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Ohio State University logo Recognizing Excellence

Distinguished Staff Award

The Distinguished Staff Award recognizes 12 staff members, who have had five years of continuous service, for exceptional accomplishments, leadership, and service to the university community by significantly improving or enhancing the quality of worklife in ways that make a substantial difference for their colleagues; contributing to outstanding and sustained improvements in customer services; and developing creative solutions to problems that result in significantly more effective and efficient university operations. The Office of Human Resources awards honorees a $1,500 cash award and a $700 increase to their base salary.

Recognizing Excellence at Ohio State

Current University Awards winners

Previous University Awards winners

Click on photo or scroll down the page to read winner's bio.

Cindy R. Bernlohr
Program Specialist, Department of Mathematics

Cindy R. Bernlohr has proven herself as a vital part of the Department of Mathematics. She first joined the department as a graduate student in 1982, and completed a master’s of arts degree in 1985. Bernlohr served as a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Ohio State Mansfield before moving to the Columbus campus in 1988. Now, she is responsible for non-faculty staffing of mathematics courses, a position requiring excellent management abilities, a thorough knowledge of undergraduate mathematics courses and superb interpersonal skills. One nominator noted, “Her concern for both our teaching staff and the students they teach is legendary in our department.” In addition to matching the talents, skills and qualifications of instructors with a wide variety of teaching assignments, Bernlohr plays an instrumental role in recruiting and training new teachers as well as assessing the performance of graduate teaching associates and part-time lecturers in the classroom. Graduate teaching associates wrote, “For many of us, she is the first person we turn to when we have a new question... Cindy is the person who made this department feel like home.”

Sarah M. Blouch
Director, Transportation and Parking Services

Since her arrival at Ohio State in 1995, Sarah M. Blouch has made an indelible mark on Transportation and Parking Services. By identifying and establishing a direction for the department, Blouch unified members of two recently merged departments and erased the deep divisions among work units, improving transportation and parking’s services and image within the university community. “Sarah always seemed to be able to find hidden talents and skills in her employees, which are often abilities the employee didn’t even see in themselves, draw them out, nurture them, and then give the employees the opportunity to use these abilities in their jobs,” a nominator wrote. Blouch’s personal and committed leadership style has improved transportation and parking tremendously, from the experiences of customers to employees’ work/life experience. One nominator commented, “Because of her initiative and leadership, both customers and T&P staff are taking ownership of problems and actually have become part of the solution.” Through close work with those directly affected by construction and parking issues, and by bringing fresh and innovative ideas to the table, Blouch has shown herself to be an exquisite leader and example for her staff members.

Yvonne Dulaney
Administrative Associate, Ohio Union and Student Activities

“The Ohio Union would not be nearly the institution that it is today without Yvonne Dulaney,” one nominator wrote. Since her arrival at the Ohio Union in 2001, Dulaney has gone above and beyond her expected administrative and clerical duties, and provides outstanding support and service. Her increased responsibilities now include performing all human resources duties for the Ohio Union, coordinating travel for the union’s 50 full-time staff members and managing the logistics of and attending the 15-20 regular committee/staff meetings every month. Dulaney’s talents and strengths, combined with her strong work ethic and caring nature, have left a significant impact on the staff and students she works with on a regular basis, as well as those she may interact with only once or twice. A nominator noted: “Not only has she enhanced the environment in which she works, but she has enhanced the individual lives of all who know her.” Another nominator highlighted Dulaney’s positive attitude and “unflappable demeanor in the face of the constant changes that occur at the Ohio Union... Through it all, Yvonne never loses her composure or her smile.”

Lakshmi Dutta
Academic Counselor and Staff Assistant
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Geodetic Science

Since 1997, Lakshmi Dutta has proven her dedication to the students as well as academic programs within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Geodetic Science. As an academic counselor, Dutta has converted all printed materials and forms associated with the undergraduate and graduate programs to electronic form, so students can easily access them through the department’s Web site, which she helped design and still maintains. In addition to advising more than 200 undergraduates and nearly 80 graduate students, Dutta maintains several listservs for students in the department. Additionally, she schedules courses, interprets university policies and draws new faces into the department through her help in orienting new faculty. Dutta’s role as an adviser and instructor is unique in that she also recruits and talks with the program’s prospective students. She continues contact with these incoming students through Engineering 100, an introductory course she teaches each fall that provides information about the college’s resources and strategies for success. As one nominator wrote, “She is an outstanding adviser and an outstanding member of the university community. And, more than that, she is a wonderful person.”

Pam Hussen
Academic Counselor and Staff Assistant
Department of Industrial, Welding, and Systems Engineering

“Pam’s genuine concern for others, along with her willingness to go above and beyond what is required in order to achieve a goal, makes her an invaluable asset to the IWSE department,” one nominator wrote. Pamela Hussen serves as an academic counselor for approximately 500 undergraduate students enrolled in the industrial and systems engineering and welding engineering programs, a position she has held for 13 years. This is not an easy task, considering the composition of the student body — it includes two very different majors, and within each major, students range from pre-major to graduate students. Even with this challenge, Hussen’s contributions go well beyond her job description. She spends time with prospective students and their families; works hard to make non-traditional and minority students feel understood and welcome; volunteers to teach orientation and survey courses for ISE and WE students; and coordinates tours and visits for middle and high school groups. A nominator wrote, “Pam epitomizes professionalism, compassion and conviction in all of her activities.” Another nominator commented, “Her competence, dedication and willingness to sacrifice her own personal time and energy for the sake of potential, current and past students is truly uncommon and worthy of distinction.”

Michele Larrimer
Administrative Associate 2
Byrd Polar Research Center

One nominator referred to Michele Larrimer as “a first-rate representative of the outstanding staff at the university.” Since joining the Byrd Polar Research Center in 1998, Larrimer’s dedication and diligence have shone through her tireless work on the daily business and financial management of the center. During this year alone, her fiscal responsibilities include about 90 extramural grants and contracts totaling roughly $7 million and managing state funds of approximately $1 million. Larrimer supervises all expenditures and budgets, as well as personnel appointments, staff searches and hiring, and represents the center to numerous other Ohio State and outside agencies and entities. “She works effectively with all our faculty and research scientists,” one nominator wrote, “and she does it with a smile.” She not only deals with all human resources tasks and responsibilities related to finance, but she goes beyond these duties by maintaining organization in the center’s office and overseeing an administrative assistant and a graphics illustrator. “BPRC has been a center of excellence of campus, not just because of the scientists who work here but also because of the responsible and extremely talented staff that support them,” another nominator wrote. “Michele has been a major reason why BPRC continues to be a shining star for OSU.”

Maria Mazon
Academic Program Specialist,
Department of History

“Maria is just a gem — bright, hard working, supremely dedicated and unfailingly helpful!” one nominator wrote of Maria Mazon. In her more than 20 years with the Department of History, she has become an integral part of the department, creating and reshaping her job to meet the changing needs of faculty and students alike. During her third year with the department, when she held a clerical position, Mazon approached the chair with an idea for reorganizing the department’s resources for advising undergraduates. This resulted in the creation of the Undergraduate History Office, which she has directed ever since. In addition, Mazon serves as an adviser for about 100 of the department’s undergraduates each year, and has worked tirelessly on the editing of the department’s undergraduate handbook and the compilation of the quarterly course descriptions booklet. Mazon’s attention and care for students also was exemplified through her idea for “History Career Night.” This event became a reality 17 years ago, and has since become a model for similar events in the College of Humanities. Mazon also is highly respected among faculty and staff within the Department of History and the College of Humanities as a whole, and has been recognized within the college for her extraordinary work ethic; her initiative and accomplishments; and her consistent dedication to those with whom she works.

Ann Connor Ottobre
Research Associate 2
Department of Animal Sciences

In her nearly 20 years at Ohio State, Ann Ottobre has distinguished herself from her peers through sincere dedication to the research and education mission of her department and the university. One nominator commented, “Ann truly exemplifies the qualities of service, leadership, creativity and enthusiasm that set her apart.” She serves as the college youth outreach funding coordinator for the Department of Animal Sciences and has been active in developing, organizing and presenting educational outreach programming to student groups attending events at Ohio State, including Women in Science Day and Scarlet and Gray Ag Day. Her involvement in K-12 educational outreach also expands to include two biotechnology workshops she has developed for high school students and science teachers. Ottobre also is active in the dairy tours offered at the Waterman facility on west campus. Additionally, she has been responsible for significant improvements in departmental teaching activities and enhancing the working environment in the department. “She makes a significant difference in the daily lives of the students and faculty with whom she serves, and she provides outstanding and ongoing excellence in her service to the university and to the public,” another nominator wrote. “Ann is a perfect example of what makes Ohio State great.”

Carol A. Rinehart
Office Associate
Office of Commencement and Special Events

For each graduate to receive his or her own diploma during commencement is a cherished tradition at Ohio State, and a notable accomplishment for a school this size. At Ohio State, it’s Carol A. Rinehart’s responsibility to see the diplomas are ready for all the graduates at each quarter’s commencement. Rinehart’s strong coordination with all the college offices and the registrar offices, combined with her determination and concern for the students, allow this tradition, which involves the processing of 11,000 diplomas each year, to continue successfully. She puts forth extra effort in making sure to accommodate all late additions and changes to names and distinctions on the diplomas as well. Besides handling the diplomas, Rinehart’s creativity and problem solving are put to work when she handles any special needs that students or their families may have during the commencement ceremony. As one nominator wrote, “We owe the Office of Special Events and Carol Rinehart for providing a memorable sendoff and a positive impression of the Ohio State University to the students and their families. I see Carol Rinehart’s dedication, personal touch and efforts in this regard as a major contribution to outstanding services not only to students, but to the entire university.”

Johnny Raymond Royal
Chemist 2
Department of Chemistry

Johnny Raymond Royal has served the Ohio State Department of Chemistry for 46 years as a staff chemist, and is responsible for the preparation of chemicals and upkeep of equipment for the undergraduate organic teaching laboratories. Additionally, Royal has been the manager of the department’s organic chemistry storeroom for the past 37 years, and was instrumental in moving the operation from Sawtooth to Evans Laboratory, and again to its current location on the fourth floor of Celeste Laboratory. He also works at the department’s store, helping students and teaching assistants obtain necessary equipment and supplies for their experiments. One nominator wrote, “Each year, he provides assistance to approximately 1,100 students, 65 graduate teaching assistants and the faculty and staff who rotate through the instructional duties associated with organic laboratory courses in all four academic quarters.” It is Royal’s duty to be sure all supplies are in place before each organic chemistry lab session, which requires thought and foresight, since he orders all chemicals and supplies for these labs as well. His knowledge of chemistry and the experiments performed, combined with the superb caliber of his work, ensures that these experiments are successful and helpful learning experiences for undergraduates.

Donald A. Stenta
Associate Director
The John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy

As associate director of the John Glenn Institute since 2003, Donald A. Stenta has used his student affairs background and unique skills to significantly improve the institute’s existing programs, and has worked to develop new initiatives that have earned widespread acclaim across the campus and the nation, including new opportunities for students interested in policy debate and creation of an international development club tied to the World Bank. Additionally, Stenta has helped the institute develop its Second Amendment Research Center and re-launched the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. At the same time, his role in managing the institute as a whole is essential, from overseeing the institute’s $2.5 million budget and information technology systems to assisting with strategic planning and fund raising. Stenta also led the relocation of the institute and the School of Public Policy and Management from multiple locations across campus into Page Hall. His compassion for students also extends beyond the classroom and learning community, most evident in his work with Ohio State’s chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. As its adviser for the past four years, he has helped restructure and re-establish the fraternity at Ohio State, aiding it in winning “Chapter of the Year” three years in a row.

Harold Whitt
Lecture Demonstrator
Department of Physics

“Harold Whitt’s creative work and dedication have combined to make this university a better, more productive place, and one that supports one of the cornerstones of the Academic Plan: enhancing the quality of the teaching and learning experience,” one nominator wrote. Whitt aids more than 60 faculty, 90 graduate teaching assistants and several lecturers in presenting fundamental physics concepts to an array of students. “He is always willing to go out of his way to make sure programs are successful, supporting faculty in their teaching,” another nominator wrote. “He is constantly working to upgrade equipment and make demonstrations better, far beyond what is required.” Whitt has shown himself to be a valuable asset to the department. In addition to setting up demonstrations for physics lectures on campus, Whitt also actively participates in demonstration sessions that take him away from Ohio State, to audiences and locations ranging from students at inner city schools and 4-H youths at the Ohio State Fair to administrators and alumni in Washington, D.C. and Sarasota, Fla. Another nominator wrote, “He is an extraordinarily talented individual whose hard work and big heart reach way past the bounds of his lecture halls.”

2005 Distinguished Staff Award


Previous winners

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