Nordenberg Honors Staff for Service to the University and Community

Issue Date: 
February 24, 2014

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has announced the winners of the 2014 Chancellor’s Awards for Staff Excellence in Service to the University and to the Community. Each of the awardees receives a $2,500 cash prize and will be recognized during the University of Pittsburgh’s 38th annual Honors Convocation, to be held at 3 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 28, in Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. The event is free and open to the public. 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 will recognize four staff members: Sheila Confer, Kristin A. Hopkins, Christine Metil, and Holly Spittler, The award is given to 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 Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community will honor five staff members: Donna J. Alexander, David E. Atkinson, Felix Catlin, Adam Causgrove, and Ervin Dyer. The award 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. 

Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the University

SheilaSheila Confer Confer
Coordinator, MAP-Works Retention Initiative, and Assistant Director, Academic Village, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
Sheila Confer’s many roles at Pitt-Greensburg share a common theme: improving students’ experiences and success. She coordinates the MAP-Works Retention Initiative, a program designed to help students do well and stay in school. And as assistant director of the Academic Village, which offers a unique living and learning experience to high-achieving students, she has established a mentor program and inspired Village students to volunteer in the community. She also teaches classes in the theatre arts department, has served as the theatre light designer, and is an advisor to several student organizations. “Ms. Confer continually demonstrates the energy, creativity, and dedication of five people. She fires the imagination of all who have the privilege of knowing and working with her and builds like-minded individuals to achieve important goals,” said Pitt-Greensburg President Sharon Smith.

KristinKristin A. Hopkins A. Hopkins
Manager, The University Store on Fifth, University of Pittsburgh
Kristin Hopkins has gracefully shepherded the University’s bookstore through big changes in recent years. The store’s year-long transformation from the Book Center into The University Store on Fifth included a temporary move to a very small space. Nicknamed the “Wizard” for her problem-solving abilities, Hopkins oversaw the integration of the Health Bookstore into the main store and devised an improved sales-tracking system for The University Store, the Pitt Shop, and Maggie & Stella’s. Her implementation of online ordering allowed textbooks to be delivered right to students’ rooms. In the award letter, Chancellor Nordenberg noted the compassion Hopkins showed to several students who lost their possessions in a house explosion: She provided them with books and clothes from the store to assist them as they finished the semester.

ChristineChristine Metil Metil
Administrator, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Associate Director, Russian and East European Summer Language Institute, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
Christine Metil’s three decades of work at Pitt and the ties she has developed with the city’s Eastern European organizations have benefited both the University and the community. She helped establish five endowed funds honoring Slavic heritage. One of those, the Slovak Endowment, led to her founding the Slovak Heritage Festival 25 years ago. The festival, based in the Cathedral of Learning, has grown from a small gathering of neighbors to one of the largest such events in the country. Similarly, the Summer Language Institute has thrived under Metil’s leadership. David Birnbaum, Slavic department chair, said, “Largely as a result of Chris’s efforts, the University of Pittsburgh Summer Language Institute has become a national leader in Slavic studies, with innovative programs that have been adopted or emulated at other institutions.”

HollyHolly Spittler Spittler
Associate Dean of Student Affairs and director of Career Services, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
While Holly Spittler was originally nominated for her service to the community, the selection committee has honored her for staff excellence in service to the University. Spittler’s leadership benefits many Bradford organizations, including the Bradford Area Public Library, the YWCA, Futures Rehabilitation Center, and the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania. However, Chancellor Nordenberg noted that the committee was “struck by the positive impact you have had on our students in terms of their academic performance, helping them to determine their career paths, and instilling in them your own commitment to service.” Several former students—one now a judge—credited her guidance and support as crucial to their success. Spittler has given special attention to nontraditional students, working with her counterparts at institutions in other states to develop Adult Learners on Campus, a student-run organization.

Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community

DonnaDonna J. Alexander J. Alexander
Administrative Secretary, Marketing and Communications, Office of Institutional Advancement
Donna Alexander earned praise for her leadership role with the Wilkinsburg Girl Scout Troop. Kimberly Roberts, program director for the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, says the troop would not exist if not for Alexander’s efforts. More than 110 girls have joined since Alexander began the troop in 2007. Because of her work, young women from an underserved area have traveled and gained new experiences, including overnight camping trips, a visit to the Society for Contemporary Crafts, and trips to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Alexander cultivated a spirit of volunteerism in the troop through service projects for the Ronald McDonald House, the Sickle Cell Society, and the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. The awards committee also noted Alexander’s service to her fellow employees through her work with Equipose and the Center for Health Equity’s Community Research Advisory Board.

DavidDavid E. Atkinson E. Atkinson
IT Business Analyst, Office of Computing Services and Systems Development
David Atkinson’s contributions have benefitted the community in a variety of ways, in particular his work with the Highland Park Community Council and the Pittsburgh Public Schools. As chair of the community council’s education committee, he served as an advocate for the city schools, providing information through meetings, articles, and forums. He was appointed to the Obama International Baccalaureate 6-12 Site Selection Committee, which was tasked with assessing a new location for the school once it had outgrown its space at the former Reizenstein School. Once the former Peabody High School location was selected, Atkinson served on the transition committee, which developed traffic recommendations to keep students, neighbors, and commuters safe. Dara Ware Allen, a former city school board member, praised his work: “Intractable problems need dedicated volunteers like David who are willing to persevere and commit the time and effort it takes to see solutions take root.”

FelixFelix Catlin Catlin
Medical Translator, Department of Biostatistics, Graduate School of Public Health
Felix Catlin is being honored for his work with the Penn Hills Community Development Corporation. A key founder of the five-year-old organization, he is credited with recruiting most of its 210 members. The organization praised his work on many initiatives, but one stands out—The Barn. The historic structure, officially the Penn Hebron Garden Club building, had fallen into disrepair. Catlin convinced the development corporation to lease it for $1, and he led efforts to restore the building. Today, it is a coffeehouse with live entertainment, a space for community meetings, a venue for parties and receptions, and the development organization’s headquarters. Catlin continues to serves as the building’s volunteer manager.

AdamAdam Causgrove Causgrove
Research Grant Administrator, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine
The award selection committee chose Adam Causgrove for the depth and breadth of his work in the community. “While you have gained national recognition as the winner of the ‘Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award,’ here in Pittsburgh you are known more for your philanthropic endeavors in your neighborhood of Mt. Washington and your work with a wide variety of Pittsburgh nonprofit organizations,” Chancellor Nordenberg wrote. Distinctive mustache aside, Causgrove cofounded and serves as director of Side Project Inc., which helps several small community nonprofits. He began Tail-GREAT, a charity tailgate event that includes among its beneficiaries the Animal Rescue League and Steps to Independence, a services provider to children and young adults with motor disabilities. Mt. Washington, too, benefited from Causgrove’s efforts: he served as president of PAWS for Olympia Park, which led to the establishment of a local dog park.

ErvinErvin Dyer Dyer
Senior Editor, Pitt Magazine, Office of University Communications
Ervin Dyer’s community service includes multiple missions of good to countries such as Haiti and South Africa. However, the award letter noted, in particular, his impact on aspiring journalism students and the broader media community, primarily through his leadership of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation and his own journalistic writing.  Dyer’s Pitt Magazine stories have covered, for instance, the remarkable history of the The Pittsburgh Courier. His original research and resulting profile of Charles Florence (EDUC ‘19)—an accomplished African-American alumnus—led to posthumous honors and recognition for this extraordinary Pitt graduate. In the award letter, Chancellor Nordenberg noted, “Your writing has ensured that those who might have been forgotten will be remembered, your work with the PBMF has ensured that others will be recognized for their work, and your mentoring of budding journalists has ensured that there will be others who will follow in your footsteps to tell the stories that have yet to be told.”