Four members of NIU’s Operating Staff have been chosen to receive the Outstanding Service Award for 2009.
The recipients are Cliff Alexis, co-director of the NIU Steel Band in the School of Music; Angela Euhus, assistant to the chair in the Department of Management; Bill Finucane, manager of the Department of Transportation; and Barbara Rice, administrative assistant for Human Resource Services.
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 14, banquet.
Here is a closer look at the recipients.
Neither time nor temperature can keep Cliff Alexis from his appointed rounds as a master builder and tuner of steelpans – especially if the NIU Steel Band can avoid steep shipping costs.
“Such dedication can be seen when he often spends 10- to 15-hour long days tuning the NIU Steel Band’s instruments in an impeccable fashion before many of its concerts off and on campus,” said Liam Teague, co-director of the band. “He has gone so far as to build instruments in the sweltering heat of Trinidad.”
Employed at NIU since 1986, Alexis is equally regarded for his performance, teaching, composing and arranging skills on the instrument of his homeland, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
He has appeared with several university ensembles and played and presented at Elgin Community College, the Birch Creek Music Center, the Singapore Festival of the Arts and the National Institute of the Arts in Taiwan.
His composition “Pan 2000” helped NIU earn second place at the 2000 World Steelband Festival.
Alexis won the Trinidad and Tobago Folk Arts Institute Award for his contribution to the development and education of the steelpan in the United States. Pan Trinbago (the governing body of steelpan) and the government of Trinidad and Tobago bestowed similar recognition for expanding the pan’s global reach.
He’s a member of the Sunshine Hall of Fame and has a lifetime achievement award from the World Steelband Festival. He also was one of the first members of the National Steel Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago in 1964.
“He is nothing short of a wizard,” colleague Greg Beyer said, “and something of a genius.”
Angela Euhus made an extraordinary choice to work at a school when she joined the university 27 years ago.
Her response is consistently positive whenever faced with issues not easily resolved: “You know I like to learn new things.”
“Her attitude is always, always, always ‘How can I help you?’ ” said Sarah J. Marsh, chair of the Department of Management. “In the rare circumstances when she doesn’t know the answer, she takes the challenge on with energy and enthusiasm. She digs and digs and digs until she gets the answer she needs, and then closes the loop by sharing that information with relevant parties.”
“Angie will drop what she is doing,” added management professor Lynn Neeley, “telephone a few people and, remarkably, the problem will be solved.”
Praised for her commitment, speed, accuracy and efficiency, Euhus is the “go-to” person for all matters administrative. She’s also known for her compassion, recently attending grief counseling with colleagues and friends who lost husbands and coming to the aid of a Barsema Hall custodian with turmoil in her family life.
She’s a Move-In Day fixture and a frequent face at College of Business events, including the annual Hot Dog Day. Away from work, she has served on the board of directors for the Children’s Learning Center, has taught Sunday School, has led several parent-teacher organizations in DeKalb and planned Post Prom for DeKalb High School.
“Angie possesses the qualities most organizations would pay any amount of money to find in their employees,” professor Stephanie Henagan said, “including dependability, conscientiousness and a positive attitude.”
When NIU needs a ride, it calls Bill Finucane.
Finucane oversees operations for nearly 250 vehicles, including their purchase, scheduling and maintenance, and manages 11 full-time employees.
The 30-year employee who started as extra help in 1975 is a leading force in transforming NIU’s fleet into the largest “green” fleet in Illinois. He works tirelessly to ensure his operation is fiscally efficient and sound, including negotiations for low fixed rates for gasoline.
But it’s Finucane’s calm, helpful and patient demeanor, and his commitment to safety, that resound most.
“During our annual high school speech camp last summer, the weather was quite bad,” said Judy Santacaterina, director of NIU forensics events. “On three different occasions, Bill was able to provide us with buses on short notice to make sure that all our high school students and staff made it safely back to the residence halls.”
“Bill was first on the scene as the sky began to darken and the tornado sirens started to blare on Opening Day 2007,” added Kelly Wesener, assistant vice president for Student Services.
After Feb. 14, Finucane drove President John Peters to the funerals for the five fallen students. He coordinated transportation for the families of the killed and injured as they attended memorial events and for the legion of counselors brought to campus.
Finucane, a double NIU alum with a master’s degree in public administration and a passion for Huskie sports, is active in Kiwanis and chairs the DeKalb Citizens Environmental Commission. He also serves on the board for the Volunteer Action Center, the board of advisers for NIU’s public administration program and manages the annual girls’ soccer tournament for DeKalb High School.
Everyone in Human Resource Services is committed to NIU’s employees.
Barbara Rice, a member of the NIU family since 1998, elevates her commitment “above and beyond.”
Among Rice’s many duties, which include being “the voice” of supervisor and colleague Steve Cunningham and managing his busy schedule, is service to the university’s shared governance. She coordinates annual faculty and staff recognition ceremonies that sometimes honor a collective 1,000 employees.
“Each spring, Barb becomes the ‘field marshal’ of functions. She organizes all the details, from invitations and guest lists, scripts, menus, decorations and job responsibilities for many of us who also work at these events,” said Deborah Haliczer, director of employee relations. “It is a massive undertaking, like organizing a wedding for several hundred people each and every year.”
“Barb’s work on these events greatly exceeds the level of anticipated responsibility,” Cunningham said, “and is a true representation of her dedication to our employees and staff councils.”
Lauded for her friendly strength, calm, fortitude and integrity, Rice is always prepared to staff meetings, committees and advisory panels. She coordinates several HRS events and helps to produce the annual supplier diversity fair.
Since 2000, she has coordinated the university’s annual campaign through the State Employees Charitable Appeal.
Away from work, Rice has been a Sunday School teacher, church choir member and on stage or backstage at community theater plays. She supports Hope Haven and Safe Passage and prepares homemade chicken soup for friends and family who are ill.