Demonstrating dedication from dining halls to laboratories and administrative offices, presented here are winners of the 2017 Western Awards of Excellence, the highest honour for staff member achievement.
Essex Hall porter
Geoff Houlton is as “a hidden gem.” A porter in residence dining at Essex Hall, he has worked at the university for 33 years. Despite the fact he doesn’t always have an opportunity to cross paths with students, he “plays an integral part in the Student Experience at Western.” He is a quiet, humble and dedicated worker who stays out of the spotlight but brings positivity to all interactions. His colleagues can count on him and call him “a salt of the earth type of man” who is loyal, trustworthy, efficient, reliable, respected and dedicated. His tireless effort to maintain what is “unarguably the cleanest kitchen on campus” gives peace of mind to not only students living away from home for the first time, but their parents as well.
Administrative Officer, Department of Economics
Debra Merrifield is “the head of the Economics family.” She regularly goes above and beyond for faculty and staff, and is always available to assist with requests, even when they fall outside of her role. Merrifield’s leadership, limitless energy, compassion and devotion to her Economics family “have resulted in a department that is built on respect, teamwork and collegiality.” For a department that has undergone a number of transitions, she served as a constant and offered expertise and support for all to succeed. She is always encouraging colleagues to pursue good opportunities. Merrifield has been a personal comfort and source of support to those she works with for more than two decades.
Westminster Hall caretaker
Michal Valovcik is praised for his tireless dedication to his job and the positivity he brings to the building and staff he interacts with each day. He genuinely cares about the upkeep of the building he works in and how that contributes to the well-being and safety of every person who works in Westminster Hall. He is always willing to do “the smallest thing to make the work environment more comfortable.” Valovcik takes the time to engage with people as they enter and exit the building, and throughout the day, asks colleagues how they are doing, sharing some news or even just chatting about the weather. Employees in Westminster Hall have called him a “highlight in the day.”
Graduate Administrator, Department of Geography
Lori Johnson is “a critical element in facilitating the Western Experience for graduate students,” especially Geography’s large cohort of international graduate students. Their letters attest to Johnson’s engagement with them from the time of application process and continued support, helping students navigate the complexities of life in London, as well as their journey at Western. Faculty members, likewise, recognize her efforts with the department’s graduate students, indicating “(she) knows the students intimately, their strengths, their quirks and, above all, their needs and how to fulfill and manage those needs in the best ways possible.” This support is recognized as playing a major role in the department’s graduate recruitment and retention.
Lab technician, Department of Physics & Astronomy
Phin Perquin is not only a skilled lab technician, but also a compassionate educator who will not miss an opportunity to teach something new to students. He is an excellent team leader, organizer, problem-solver and productive manager. These skills were evident from the way he handled the Physics & Astronomy Building renovations while working as both the second-year lab technician and the department Stores Manager. During this period, he even took the initiative to expand his knowledge by completing CIM certification to serve the department better. He worked long hours, even on weekends, and his continued dedication to service is remarkable to those that work with him every day.
Scholar’s Programs and Academic Outreach Coordinator, Student Success Centre
Rebecca Smith has a genuine interest in the wellbeing of students and staff. Her cheerful attitude, zest for life and empathy provide students with a dependable support system. Smith will always make time for students in her day, goes above and beyond and is there to support in times of crisis. Her ability and desire to train the community through the safeTALK and ASIST Training initiatives to provide connections and support to those in crisis is an extremely valuable asset to the Western community. She has been a leader of high-achieving students for more than 10 years, and in her work with these students, has “provided wings to many outstanding ideas and helped students flourish in their own development.”
Manager of Communications and Information Technology, Faculty of Health Sciences
Jess Bechard supports faculty, staff, students and alumni of Health Sciences and its six schools, its interdisciplinary graduate program in Health & Rehabilitation Sciences and four research centres. His responsibilities are complex in scope, with each unit, each member and each audience presenting different and often distinct expectations. Colleagues praise Bechard’s ability to consider the needs of each and creatively design a unique means by which to provide the support, information and technology each group requires. He is the creative force behind the design of the faculty’s diverse websites and promotional literature, its annual research profile and the preparation and refinement of staff and faculty dossiers being put forward for institutional award consideration.