Four members of NIU’s Operating Staff have been chosen to receive the Outstanding Service Award for 2008.
The recipients are Bonnie Anderson, graduate secretary in the Department of English; Sharon Dowen, director of Internal Audit; Joy Hadley, secretary in the Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Mary Hamell, clerk chief IV in the Department of Accountancy’s CPA Review.
More than 1,700 employees make up the Civil Service staff. Each year, four are selected by a committee of their peers to receive the award of plaques and $1,500. They will be honored at a Thursday, May 8, banquet.
Here is a closer look at the recipients.
Behind every great administrator is a strong secretary, something that more than one director of graduate studies in the Department of English confirms about Bonnie Anderson.
The former admissions/record officer in the Graduate School knows the school’s policies and procedures by heart – and often by page number.
Only months into her 2005 appointment in English, she helped the new director to revise the graduate student handbook. When Betty J. Birner became director last fall, it was Anderson who explained the what, when, why and to whom.
“She is careful to give me the starring role,” Birner said. “She tells me it is her job to make me look good, and she does so with humor and humility.”
But it is Anderson’s caring that makes her special.
A “tireless advocate” for students, she opened her home the Sunday after Feb. 14 for students to gather, hug and bake cookies. She collects furniture for students’ apartments, accepts deliveries of their packages at her house and offers motherly comfort and advice.
She’s an LGBT Ally, a Relay for Life participant and a local musician. She’s an animal lover who laundered loads of towels and pet bedding for TAILS, sewed catnip toys and cleaned cages. She’s an environmentalist who fills offices with plants, turns off unnecessary lights, recycles and conducts paperless graduate admissions.
“She leads by example,” Birner said, “and, in so doing, brings out the best in others.”
Sharon Dowen is a woman of courage.
Dowen, director of Internal Audit, is an investigator whose duty to “keep the institution out of trouble” occasionally gets university employees into trouble. It is not unusual for the auditing function to meet resistance and suspicion. Hers is a tough and thorny job, one that demands strict confidentiality and careful sensitivity.
Yet through her mental strength, personal integrity, positive attitude and hard-earned credibility, she is widely respected and uniformly well-liked.
“She has been involved in difficult situations where employees have misappropriated funds/assets,” said Abby Chemers, associate director for budget and planning in Finance and Facilities. “I have seen her appeal to managers to implement better procedures and policies to protect the university. In this awkward role, Sharon has earned much respect and developed life-long friendships.”
Dowen is also a strong advocate of raising money and awareness for breast cancer research.
She trained vigorously for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day walk, completed the 60 miles and raised more than $7,000 for research as her friends cheered.
One of NIU’s “25 Amazing Women,” Dowen is also an exemplary supervisor and role model for her staff. She assisted with the implementation of PeopleSoft and helped develop and present workshops on cash handling, managing cash operations and even effective meetings.
She also serves on the Gurler Heritage Association, delivers Meals on Wheels and is active in her church.
When Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty scamper to secretary Joy Hadley’s desk with last-minute typing needs, whether exams for students or papers almost past deadline for conferences, she always has the same response.
“I have never heard her say no,” associate professor Abhijit Gupta said. “With a smiling face, she will accommodate our requests, even though it may mean shortening the time for her lunch or extending her work day.”
Hadley also has near daily contact with the department’s 400 undergraduates, helping them to register for courses, locate faculty and advisers or apply for graduation. Hers is the first face new students encounter at orientation, where she scoops ice cream; they later glimpse her in the audience during Senior Design Day and hug her each fall in the Homecoming tent.
Faculty often seek Hadley’s guidance and knowledge on curriculum and student-related issues. She volunteers as a proctor for the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering competitions on campus.
Hadley is an ardent fan of Huskie basketball, a season ticket holder for NIU theater events and a School of Music aficionado who attends several concerts.
The 44-year DeKalb resident also is active in the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Association, a chaperone to the Children’s Community Theater and a member of Stagecoach Theater. She serves Westminster Presbyterian Church in leadership, musical and educational capacities, delivers Meals on Wheels and accompanied local youth choirs Dee’s Dreamers and Dee’s Darlings.
A crystal ball might have come in handy this year at NIU’s CPA Review, where Mary Hamell is clerk chief IV.
But Hamell’s thoughtfulness and dedicated performance in times of trouble shone brightly even without a peek into the future: Hamell’s boss, Debra Hopkins, suffered the death of a parent, became sick herself and later broke several bones.
“She kept our 1,000-plus students on an even keel. She delivered work to my home when I was unable to walk, she worked independently and she made decisions that always put the learner’s needs in the forefront,” Hopkins said. “She kept our operation running as if nothing had happened.”
Plenty happens in Hamell’s office even in a normal year.
Hamell trains about 15 site assistants each year, procures handout materials for 22 classes and organizes and delivers materials to DeKalb, Chicago, Hoffman Estates and Naperville. Much of is done on weekends and evenings, when the classes meet.
Her service to the College of Business extends to membership on the facility committee, which works to maintain Barsema Hall for future students.
She is the current president of Beta Sigma Phi sorority. The sorority’s primary focus is to community service projects. She also is a member and past officer of PEO, which is a philanthropic organization where women celebrate the advancement of women through education and scholarships.
Hamell also enjoyed serving two years as commissioner of NIU’s golf league.