Chancellor Names 2009 Staff Excellence Awardees

Issue Date: 
February 2, 2009

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has named the winners of the 2009 Chancellor’s Awards for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community and to the University.

Each awardee will receive a $2,500 cash prize and will be recognized during Pitt’s 33rd annual Honors Convocation on Friday, Feb. 27. The awardees’ names also will be inscribed on plaques to be displayed in the William Pitt Union.

The two winners of the Awards for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community are:

Susan C. Heiss, executive assistant in Pitt’s Institute of Politics; and

Robert W. Knipple, executive director of external relations at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

The three winners of the Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the University are:

James L. Baldwin, assistant dean of academic affairs, registrar, and director of Science in Motion at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford;

Angela F. Ford, associate director of Pitt’s Center for Minority Health; and

William K. Young, senior director of publications and marketing in Pitt’s Office of Public Affairs.

Excellence in Service to the Community

Heiss is the first point of contact for Institute of Politics constituents, who include elected officials, foundation executives, and community and civic leaders.

A devoted parent, Heiss focused her early volunteer activities on her children and their interests. She has served as a Parent Teacher Association member, a Boy Scouts den mother, a Girl Scouts leader, and a volunteer for her children’s soccer and football teams. Heiss also was instrumental in establishing the Institute of Politics’ Hadija’s Hope, a fundraising effort that helped a young Tanzanian woman escape an abusive living situation and attend a boarding school in Tanzania.

In a letter supporting Heiss’ nomination, Laurel J. Petty, manager of planning and special events at Carlow University, wrote, “Susan is a genuinely caring person who is dedicated to her job, her school, and her community. She has the spirit of a volunteer and the dedication to make a real impact in everything she does.”

Knipple, an alumnus of Pitt-Johnstown, is a founding board member of The Learning Lamp, a nonprofit organization that provides students in 57 Pennsylvania school districts with one-on-one tutoring to improve their overall classroom performance. He also is the cofounder of Project Click Safe, a consortium of school and law enforcement officials that promotes Internet safety by educating parents on ways to protect their children from questionable Internet sites, cyber bullying, and online predators.

In a letter supporting Knipple’s nomination, Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar wrote, “Bob is respected and admired not only by his colleagues but by community leaders and members of our advisory board, who frequently commend him for his exceptional service.” Jeanne Gleason, chair of the Pitt-Johnstown Advisory Board and an emeritus member of Pitt’s Board of Trustees, described Knipple as “a generous and giving person. … He is as involved in the community as a person can be. He is as fine a representative of the type of UPJ staff person as we ever could hope to have in our community.”

Excellence in Service to the University

Baldwin has been recognized for his dedication to Pitt-Bradford and for his willingness to undertake and create such new initiatives as the College in High School program, which gives high school students in six rural Pennsylvania counties the opportunity to become familiar with college while earning college credit. In 2007, he also established the Women’s Leadership Conference at UPB. More than 70 Pitt-Bradford faculty, staff, and students as well as students from four of the region’s high schools attended the inaugural conference, titled “Women Building Community and Dreams.”

Baldwin also used his expertise in technology to create a database that allows potential transfer students to determine whether credits earned at other institutions are transferable to Pitt-Bradford.

Peter J. Buchheit, a winner of the 2008 Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community and a member of this year’s selection committee, wrote, “James is out of the box. He has four computer screens on his desk. His normal work day is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. We have to tell him to go home.”

Ford (SOC WK’91G, ’06G) joined the University’s staff in 1996. She has acted as a mentor to faculty, staff, and students and has served on numerous University committees. Moreover, she has successfully used her community connections to advance the work of Pitt’s Center for Minority Health by writing articles for the New Pittsburgh Courier that highlight health challenges for the African American community.

Ford also has volunteered for a number of community-based organizations as well as such government agencies as the Governor’s Commission on Physical Activity and Fitness and the advisory board of the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging. In addition, she is the founder of Black Women and Health Outreach for Longer Life and Empowerment, a health promotion network that connects Black women with health information and resources.

In a letter supporting her nomination, Donald Burke, dean of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, wrote, “Dr. Ford is a collaborator, a leader, a mentor, and a tireless advocate for the betterment of the Center for Minority Health, the Graduate School of Public Health, the University, and the wider Pittsburgh community.”

Young, who has been with the University for 20 years, manages a team of communications professionals that has received more than 200 awards for excellence in business communications, public relations, and University advancement.

The selection committee was impressed by the number of letters attesting to Young’s dedication and his willingness to do “whatever it takes,” including, on one occasion, literally holding down the ropes of a tent so it wouldn’t blow away during an event. In a letter supporting his nomination, Pitt Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill wrote of Young’s distinguished record on a number of fronts, including “excellence in customer service, interpersonal skills in support of Pitt diversity, special projects, and contributions toward the work environment.”

Young and Hill won a 2004 Telly Award, the highest award in nonprofit television, for K. Leroy Irvis: The Lion of Pennsylvania, a documentary about the late Pitt law school graduate and Pennsylvania Speaker of the House.

Young has been involved in a number of projects that tell the story of Pitt, including the documentary A New Way of Thinking, which chronicles the Black-student experience at Pitt. It has been repeatedly screened at African American Alumni Council and Equipoise events. Young also played a major role in the launch of the University’s Legacy Gallery, an installation in Alumni Hall that uses a pair of interactive kiosks to tell the story of the University through the accomplishments of Pitt alumni and faculty.