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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.

Deborah Broeker
Administrative Office Associate
Department of Athletics

As head football coach Jim Tressel’s executive assistant, Deb Broeker  is an exceptional gatekeeper. She serves as the main point of contact for the general public and is responsible for handling numerous requests for Tressel’s speaking engagements, autographed memorabilia, donations and charity events.

But her job is much more than that.

In her more than 30 years at Ohio State, Broeker has continually impressed current and former supervisors with her ability to manage an office, streamline processes and interact with the numerous contacts she makes on a daily basis.

The demands of the job can create a high level of stress, but Broeker is known to handle her workload efficiently and effectively. She has a keen eye for detail, and her exemplary customer service and professionalism is unmatched.

“Deb is remarkably calm, collected and professional in all cases, handling each call and visitor with respect and kindness,” one colleague said. “She exemplifies grace under pressure.”

In order to tackle the many responsibilities that come with the territory of working in the football office at Ohio State, Broeker has created a clear policy and implemented procedures to handle the many requests that come her way. This precise process makes it manageable during those times — for example when the Buckeyes play for a national championship — when the football is inundated with media calls.

“She truly embodies the mission of the university,” another colleague said. “Her endless talents, caring attitude and warm smile have enhanced the quality of the work

Laura Grimm
Office Associate
OSU Mansfield

Officially, Laura Grimm’s position at Ohio State Mansfield is office associate.

But her colleagues agree that it hardly captures the amount of work and extraordinary service she performs for students, fellow staff members and the campus as a whole.

Grimm is responsible for coordinating many of the campus events that take place at Mansfield, including Campus Visit Days, a Guidance Counselor Forum, college fairs and more.

“She is invaluable,” said one colleague. “She is extremely well-organized and meticulous in her attention to detail.”

Grimm took ownership of and revised the orientation registration process and the results were impressive. Ninety-eight percent of those who participated in the orientation program said it met or exceeded their expectations. The feat is particularly impressive considering the orientations take place nearly 15 times a year with nearly 750 new students.

While Grimm exceeds expectation when coordinating these events, she is also credited for doing smaller, more personal activities.

Colleagues note her tendency to bring in food for staff members and decorate for the holidays. She’s even known among student employees as the “office mom” for her ability to make everyone feel welcome and part of an office family.

She also regularly contributes to campus activities, and led the effort to enter a Mansfield campus float in the city’s annual Christmas parade.

“Laura’s Buckeye spirit is contagious,” another colleague said. “Her enthusiastic involvement is not limited to those things directly related to her job, but to a wide variety of campus and community activities.”

Ted Hattemer
Director of New Media
Office of University Relations

Ted Hattemer’s arrival at Ohio State during the internet boom was serendipitous, one colleague said. While he started out as a book editor in 1993, his work developing Extension’s online publication Ohioline propelled him into a career in new media.

Hattemer became Director of New Media in the in the office of University Relations in 1999, and his work there has affected departments university-wide.

His significant work on Ohio State’s main Web site, from stories featured on the main site to the O-H-I-O pages and the university’s public service announcements, has influenced all members of the community.

Additionally, Hattemer has helped key campus offices — including the Office of Legal Affairs, the Office of Academic Affairs, the John Glenn School and others — develop their Web sites, and also launched Connect, the university’s e-newsletter for alumni and donors.

“Ted works hard to keep Ohio State on the cutting edge,” said one colleague. “New Media technology will continue to be at the forefront of the university’s outreach efforts and Ohio State can feel comfort knowing that Ted Hattemer is its leader.”

His work not only spans every level of the university, it inspires those he encounters. His already well-regarded leadership skills were further refined when he participated in the six-month “Leading Edge” management program at Ohio State.

“Ted is constantly working to better himself professionally,” another colleague said. “His philosophy of management is truly admirable: He is democratic and just, a believer in diversity, and one who consistently empowers his staff.”

Louis Hominga
Academic Program Coordinator
Ohio State Marion Delaware Center

Louis Hominga is so indispensable at Ohio State Marion, he has been dubbed “Mr. Delaware Center” by students, staff and faculty there.

The Delaware Center’s academic program coordinator, Hominga handles a broad range of responsibilities, but he is known to work well beyond his job description.

The relationships he forms with students are of utmost importance to him. Not only does he refuse to cancel appointments with students, he makes an effort to remember the names of all of them — some 800 who attend classes at the Delaware Center.

Students respect him because he willingly goes out of his way to make them feel comfortable, whether through actively trying to understand the culture of the large Somali student population or simply by jump-starting a student’s broken-down car.

“With unfailing good humor and friendliness, an easy-going, relaxed, imperturbable demeanor, a genuine concern for everyone he encounters, a willingness to jump in and help anyone at any time, and a true love for the center, he does everything he can to make the Delaware Center a welcoming, effective and fully functioning part of the university,” a colleague said.

He does loads of behind-the-scenes work to improve the overall experience at the center, including shoveling snow, replacing bulbs on digital projectors in classrooms and other unusual roles. No task is too small if it means contributing to a place for which he’s proud to work.

This is further proven by his recent recognition with a Marion Campus Outstanding Staff Award.

“He is always upbeat and positive,” said another colleague. “Louis personifies the Delaware Center. When people think of the Delaware Center, they think of Louis.”

Diane Jensen
Associate Director
Recreational Sports

Diane Jensen started working at Ohio State in 1983 as an intramural sports programmer. Because of her hard work and dedication, her responsibilities have steadily expanded.

Initially, she supervised teams and intramural events. Before long she was responsible for a new computerized scheduling program, grew to supervise the front counter operation at Larkins Hall and overlooked the department’s marketing areas as well.

Her “watershed” moment came in the ’90s when she was assigned the responsibility of overseeing the process of replacing Larkins Hall with a new recreation center, the RPAC.

Her pride and ownership over the project, colleagues said, was instrumental in bringing the facility to fruition. She was present in every step of the way, sometimes calling coworkers at 3 or 4 a.m. about facility features that kept her awake.

“Diane took each and every detail to heart and made certain that we were getting what the university was paying for and needed,” a colleague said. “The results of her dedication and commitment speak for the themselves.”

In the midst of replacing Larkin, Jensen was promoted to associate director, which added oversight of facility operations, aquatics and human resources of the department to her job description.

While she was still tackling the responsibilities of the RPAC’s construction, she took on management of the 35 professionals and civil service staff — and almost 200 student workers — who are in her areas of responsibility.

“She is admired by her staff and others on the staff as a real ‘go-to’ person,” said one colleague. “When she takes a project on, Diane will ‘bring it home’ better than anyone.”

Kimberly Kovarik
Assistant to the Chair
Department of English

Kimberly Kovarik is known for her diligence. From memos and announcements to peer reports and evaluations, she meticulously checks and double-checks everything to make sure every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted.

It is that attention to detail along with her organizational skills in her position as assistant to the chair in the Department of English that draws praise from those around her.

“In Kim Kovarik, we have a colleague noteworthy for her conscientiousness, her rigor, her embrace of responsibility and her inestimable reserves of both energy and discipline,” said one colleague.

Kovarik’s responsibilities include designing the department’s newsletter and program brochures and tracking hundreds of files and organizing the visits for faculty candidates who visit Ohio State.

She donates significant time to service at the university as well, serving on an Arts and Sciences ad hoc committee, the Arts and Sciences Staff Advisory Committee and the OSU Institutional Review Board.

And while she does her job exceptionally well, according to her colleagues, she constantly seeks to better herself and immerse in the educational experience at the university. She attends lunchtime and evening lectures on topics geared for graduate students and even has had several articles accepted for publication.

“As a civil service employee, she has become a model for our young scholars,” another colleague said. “Kim Kovarik takes extra steps to make English, the Humanities, the Arts and Sciences and OSU a better place. And she takes these extra steps for the same reason that propels the best of our students to excel — the joy of learning and the satisfaction that comes from doing something well.”

Mary Maloney
Program Director
Department of Horticulture and Crop Science

Mary Maloney’s official title within OSU’s Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Garden is Program Director. But for all practical purposes, she serves as director, one colleague said.

Since she joined the arboretum staff in 1994, she has increased her responsibilities to include more than just the educational and volunteer programs she originally held. Over the years, she has taken a lead role in fundraising, memberships, communications and supervision of student and intern workforces as well.

It was under her supervision that the arboretum’s mostly underdeveloped 14 acres in the early 1990s have expanded to 62 developed acres today, including five endowed, special gardens and a meditation labyrinth modeled after France’s Chartres Cathedral labyrinth.

She has also raised $2.5 million to endow the gardens and cover the arboretum’s operating expenses.

“Under Mary’s direction over the past five years, Chadwick’s visibility has bloomed,” said one colleague. “She moved Chadwick forward by employing her own talents as a horticulturist and gardener, by engaging her natural fundraising abilities, and deploying her uncanny skill in recognizing and promoting the talents of those around her.”

Under her watch, a small group of 20 volunteers who helped the arboretum’s cause in 1994 has grown into a force of 148 who have donated 5,462 hours of service. One colleague believes it is her contagious enthusiasm for the cause that has created a large foundation of volunteers.

“Mary guides and serves through example and leadership,” another colleague said. “What she brings to our department is passion, vision and service leadership which can only be described as exuberant and contagious.”

Michelle Milligan
Office Associate
Department of Animal Sciences

For more than 25 years, Michelle Mulligan has been a hard-working, adaptable and caring employee in the department of Animal Sciences who goes above and beyond the call of duty to make the department run as smoothly as possible.

Throughout her career, she’s witnessed and tackled the onslaught of new technologies that have affected her job as Office Associate. Not only has she taken the time outside of work to master computer software programs, she has passed along those skills to a number of other faculty, staff and student workers within the department.

“Michelle Milligan epitomizes the ideal for someone in her position because she has continually and proactively changed and extended beyond her position’s duties to perform what is needed for our department to complete its full mission,” a colleague said.

Milligan also has a commitment to service, evident in a variety of committee memberships. She has served on the college’s Employee Rewards Task Force, the University Staff Advisory Committee, the University Health Cost Containment Committee and others.

She also demonstrates an unwavering ability and willingness to fill emerging human resources gaps, and was instrumental in this regard when three departments consolidated into Animal Sciences in 1993. She’s also stepped in for colleagues who had to miss significant time at work to make sure their work was getting done.

“Michelle can make challenging situations work because she picks up the pieces and fills the voids wherever and whenever needed,” another colleague said. “She is one who can always be counted on to be positive, proactive and progressive.

Thomas O’Brien
Research Specialist
Department of Astronomy

In the past 20 years, Ohio State’s department of Astronomy has established itself as a world leader in advanced instrumentation for optical and infrared research telescopes.

Thomas O’Brien’s work in the department plays a large part in the strong reputation.

O’Brien has worked as the lead engineer on major projects in the department since 1988. He currently works as a senior mechanical engineer for the Multi-Object Double Spectometers that are being built for the Large Binocular Telescope.

He is consistently praised for his extensive engineering skills, including mechanical design, theoretical and thermal analysis, experimental engineering studies and more.

“Tom does what is normally the job of a staff of three to four specialists,” one colleague said. “Tom’s approach has helped us accomplish more, faster than groups twice our size.”

One of his significant accomplishments has been his effort to build a rigid secondary mirror system for the LBT, which could allow the facility to reach its scientific potential as much as two years faster than could have happened without them. Because of O’Brien’s work, the LBT has gained at least one year of scientific use that would not have otherwise been available.

 He has also been sought out for consultation and review of instrumentation projects worldwide, and has served on15 external design reviews since 2000.

“Tom’s can-do attitude and hard work are having a big impact, and OSU has gained enormous credibility,” said another colleague. “Within the larger astronomical instrumentation community, Tom has a reputation for impeccable judgment, high professional standards and outstanding engineering ability.”

Barbara Shardy
Lab Preparator
Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology

Barbara Shardy’s main responsibility as a lab preparator for the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology is to set up lab sessions and order and preserve the specimens needed for two of the department’s most difficult classes, EEOB 405 and 512.

Not only does she come in on weekends and holidays to feed and care for the living organisms, she uses her own carpentry skills and searches in local ponds for natural resources to further enhance the environments in the lab.

It is this dedication to making the laboratory as efficient and educational as possible — and her willingness and cheerfulness while doing it — that colleagues rave about.

“She is always positive and helpful,” said one colleague. “Barb makes being a faculty member, a staff member or a student in EEOB a much more productive, pleasant and successful experience.”

But her dedication goes beyond just that one title. Her duties expanded when she assumed two new roles for the department: Building coordinator of Jennings Hall and coordinator for EEOB’s Web site — and takes both responsibilities just as seriously as any of her others.

She used her personal time to attend web-design courses to become more effective in the role. She has since helped faculty members post digital photographs of lab specimens, videos of live-action events, podcasts and lectures for students to view on the site.

“Barb is an interesting combination of biologist and high-tech guru,” another colleague said. “She seems motivated only by the desire to make the in-class and Web site environments of EEOB 405 and 512 as good as they can be, for the benefit of the students and instructors alike.”

David Sweasey
Senior Systems Manager
Department of Anthropology

When David Sweasey started working in the Department of Anthropology in 2005 as a computer technician, the graduate student computer lab was in a state of disarray. The facility contained outdated computers — some not even connected to the server — that students found impossible to rely on.

But when the senior systems manager took over responsibility for the lab, he transformed it into an efficient work area by redesigning the server, fixing numerous printing problems and installing new software that has made the lab a viable part of the Anthropology department.

“Prior to David’s arrival, our graduate computer lab was in shambles,” one graduate student said. “David Sweasey is the best thing that has ever happened to the department of Anthropology. Not only a fantastic technician, he is also a wonderful human being.”

Faculty, staff and students appreciate Sweasey not only for his technological skill, but his willingness to help those who need it. He often comes in early and stays late to help students with their personal computer problems.

Student nominators recount numerous instances when Sweasey offered advice as they shopped for a new computer, printer or digital camera, and others remember his kindness as he tried to help salvage personal files from their computers that have crashed.

Faculty members praise him for his combination of skills, work ethic and commitment to excellence as well.

 “His focus on detail, his friendliness to those working with him and other department members, including especially our graduate students, and his remarkable knowledge of computing technology is valued by the Department of Anthropology,” a faculty member said.

Others agree. “He is immensely skilled at his job,” another colleague said. “He is prodigiously productive.”

Richard Ugland
Academic Program Coordinator
Department of History

As the history department’s academic program coordinator, Richard Ugland makes decisions that affect everyone in the department. He schedules and assigns instructors for all the history classes, sustains the honors and major programs and even teaches two or three courses each year.

He transformed a series of TA workshops into an entirely new course to foster more effective teaching and classroom management for graduate students who teach undergraduate history classes.

His work touches undergraduates, graduate students, staff and faculty alike.

“He has demonstrated excellence in all aspects of his job responsibilities,” one colleague said. “He has terrific organizational and people skills, displays integrity and honesty in all aspects of his work and is an excellent problem solver.”

Ugland tries to involve students in the department to expand their education and welcome them into the history community. As editor of the undergraduate newsletter, Taking Time, he encourages students to submit articles for publication. He also serves as co-editor of Making History, the alumni newsletter.

His service to the department is part of the reason he has received a number of awards already, including the College of Humanities Outstanding Staff Award and the College’s Above and Beyond the Call Award. Colleagues also credit his effort in spurring the history department to win the Distinguished Department Teaching Award in 1997.

The large body of work that Ugland produces doesn’t go unappreciated by departmental colleagues, either.

As another colleague noted, “Rich’s consummate professionalism, his unfailing generosity and good humor and his tireless efforts in an extraordinary range of areas have made him an irreplaceable and much cherished member of the department.”

2008 Distinguished Staff Award


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