Princeton employees honored for dedication and service

March 29, 2016 10:30 a.m.

By the numbers: Service Recognition Luncheon

In addition to the winners of the President's Achievement Award and Donald Griffin '23 Management Award, a total of 516 University staff members with a collective 9,430 years of service were honored for their dedication March 24 at the annual Service Recognition Luncheon. They included:

  • 1 employee with 50 years of service
  • 7 employees with 45 years of service
  • 14 employees with 40 years of service
  • 31 employees with 35 years of service
  • 28 employees with 30 years of service
  • 59 employees with 25 years of service
  • 60 employees with 20 years of service
  • 149 employees with 15 years of service
  • 167 employees with 10 years of service

All employees received certificates of recognition embossed with a special copper-engraved rendering of Nassau Hall by the late Michael Graves, Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus. Those with 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 years of service selected gifts from the Princeton recognition collection at Hamilton Jewelers.

Five Princeton staff members were recognized for their commitment to excellence and exceptional performance during the University's annual Service Recognition Luncheon on March 24 in Jadwin Gymnasium. In addition, two staff members were honored for their leadership potential.

Those honored as recipients of the President's Achievement Award were: Suzanne Burchfield, Landscape Grounds Shop, Facilities; Brandon Gaines, Office of Finance and Treasury; Peggy Henke, University Health Services; Jo Ann Kropilak-Love, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Irina Rivkin, Office of Information Technology.

The award was established in 1997 to recognize members of the support and administrative staffs with five or more years of service whose dedication, excellent work and special efforts have contributed significantly to the success of their departments and the University. The winners received a framed certificate and a $2,500 award and their names are inscribed on a plaque displayed in the Office of Human Resources. The President's Achievement Award is part of the University's Staff Recognition Program administered by the Office of Human Resources.

Staff members with 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15 and 10 years of service were honored during the luncheon; those with 25 or more years of service also received commemorative gifts. A total of 516 University staff members with a collective 9,430 years of service were honored for their dedication this year (see "By the numbers" at right).

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber recognized both the award recipients and the long-serving staff members, praising their talent, skills and experience.  He concluded by stating, "Through your loyalty, compassion and commitment to excellence, you embody the values we honor." What follows are excerpts from his remarks.

Christopher L. Eisgruber stands with award winners

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber honors President's Achievement Award winners, from left, Brandon Gaines, Irina Rivkin, Jo Ann Kropilak-Love, Suzanne Burchfield and Peggy Henke. (Photo by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

Burchfield, horticulturalist and crew leader in the Landscape Grounds Shop, now in her 16th year at Princeton, heads a team dedicated to managing and tending the University’s numerous plantings. On any given day, Suzanne can usually be found working side by side with her crew, on her knees planting, trimming, weeding or mulching. On snowy days she joins her crew in the demanding task of shoveling, de-icing and sanding all the places on campus where plows can’t be used. "I usually get exhausted just watching her as I pass by," says Mark Wilson, program manager for the Office of Design and Construction. Suzanne’s extensive background in horticulture, which includes a degree from the University of Rhode Island, makes her a great teacher as well. Every summer, she trains a new group of student employees for horticultural work, imparting knowledge, demonstrating proper methods and techniques, and patiently forming these young people into a cohesive team. Suzanne truly leads by example, and the results of her efforts are evident for all to see. As Sean Joyner, deputy director of Design and Construction, puts it, "It is difficult to imagine what the Princeton campus would look like without Suzanne's keen eye and energetic approach."

Gaines, widely praised for his skill in "making complex projects seem effortless," brings an unfailingly positive attitude and a drive for excellence to everything he does — and he has done a lot in the nine years he’s served in the Office of Finance and Treasury, most recently as manager of administrative services. In addition to managing his own projects and responsibilities with ease, Brandon frequently volunteers for additional work — whether it be serving as secretary to the CPUC Diversity Task Force Working Group on Structure and Support, or assisting the Admissions Office last spring with the monumental task of organizing Princeton Preview. Director of Admission Logan Powell calls Brandon "smart, efficient and incredibly hard working," adding, "I wish we could work with him every year but we understand that he has another full time job on campus!" Innovative, optimistic, reliable and dedicated, Brandon is, in the words of Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Carolyn Ainslie, "an outstanding employee and an exemplary University citizen." But there’s another quality I want to mention, one that truly sets Brandon apart, and that is his capacity to "serve as a catalyst to bring out the best in others." As a supervisor, Brandon "treats all with professionalism and respect, provides clear direction and works to develop shared goals." As Carolyn notes, "it isn’t just about doing his job, but how he can make everyone else better around him." This is a precious quality, and one that we are pleased to celebrate.

Henke, office manager of Employee Health at University Health Services, has spent the past 20 years making sure that we fulfill our responsibility to maintain the health of our campus community to the highest standards. Whether offering compassion and reassurance to clients at their most vulnerable, managing the medical clearance process for hundreds of students and employees, helping to evaluate health monitoring programs or lending a hand in an emergency measles screening effort, Peggy approaches all of her tasks with characteristic cheerfulness, patience and kindness. This is especially important for the clients she serves, many of whom may not be feeling their best when they arrive at her door. As one client notes, "She greets people with a broad smile, leaving folks feeling better about themselves after they've talked with her." This same cheerfulness allows Peggy to embrace challenges and adapt to change in her work environment." Peggy greets each day with enthusiasm and excitement; she views challenges as opportunities to develop creative solutions to complicated problems," notes Claire Perkins, associate director of administration at University Health Services. Compassionate, down to earth, unflappable, approachable and driven to serve — these are but a few of the words Peggy’s colleagues use to describe her. To Director of Employee Health Sara Ingraffia, it comes down to the fact that "Peggy cares. Her position is not simply a 'job' to her; it is closer to a calling to serve Princeton."

Kropilak-Love, undergraduate administrator for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, plays many roles in the department. Professor Michael Littman says that a better title might be "friend, mentor, colleague, coach and 'manager of all things undergraduate.'" Serving in this position for more than two decades, Jo Ann is widely appreciated as the "heart and soul" of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering undergraduate program. "To her," says one faculty member, "the success of our students and our undergraduate program is personal. From organizing an effective faculty advising system for the upper classes, to combing through the academic records of all our students to insure that none of them miss any graduation requirements, her dedication to the students is unmatched." Jo Ann is there for students at every stage of their academic careers at Princeton, and sometimes before and after Princeton as well. Her legendary warmth and hospitality have played a role in at least one college decision, as a chance meeting with a prospective student one summer will attest, and it's well known that her office is often the first stop for MAE alumni returning for Reunions. Jo Ann's commitment to excellence infuses all aspects of her work in the department, from her proactive approach to the accreditation review process to her efforts to revitalize student organizations within the department.

Rivkin, director of enterprise resource planning for Administrative Information Services, oversees the PeopleSoft environment for Princeton. Thanks to her leadership over the past 10 years, PeopleSoft at Princeton is, according to Associate Chief Information Officer Colin Currie, "one of the finest and most complete implementations of the suite anywhere … in higher education." Every day, Irina and her team make sure that "University bills are paid, students can enroll in classes, grades are recorded, prospective students are considered, vetted, and admitted, health benefits are administered," and perhaps most importantly, "employees are paid." Whereas some would find this unceasing responsibility draining, Irina is, on the contrary, "unfailingly energized by the role she fills" for Princeton, bringing enthusiasm, an infectious laugh and the highest standards of excellence to every project she undertakes. Over more than three decades, she has collaborated with colleagues in a host of offices across the University to ensure that our information systems are up to par. For Executive Director for Human Resources Steve Blechman, "What is truly special about Irina is how she leads with a brilliant combination of honesty, integrity, compassion and humor … she always finds a way to bring teams together with a common purpose." University Registrar Polly Griffin puts it a little more bluntly: "Irina Rivkin is quite simply a force … she has shepherded substantial resources as though they came from her pocket and has supervised subcontractors as though they were ours — with a warm smile, a leather glove and a determination of steel." Irina is a "rare find" indeed, and we all benefit from the incredible dedication she has brought to her work at Princeton.

Griffin Management Award

In addition to the President's Achievement Award winners, two staff members were honored as recipients of the Donald Griffin '23 Management Award. They were Maria Bohn, Office of the Dean of the College, and Karla Ewalt, Office of the Dean for Research. The award was established to honor Griffin — a 1923 alumnus who served as the longtime secretary and general secretary of Princeton's Alumni Council — through a gift from his son James, a 1955 alumnus; his granddaughter, Barbara Griffin Cole, a 1982 alumna; and her husband, Chris Cole, a 1981 alumnus. The award is given by the Office of Human Resources to recognize administrators who would like to develop their leadership and management skills. The winners receive a grant of up to $2,500 to participate in professional activities scheduled within the next year to provide new insights and perspectives, renew motivation and/or enhance skills applicable to their current responsibilities.

Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for Human Resources, spoke about each Griffin Award recipient, and excerpts of her remarks follow.

Bohn has been employed in the Office of the Dean of the College since May 2013 as a program coordinator. In her nomination, Maria’s supervisor, Trisha Thorme, director at the Community Based Learning Initiative Program (CBLI), wrote, "Maria's innate leadership ability, boundless energy and collaborative spirit make her the perfect candidate for the Donald Griffin Management Award. Maria's energy and passion for community work light a matching fire in others. CBLI's partners have taken notice and asked her to serve on their boards." Trisha noted that, in her role, Maria is instrumental in helping students, community partners and faculty members realize their goals for community-based programs. She offers insights and perspective and assists them in translating their ideas into actions. 

Through the Griffin Award, Maria will attend the Lead NJ Fellows Program in 2017. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in a monthly seminar series around the state on the issues facing New Jersey led by individuals who bring a diverse background of perspectives. Topics covered include education, health care and human services, environmental policy, and others. Maria intends to bring the learning back to Princeton and to her job and program.

Ewalt has worked as the associate dean for research in the Office of the Dean for Research since 2008. Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti characterized Karla in his nomination as "an extraordinary manager and administrator." He wrote that she performs her broad list of responsibilities with "outstanding quality, professionalism, thoughtfulness, wisdom and dedication." Department Chair of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Lars Hedin noted, "Karla has the absolutely uncommon ability to understand the diversity and science that is done at Princeton. I have been astounded to learn the depth of knowledge and nuance of judgment that Karla has accumulated. Every leading research institution needs a thinker like Karla, and we are lucky to have her."

Through the Griffin Award, Ewalt will attend the Annual Development Research Conference sponsored by the National Development of Research Professionals, a three-day professional conference in May in Orlando, Florida. The conference will enable Ewalt to learn about the key trends in research funding, to network with colleagues, and to learn from the expertise of more established research development offices. She explained, "Our goal is to strengthen Princeton's capacity to compete for strategically relevant funding opportunities in this increasingly competitive time."