ employee involvement in community service activities including the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk and the Johnstown FolkFest. She also serves as a staff representative to the UPJ advisory board and the Johnstown planning and budget committee, Etheridge said.

“I was very honored and flattered to be recognized by the people I work with,” said Leibfreid, who also organizes morale-boosting events such as a monthly staff night out at local restaurants.

Leibfreid started at UPJ in 1980, “when I was 4 years old,” she joked.

Bill McGahey was cited by nominators for extraordinary dedication to his job, department and the engineering school. Nominators referenced his 12-hour work days, 24/7 on-call availability and willingness to make “house calls” to faculty homes to troubleshoot, maintain and upgrade personal computing equipment.

As one nominator put it, “This dedication to the school and his work ethic have saved the school additional funds by not having to hire outside support or additional personnel to provide the extra support and training he has given.”

McGahey started at Pitt in 1978 as an electronics technician in the pre-computer era. “I was hired to fix and maintain electronic equipment,” McGahey said. “Once computers and networking came in, I self-trained in those areas to be able to do the same thing. I just think of that as part of the job. I was shocked and flattered to win this award.”

Facilities Management’s Rodden, who started at Pitt in 1975, was nominated and praised by his co-workers for the high quality of his work, his concern for on-the-job safety and his ability to devise and implement cost-saving solutions to work issues.

Such solutions have included devising an energy patch to restore power to the Chevron Science Center following a water-main break; upgrading to high-efficiency fixtures and automated lighting controls to reduce the University’s energy consumption, and implementing a web-based scheduling system to share information prior to weekly trades foremen meetings.

Rodden’s peers also cited his willingness to share knowledge and expertise enthusiastically. Co-workers noted that Rodden cared about them personally and gave them a sense of security when he was involved with a project.

“I was humbled when I learned I won this award,” said Rodden, an electrician foreman who supervises 17 staff. “I knew I was nominated and I was honored to get that far, but I never thought I would actually win. You never know what people think of you.

“I was impressed by the number of people who submitted things for my nomination.”

—Peter Hart

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