Willamette honors employees for exemplary service

by Tom Morlan,

Eight individuals receive special recognition at annual awards ceremony.

  • headshots of Mitch Diaz ’16, Sue Corner ’90, Kip Ioane, Reyna Meyers, SaVanna Kraal, Rich Dennis, Ryan Bundy and Karen Wood
    Clockwise from upper left: Mitch Diaz ’16, Sue Corner ’90, Kip Ioane, Reyna Meyers, SaVanna Kraal, Rich Dennis, Ryan Bundy and Karen Wood

The people who work at Willamette do more than perform a list of daily tasks. They save lives, fight for social justice and help students stay healthy throughout their time here.

The university recognized their efforts at the annual Willamette Employee Awards Luncheon on May 29. Administrators presented awards to eight employees and recognized 41 others for a combined 570 years of service.

“The collective years of service speak to the continuity and commitment of our community,” said Carol Long, provost and senior vice president. “The stability and understanding created through this service allows for the growth of trust and the knowledge that we can depend on each other every day.”

Mitch Diaz ’16 and Sue Corner ’90 received the Willamette University Motto Award, which honors employees who display a high level of commitment to collaboration, community service and civic engagement. Diaz is assistant director of the Willamette Annual Fund, while Corner is senior associate director in the Office of Admission.

Diaz, who joined the Advancement team in 2017, was recognized for spearheading a successful student giving initiative. “This year, we celebrated having 168 students from freshmen to seniors give back to Willamette,” said presenter B.J. McHugh, director of the annual fund. “(Diaz) was personally responsible for it.”

Corner has been a positive presence at Willamette and in the broader community since she began working here in 1995. “(Corner) lifts all of us up and helps all of us shine,” Director of Admission Mary Randers said.

The Alvan F. Waller Stewardship Award went to Ryan Bundy, a user services consultant for arts and humanities, and SaVanna Kraal, office manager and student insurance coordinator for Bishop Wellness Center. The award recognizes individuals who solve problems, promote teamwork, enhance communications and inspire productivity.

Director of User Services Jeff Allen said Bundy has energized the department since his arrival three years ago. “He has a jump-right-in-there and get-it-done attitude,” Allen said. “He’s very thoughtful, he’s creative, and he finds solutions quickly.”

Kraal’s attention to detail and dedication to the well-being of students made her an outstanding choice for the Waller award, according to Don Thomson, director of Bishop Wellness Center. “She is unfailingly warm and courteous, and she always gets it right,” Thomson said.

Administrative Program Coordinator Reyna Meyers and Associate Director of Campus Safety Rich Dennis received the Richard “Buzz” Yocom Campus Service Award for their outstanding record of service and focus on improving the quality of campus life.

Meyers has been an integral part of the campus community since 2005. Ruth Feingold, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, praised Meyers for her commitment to social justice. “She is somebody who really cares about making the world a better place,” Feingold said.

Director of Campus Safety Ross Stout said Dennis has been a lifesaver — literally — during his 13 years of service. “He gave one of our students CPR and saved her life,” Stout said. “He also entered the Atkinson building when there was a toxic gas leak from an air conditioning unit and made sure all the people were evacuated safely.”

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award was presented to Men’s Basketball Coach Kip Ioane and previous University Chaplain Karen Wood. The award recognizes people who promote diversity, equity and inclusion beyond their assigned job responsibilities.

Ioane, who’s worked at Willamette for more than 15 years, pioneered an inclusive character development program that’s received national recognition. He’s been invited to speak at the NCAA Inclusion Forum. “(He’s) now in a position to impact other teams, other players and ultimately, other campus communities,” said Andrea Doyle Hugmeyer, director of the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center.

Wood arrived here in 2002. Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Whipple noted that Wood goes out of her way to serve students, spiritual groups and other members of the campus community. “Karen challenges all of us to understand how to live, act and role model in very difficult times for higher education, our nation and the world,” he stated.

Following the ceremony, Corner reflected on being recognized for her exemplary service to students, families and the entire campus community.

“I'm not generally a person who feels motivated by accolades at all — I work because I love my job and feel strongly about doing my best,” she said. “Yet I'm surprised by how honored I feel to have been noticed in this way and at this time. This year has been more stressful than most, so to emerge feeling appreciated by my colleagues is really touching and rewarding. I am humbled and grateful.”

Sharing the award with Corner was particularly meaningful for Diaz. “Sue was my mentor and supervisor when I worked in the Office of Admission as an undergraduate,” he said. “To be recognized alongside Sue for our service to Willamette was a very special moment for me.”

The university also recognized the following employees for their years of service:

40 Years

  • Erica Miller, Hatfield Library

30 Years

  • Andy Elkins, Maintenance
  • Cecelia Quanbeck, Academic and Student Affairs
  • Ron Morton, Grounds
  • Jim Moyer, Facilities

25 Years

  • Connie Ames, Mail Center

20 Years

  • Lisa Holliday, Student Activities
  • Scott Young, Facilities Services
  • Sheng Saeteurn, Facilities Services
  • Julian Snow, Music
  • Alicia Estrada de Rizo, Facilities Services
  • Federico Ulloa, Facilities Services
  • Damian Williams, Athletics
  • Dan McConnell, Grounds
  • John Olbrantz, Hallie Ford Museum of Art

15 Years

  • Craig Wheeler, Print and Design Center
  • Gordy Toyama, Multicultural Affairs

10 Years

  • Nicolay Pugach, Facilities Services
  • Kyle House, WITS
  • Kim Silbernagel Burris, Alumni and Parent Engagement
  • Melanie Weston, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
  • Aaron Swick, Athletics
  • Timothy Walsh, Athletics
  • Amy Schwartz, College of Liberal Arts
  • Jade Aguilar, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Phom Ashford, Housing and Conferences
  • Sara Amato, Hatfield Library
  • Elaine Goff, J.W. Long Law Library
  • Tom Shoji, Athletics

Five Years

  • Sara Swanborn, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
  • Melissa Gallardo, University Communications
  • Beatriz Sosa De Carrasco, Facilities Services
  • Daniel Johnson, University Relations
  • Mark Mazurier, Facilities Management
  • Matthew Stoner, Campus Safety
  • Joe Abraham, Sustainability Institute
  • Patrick Meyers, Athletics
  • Carson Keeble, Music Instruction
  • Dylan Borden, Athletics
  • Sheri Robins, Facilities Services
Willamette University

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