Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Lesli Groth, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-0234

April 26, 2002

NIU announces recipients of
SPS Presidential Awards for Excellence

DeKalb--Four members of NIU's Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) have been chosen to receive the university's Presidential Awards for Excellence.

The recipients are Richard Becker from the Department of Biological Sciences, Eric Behr from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Margaret Bridge from the University Office of Teacher Certification and Don Larson from Registration and Records.

They will be honored at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, in the Clara Sperling Sky Room in the Holmes Student Center. Each will receive a plaque and $1,000 in appreciation for their outstanding contributions to NIU.

President Peters will present the awards at 3 p.m. Refreshments will be served and the reception is open to all.

Additionally, the Gary Gray Award will be presented to Debra Brue, director of external programming for the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. The award, based on service to the SPS Council, honors the late Gary Gray, a past member of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences advising staff and the SPS Council.

Richard Becker

Richard Becker, assistant chair for business and operations in the Department of Biological Sciences, works to stop problems before they occur.

"His cordial and cooperative working relationships with other campus administrators is instrumental in his not only keeping on top of our own accounts, but anticipating ways that events in other departments will impact our fiscal health," said Biological Sciences Chair J. Michael Parrish.

Becker, who joined NIU in 1987, serves as the department's fiscal officer and as manager of Montgomery Hall's classrooms, offices and laboratories.

He oversees information on budgets, personnel and equipment and contributes to the maintenance of safety and security measures. He also shares in network administration duties with the department information systems manager and teaches several biology classes.

"Rich has been able to maintain his high standing as a microbiologist through teaching, research and service," said Marvin Starzyk, professor and chair emeritus. "He is a professional scientist as well as an excellent administrator."

Becker said maintaining good relationships across campus is essential for the success of the department.

"I really value the personal relationships I've made with a wide range of administrators on campus and have particularly enjoyed the resource acquisition partnerships we've entered into with other units," he said.

Eric Behr

Eric Behr, systems manager for the Department of Mathematical Sciences, performs much of his work behind the scenes, but it does not go unnoticed by the many faculty and staff he assists each day.

Behr, who joined NIU in 1993, runs a network of almost 100 computers, fends off hacker intrusions, administers mailing lists for various campus groups and organizations and is an all-around "computer guru," said Mathematical Sciences Chair William M. Blair.

"His clear understanding of our computer needs and available hardware and software enables us to receive the maximum benefit from our limited budget," Blair said. "He has the uncanny knack for anticipating problems and thus avoids disasters."

Behr also is instrumental in organizing meetings with hardware/software vendors and campus system administrators, as well as assisting faculty and staff with their own Web sites.

"He has earned a reputation across campus as one who gives selflessly and at all hours to help others," said Presidential Teaching Professor Jim Thomas of Sociology. "Eric has been a critical force in the delivery of NIU's teaching, research and service mission."

"I'm lucky to be in a department which is quite free of petty animosities and turf battles," Behr said. "This gives me a strong incentive to find the patience and time to help others."

Margaret Bridge

Margaret Bridge is "hard-working" and "professional" in her duties as university coordinator for the Office of Teacher Certification.

"She has achieved university respect and admiration for her highly-organized approach to our tasks in teacher certification," added Interim Vice Provost Robert Wheeler.

Bridge serves as the coordinator of the Committee on Initial Teacher Certification, and often travels to conferences to gather information on teacher certification programs. One major project included preparing for the recent Illinois State Board of Education and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education reaccreditation review of NIU's 34 teacher certification programs, which took place last October.

"The scope of this project took her beyond the normal workday as she spent evenings and weekends in the office pulling together the documents. Margaret has made many personal sacrifices for this university that go well beyond the scope of her position," said Suzanne Warber, assistant director of Registration and Records.

"It's always been a part of my life to take on challenges which stretch my personal and professional skills," said Bridge, who joined NIU in 1993. "I have always juggled many tasks and I feel a personal satisfaction in the successful outcome of these endeavors."

Don Larson

Don Larson, director of Registration and Records for the past six years, has implemented technological advancements that benefit his department and the university as a whole, colleagues say.

Larson has employed such programs as online class registration and WebConnect, an online system providing students access to information such as grades, schedules and class availability. He recently initiated a Web site for NIU faculty to access their class lists online.

"He understands and employs the concept that there is a technology transformation evolving in higher education," said Sheri Kallembach, associate director of Registration and Records. "Don's abilities to attend to dimensions of change put NIU in a position to keep its competitive advantage in higher education."

Larson also works to create a "fair and pleasant" working environment that focuses on employee satisfaction and improved customer service.

"Don believes that a comfortable work environment leads to increased productivity, which in turn results in improved service to students, staff and faculty," said Nora Clark, senior gift and estate planning officer for the Division of Development and University Relations.

"For most of my career, I have had as a goal improving and expanding the use of technology in Registration and Records, and I will continue to promote this campus wide in the future," said Larson, who joined NIU in 1971.