Shining the spotlight on exceptional employees

A generalist who keeps the specialists on track, a meticulous records keeper devoted to academic integrity, a dedicated rejuvenator of Indigenous languages and a team of “aesthetic architects” were celebrated alongside all nominees for the 2009 President’s Distinguished Service Awards (PDSA) at a special recognition ceremony on Feb. 8.

Hosted by UVic President Dr. David Turpin, the event was attended by more than 225 members of the university community. UVic’s Vice-President Finance and Operations Gayle Gorrill honoured all nominees in a speech.

“Every year, I have the pleasure to announce the recipients and celebrate the nominees of the PDSA program,” says Turpin. “The daily efforts of all UVic employees are crucial to the success of our university, and the exceptional employees being recognized by the annual awards program can be justifiably proud of the roles they play in realizing our core mission and strengthening UVic’s reputation, not only locally but also nationally and internationally.”

This year, the Team Award for Innovation goes to the William C. Mearns Centre for Learning Project Team.

The individual winners are: Ian Blazey of the Faculty of Science, for the Excellence in Leadership Award; Lauren Charlton of the Office of the Registrar, for the Excellence in Service Award; and Aliki Marinakis of the Faculty of Education, for the First Five Years—Outstanding Contribution Award.

Information on the PDSA program and past award recipients »

Team award for innovation
William C. Mearns Centre for Learning Project Team

PDSA team
(L–R): McDowell, McHenry, Labonte and Fawthorpe. PHOTO: uvic photo services. Photo: UVic Photo Services

The 2009 Team Award for Innovation was awarded to the William C. Mearns Centre for Learning Project Team. Louise Labonte and Wendie McHenry of the University Librarian’s Office and Kim Fawthorpe and Ron McDowell (retired) of UVic Facilities Management could easily be considered the “aesthetic architects” of UVic’s new library space, having been responsible for bringing about what is today the William C. Mearns Centre for Learning—the elegant and modern library expansion to the existing McPherson Library.

The $20-million project, with its inception in 1994 and grand opening in 2008, has created a visually open and welcoming academic centre. This was no small challenge considering the complexities of keeping the library doors open to the entire campus while renovations were under way. General work commenced in the late 1990s, and fundraising for the new complex was completed with a $5-million gift from the Mearns family in 2005. William C. Mearns was a founder of the university and a leading figure in BC’s commercial and industrial development.

“This impressive expansion and renovation which has been so long in the planning was ably led by the members of this project team,” says University Librarian Marnie Swanson. “Their care and attention to detail has resulted in the Mearns Centre for Learning becoming a jewel and focal point for learning at UVic.”

One of the team’s primary goals was the seamless integration of social, collaborative and academic support spaces with traditional study and collection spaces. Elements of the project reflect this goal: an enhanced learning commons which offers various academic help services; natural light and appealing furnishings; a renovated special collections and archives space with appropriate environmental controls; new seminar and tutorial facilities as well as classrooms; individual and group study areas with electronic information access; a state-of-the-art media commons that integrates all formats of the library’s music, audio and video collection; and the BiblioCafé.

Indiviual award for excellence in leadership
Ian Blazey

Blazey. Photo: UVic Photo Services

Ian Blazey is a problem solver and consummate diplomat. In addition to his regular duties as administrative officer in the dean’s office, he took on a leadership role for the design and planning of the Bob Wright Centre and the Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Building, and is currently helping to oversee UVic science building renewals.

Dr. Thomas Pedersen, former dean, and Dr. Claire Cupples, currently acting dean, both think it would be fair to say that the new science building—a world-class centre of excellence in ocean, earth and atmospheric research—was constructed “with a notable lack of friction. Ian should get much of the credit for that.”

He was involved in every aspect of the project—from initial design decisions and bringing the broad scope of the project into focus, to reviewing constantly changing drawings for the complex building so thoroughly that he can identify the location of all of its power outlets.
Blazey coordinated an exceptional team of dedicated administrative officers, and also effectively represented the often competing needs of different departments on this mega-project while calmly communicating throughout with architects, contractors and university administration.
Blazey’s dedication to the project was so complete that he guided a tour with a donor in torrential, nearly horizontal rain through the building construction site on a Sunday two days before Christmas.

Dr. Kathryn Gillis, director of UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, remembers him “wisely juggling the concerns of individual departments and at the same time keeping the collective goals for the building in sight.”
His adeptness in resolving complicated elements of a project is demonstrated by the installation of seismic walls within two of the science buildings. His plan was crucial to ensuring the installation could proceed regardless of extremely tight timelines.

Blazey should also be recognized for his many years of wider service to the campus community through membership on many standing and ad hoc committees.

Those who nominated him for this award repeatedly emphasized that his wealth of experience and knowledge is outweighed only by his character. Margaret Dawkins, supervisor of UVic Science Stores, points out that he often “brushes off praise by saying in a matter-of-fact tone, ‘Well, it’s my job.’ Many would agree that it is indeed a job well done.”

With a new building standing proudly on the edge of Ring Road, Blazey may be less able to quietly avoid the accolades now.

Individual award for the first five years
Aliki Marinakis

Marinakis Photo: UVic Photo Services

Aliki Marinakis holds in her hands—whether they are held over her office keyboard or joined in greetings with an Elder—the possibility to help save languages in grave danger of extinction.

“She is truly a selfless ally in the fight to save our languages,” says Onowa McIvor, UVic’s director of Indigenous Education. “And one of her many gifts is her incredible community relations skill.”

Marinakis, an alumna (BA ’99, MA ‘04 in linguistics), began work at the university in the fall of 2005 for the Indigenous Education unit in UVic’s Faculty of Education. She is the coordinator for Indigenous language programs, which include the certificate program in First Nations Language and Culture, a Faculty of Education program with close ties to the award-winning Certificate in Aboriginal Language Revitalization. Both programs offered at UVic help develop and implement language revitalization activities across BC and beyond.

“Indigenous language holds the key to so much of the environmental, intellectual and epistemological wealth we currently have in this land,” says Marinakis. “How can we not fight for its survival?”

Marinakis supports many Aboriginal students as they make the transition into UVic as well as many non-Aboriginal students who might have an assignment related to Indigenous education. Her typical day might involve answering emails, advising students by phone or meeting personally with community partners. Her skills also extend to fundraising: she has contributed directly to the acquisition of hundreds of thousands of dollars to UVic through her extraordinary grant-writing skills.

The director of the program also recalls one example of her exceptional service, when a guest from New Zealand was coming to present at a conference. It was a Friday evening, and not only did Marinakis volunteer to pick up the visitor from the airport but also took her shopping, sightseeing and made sure she had dinner before helping her to check in to her hotel.

Dr. Ted Riecken, dean of UVic’s Faculty of Education, has seen Marinakis travel even further afield to help others: “Some of the students live on the remote island of Cortes and others reside in the northern Vancouver Island area. They are challenged by their remote location, but she bridges that gap by travelling regularly up-island to give students a personal connection to the program and UVic.”

Riecken adds, “Her many wonderful attributes are all prefaced with her smiling countenance and her continually sunny disposition.”

Individual award for excellence in service
Lauren Charlton

Charlton. Photo: UVic Photo Services

Lauren Charlton is no stranger to paperwork. For over 30 years, she has touched the lives of thousands of UVic students, faculty and staff. Whether serving on one of 20 UVic committees over three decades, devoting countless evening and weekend hours to no fewer than 60 convocation ceremonies to ensure all eligible students have met graduation eligibility, or playing a vital role in the registration process from the time it was completed in person in the McKinnon “old” gym to today’s more automated systems, Charlton has remained constantly conscientious, quick-witted and thoughtful while paging through countless stacks of university files and records.

When asked to comment, Charlton said she is “humbled by the nomination and selection. I have worked with so many very dedicated staff and faculty over the years that it has been inspiring to me. The environment at UVic has been continually dynamic, and the opportunity to serve students and the general campus community has been extremely rewarding.”

Through her application of “benevolent bureaucracy,” Charlton has put heart into the deadlines and regulations when students with extenuating circumstances needed some flexibility. Joe Parsons, manager of UVic’s Counselling Services, says she is in many ways UVic’s “first student retention program” especially when she found time over the years to personally encourage struggling students to seek support from campus skills programs.

Herself an alumna (BA ’73, Ed. Diploma ’74), Charlton is an effective and principled leader who has established a campus-wide reputation as a trusted authority. Since joining UVic as a records officer in 1977, then senior records officer, coordinator of undergraduate records, recently UVic’s associate registrar, acting registrar and now registrar, Charlton has garnered a truly encyclopedic knowledge and expert understanding of UVic’s regulations, both academic and administrative.

“She has been a terrific pillar of calmness and a steadying influence in the rapidly expanding post-secondary educational environment in BC,” says Dr. Peter Keller, dean of UVic’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

Charlton can answer nearly any question related to UVic’s academic calendar, and her knowledge of its minutiae becomes increasingly more valuable with key recent retirements.

It seems that Charlton’s hard work over the years has been worth the occasional paper cut.

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