Chancellor Names 2013 Awardees for Staff Excellence in Service to the University, Community

Issue Date: 
March 4, 2013

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has announced the winners of the 2013 Chancellor’s Awards for Staff Excellence in Service to the University and to the Community. The honorees were recognized during Pitt’s annual Honors Convocation, which was held Feb. 22 in the Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland. Each of the awardees receives a $2,500 cash prize. In addition, the names of the awardees will be inscribed on plaques displayed in the William Pitt Union.

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 staff members were chosen to receive the award: Kenyon Bonner, associate dean of students, director of student life, and program director of the RISE mentoring program; Sherry Miller Brown, director of the McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success within the College of General Studies; Gina L. Huggins, program administrator for the Pitt School of Law’s Center for International Legal Education; Nick Mihailoff, facilities manager of the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; and Cheryl Paul, director of engineering student services in the Swanson School of Engineering. 

The Award for Staff 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 a significant impact on the community. This year’s award recipient is Charles Staresinic, director of communication for academic affairs in the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences. 

Bonner was praised for his role in improving the operations of Pitt’s Office of Student Life. In his notification letter, the chancellor wrote that Bonner has shown extraordinary dedication to the University, its students, and colleagues, and he cited a number of colleagues who spoke of Bonner’s hands-on involvement in Student Life’s operations. They recounted instances of Bonner staying until 2 a.m. to monitor the success of a student orientation event or assuming the duties of staff members whom he thought could use some rest. Bonner’s leadership skills and ability to engage students and staff were listed among his greatest attributes. Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey applauded Bonner’s “measured, thoughtful, and conscientious leadership, even in the face of uncertainty, particularly during the chaos of last year’s bomb threats.”


As director of the College of General Studies’ McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success, Brown works to support the University’s nontraditional students not only academically but personally and professionally. In his Feb. 13 notification letter to Brown, Chancellor Nordenberg praised her commitment to students, writing that she consistently exceeds “the amount of time, degree of enthusiasm, magnitude of involvement, and depth of personal connection” required by her position. Brown uses her own story of nontraditional student success—having obtained a PhD over 18 years—to inspire both prospective and enrolled students who may be struggling as they pursue their educations. Nordenberg’s letter relayed comments made by Janet Owens, outreach coordinator for Pitt’s Office of Veterans Services, who wrote that Brown’s support has “literally saved the lives of several student veterans who were experiencing very dark days.” 


As program administrator for the School of Law’s Center for International Legal Education, Huggins provides a friendly and professional public face to current, incoming, and prospective students. Among the factors that Nordenberg cited for his selection of Huggins was the number of times students reported choosing Pitt over other law schools because of Huggins’ warmth and helpfulness during the initial contact with Pitt’s School of Law. The length to which Huggins will go to provide personal attention was also mentioned, including Huggins’ visiting sick students at their homes—the sort of care that led one year’s class to nickname Huggins “Mom.” The chancellor quoted a colleague who said, “If we had more people like Gina in the University, we would need fewer people in the University. She simply does it all.” 


Mihailoff manages the facilities of the Department of Biological Sciences’s Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology in Linesville, Pa. Despite the enormity of the land and University resources under his care—25 buildings on 350 acres of land—Mihailoff has drastically improved the site’s equipment and facilities, which the chancellor noted were in significant disrepair prior to Mihailoff’s arrival. He has managed to make these improvements while saving the lab hundreds of thousands of dollars by using surplus equipment. The chancellor also praised Mihailoff’s “customer-first approach,” citing the assistance he provided to a professor who returned from a field ecology class to find that his car had been damaged by a destructive woodchuck. Mihailoff arranged repairs at a local mechanic’s shop, made calls to locate the needed auto parts, and later live-trapped the guilty woodchuck. 


Paul was cited for her service as volunteer faculty advisor to the University’s Delta Chi fraternity. In his letter to her, Chancellor Nordenberg quoted a fraternity member who wrote that Paul has “served as this fraternity’s most valuable asset.” Indeed, under Paul’s guidance, the fraternity’s average grade-point average has risen above the University average. The chancellor also quoted a fraternity member’s mother, who wrote to describe the care and assistance her son had received. “Although I realize Pitt offers excellent academics,” she wrote, “any school is only as good as the people they are lucky enough to employ and hopefully recognize for their commitment, effort, and excellence in going so far above and beyond what is expected.” 


As president of the Friends of the Lawrenceville Library since 2009, Staresinic has been instrumental in helping to keep four branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) system open, including the historic Lawrenceville branch. As a volunteer, he drafted promotional materials and organized fundraising events. The chancellor’s letter quoted CLP President and Director Mary Frances Cooper, who lauded Staresinic for sharing his time helping the library, “whether by speaking on its behalf at the Allegheny Regional Asset District or staffing a lemonade stand” to raise money for children’s programs. Staresinic is also held in high regard by his University colleagues, both within and outside the schools of the health sciences. The chancellor’s letter praised Staresinic’s “trademark serenity, gentility, kindness, respect, and good humor,” adding that Staresinic has repeatedly demonstrated that his work does not have departmental borders.