Chancellor's 2011 Staff Awards Announced

Issue Date: 
February 28, 2011

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has announced the winners of the 2011 Chancellor’s Awards for Staff for Excellence in Service to the Community and to the University.

The Award for Staff for Excellence in Service to the Community recognizes staff members whose work in the community surpasses the expectations of the organizations they serve and whose commitment and effort have made significant impacts on the community. The four award recipients are:

James P. Gallagher, research systems manager for the School of Dental Medicine;

Christine E. Miller, administrative assistant, Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education;

Bryan M. Valentine, director of student life at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown; and

Marian E. Wencil-Tracey, assistant to the executive director of enrollment management at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville.

The Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the University recognizes staff members who not only exceed job standards and expectations in performing their duties but also make a significant impact on the University through their commitment and performance. The following five Pitt staff members were chosen to receive the award:

Kazi Islam, manager of Peptide Synthesis Core Facilities, Center for Bioengineering;

David W. Nanz, officer, University of Pittsburgh Police Department;

Laurie A. Sallows, office administrator, Office of General Counsel;

Dorothy Shallenberger, administrator, Department of Music; and

Kathleen Sidorovich, financial research administrator, Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences.

All award recipients’ names were recognized during Pitt’s Feb. 25 Honors Convocation. Each awardee will receive a $2,500 cash prize and have his or her name added to a plaque displayed in the William Pitt Union that is inscribed with the names of all recipients of the Chancellor’s Awards.

Public Service to the Community

The award selection committee was impressed by the more than 20 years of service that Gallagher has given to the Boy Scouts of America and, more specifically, to Troop 296. In addition to the time he devotes to weekly troop meetings, weekend activities, and a two-week summer camping trip, Gallagher also serves on the Steel District Training Committee and is actively involved in mentoring Scout leaders. “However, perhaps your greatest impact has been the work you have done that has helped more than 300 young men achieve the rank of Eagle Scout,” the chancellor wrote in his notification letter to Gallagher. “It is no wonder, then, that you are known as ‘the heart and soul of Troop 296,’” Nordenberg added.

Miller particularly impressed the selection committee with her devotion to the Crescent Hills Civic Association and to making her neighborhood a better place. The committee praised the many hours she contributed to anti-litter campaigns, including work with her local school district to engage students and teachers in statewide and local clean-up days and to encourage the addition to the school curriculum of a waste management program. Nordenberg, in his congratulatory letter to Miller, he was particularly pleased to learn that Miller successfully lobbied to have Penn Hills included as one of the communities visited by Pitt students on “Pitt Make a Difference Day,” and that she actively participates alongside them. In addition to serving her own community, she devotes herself to Pitt’s Volunteer Pool, including work for Pitt’s “Day of Caring” and “Christmas Day at Pitt.”

Nordenberg said the award selection committee was impressed by Valentine’s dedication and commitment to Habitat for Humanity. “Through your role as director of student life, you have been very active in encouraging Pitt-Johnstown students to become involved with Habitat. In that same vein, Committee members were particularly impressed by your personal involvement in not only building houses, but also in recruiting and coordinating volunteers—including staff and faculty, as well as students.” Valentine also serves as president and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity Chapter. Edward D. Ford, the former president of the Westmoreland organization, wrote in his nomination letter that “Under [Bryan’s] leadership, the formerly floundering board of directors became a cohesive unit, dedicated to eliminating poverty housing and homelessness in Western Pennsylvania.” Valentine previously received the Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the University, in 2005.

Wencil-Tracey was honored for her service to the March of Dimes, including serving as cochair of one of the organization’s fundraising campaigns that raised close to $500,000. “The Committee was struck by your efforts to ensure that a group of teenagers with special needs had a prom night of their own,” Nordenberg wrote in his notification letter. Wencil-Tracey secured donations of a limousine from a local business and a dinner from a local resort. The chancellor added that he “was personally moved when I learned that it was not winning the award that was important to you, but, rather, you hoped that your story would inspire others to service,” just as Wencil-Tracy “has inspired her own children to give back to the community.”

Public Service to the University

Islam was commended by the award selection committee for his extraordinary dedication to the University and his equally impressive contributions to research, particularly to the development of cancer vaccines. He was praised by many of Pitt’s internationally recognized researchers for the impact he has made on the development of pioneering peptide production techniques. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has employed the quality-control standards that Islam developed for its approval of peptides for use in human clinical trials of cancer vaccines. Islam worked directly with the FDA to develop an FDA-compliant scheme for the synthesis of these peptides and was able to develop a successful protocol. The chancellor, in his Feb. 15 letter notifying Islam of his award, quoted Paul Wood, assistant director of Core Facilities, who said that “not only did the FDA deem his [Islam’s] protocol valid, they also adopted his system as its standard for certified peptides.” Wood added that Islam “was able to save investigators on the order of $100,000 on every peptide taken to clinical trial.”

Nanz received letters of support for his nomination from his Pitt Police colleagues, as well as from members of the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of General Counsel, and the Athletics Department, all of whom attested to his “above and beyond” service to the University and to the broader impact he has made on the community as Pitt’s K-9 officer. In this role, Nanz is often called upon by other police forces in the greater Pittsburgh community to assist with investigating bomb threats and explosive sweeps, duties that he has been happy to fulfill even when called upon before or after his shift. Nordenberg, in his congratulatory letter to Nanz, recounted the two lives that Nanz saved in 2011, adding that “words cannot possibly express our gratitude to you, nor can words express the pride that we take in knowing that you are a member of the Pitt family.”

Since joining the University as a receptionist in the Office of General Counsel, Sallows has received a number of promotions and now serves as office administrator and a paralegal professional. Sallows is renowned for her grace under pressure—a valuable trait, given the contentious nature of many of the matters she handles, the chancellor noted in his letter informing her of the award. “In writing in support of your nomination,” he added,  “Yvonne Keafer, Director of Risk Management and Insurance, noted, ‘Among the attributes that set Laurie apart and make for truly “excellent” service to the University is that she sees no boundaries to her work. Anyone needing help is treated just the same—she does everything in her power to find a solution to their problem.’”

Shallenberger was commended for always going the “extra mile” for the Department of Music’s faculty, staff, and students. Nordenberg said the award selection committee was impressed by Shallenberger’s initiative in creating the “Piano Replacement Project” after recognizing that not only were the department’s pianos in disrepair, but they lacked even a single professional quality piano that could be used for performances, teaching, or practicing. She wrote grants, designed a brochure for the campaign, developed mailing lists, and personally met with patrons, eventually raising all the money required to purchase quality pianos for the department. Shallenberger also created the “Love Award” to thank individuals who have provided excellent service to the Department of Music, including computer technicians, building engineers, electricians, and piano technicians. They received certificates of thanks and cakes. “It is my pleasure, then, to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to you, Dorothy, for your own service to the University,” the chancellor wrote.

Sidorovich has the honor of being the only two-time winner of this award. The award selection committee said that since Sidorovich joined the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences, she has continued to build a record of exceptional service. Her willingness to share her expertise in research compliance and grant administration to anyone in the University particularly stood out. The chancellor, in his Feb. 15 letter to Sidorovich, noted that Chief Financial Officer Arthur Ramicone wrote, “She is always at the forefront of emerging issues that affect the day-to-day grant operations of the University on an operating and financial basis, and she leads any required process change implementation.” Arthur Levine, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, added, “The great dedication, professionalism, and collegiality with which she approaches every facet of her very demanding position are recognized by everyone with whom she interacts.”