The pandemic that prompted remote operations in March disrupted all manner of traditional spring events, including Case Western Reserve’s annual celebration of staff contributions. 

But while COVID-19 concerns delayed the Staff Service Award ceremonies until Friday and sent them online, this year’s observance also highlighted just how extraordinary staff have been in circumstances unlike any Case Western Reserve has ever experienced.

As just one example, this year the Staff Advisory Council (SAC) received more than 100 nominations for the President’s Award for Distinguished Service, the most ever in its history. And the nomination of one of the recipients specifically cited the extra pandemic-related efforts made on behalf of students last spring. 

“…I want to thank you for your perseverance during this extraordinary time,” President Barbara R. Snyder told staff gathered online. “Your commitment to keeping the university running, whether you are on campus, working remotely, or a combination of both, is truly remarkable.”

This year’s event also marked President Snyder’s last before leaving to lead the Association of American Universities (AAU). In recognition of the occasion, more than a dozen staff took the opportunity to thank her as well, appearing in a video organized and produced by Dominic Parisi from Human Resources and Michael Comstock from MediaVision (see minutes 1:13–4:08). 

Each year, the Staff Advisory Council (SAC) seeks to recognize standout members of the university’s staff. Following a university-wide nomination process, the SAC Staff Recognition Committee recommends winners to President Snyder. 

This year’s honorees for the President’s Award for Distinguished Service are Paul Harding, Laura Huffman, Ina Martin and Michael McCarthy, and Kathy Miller for the Robin Kramer Volunteer Award.

The event also honored honor staff with 10, 25, 35, 45, and 50 years of service to the university.

President’s Award for Distinguished Service

Created in memory of the late university employee Roseanne Shaerban, the President’s Award for Distinguished Service recognizes staff members whose contributions significantly benefit the CWRU community.

Paul Harding

Observatory manager, Department of Astronomy

Photo of Paul Harding

Over the past two decades, Paul Harding has almost single-handedly transformed an aging observatory into one of the world’s leading astronomical facilities for studying nearby galaxies.

When Harding joined the university in 2001, the observatory and its 75-year-old Burrell Schmidt telescope, located on Kitt Peak in southwest Arizona, risked closure. Harding led a major overhaul, often working solo, to perform mechanical and scientific upgrades to the telescope in order to keep it in operation.

His expertise and efforts have resulted in new research and educational opportunities for faculty and students, including significant funding awards from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation. CWRU students have leveraged research made possible by the observatory to win graduate or postdoctoral research fellowships in the United States and worldwide.

In addition to his observatory work, Harding is a mentor to students. Many of his mentees have succeeded in careers that incorporate scientific research and technical observatory support.

“Literally none of the success and opportunity that the university’s observatory provides to the CWRU community would be possible without Paul Harding’s unique and determined service to the observatory and to our students,” said one of his nominators.

Laura Huffman

Program manager for interprofessional education course and simulation, Office for Interprofessional Education, Research and Collaborative Practice

Photo of Laura Huffman

By nature, Laura Huffman’s role at Case Western Reserve requires immense flexibility and organization. As program manager for interprofessional education courses and simulation, she is often balancing the needs of faculty, staff and students from four schools. More than 550 students benefit from Huffman coordinating classroom and simulation activities in the Office for Interprofessional Education, Research and Collaborative Practice.

Huffman has been at Case Western Reserve for 16 years, first as a department assistant for the largest department within the School of Dental Medicine, followed by 10 years as the senior staff member in the school’s Office of Academic Affairs. She has been in her current position since 2018.

Her nominator cited Huffman’s work as a key factor in moving the university’s efforts in interprofessional collaboration forward. In addition to effective stewardship in the office, Huffman is noted for the positivity with which she treats all with whom she comes into contact. Adept at recognizing potential concerns, Huffman is known for taking initiative.

In addition to her formal responsibilities, Huffman also serves the campus community in a number of ways. She is a member of the Staff Advisory Council, and has served on the Community Service Committee since 2015. At the School of Dental Medicine, Huffman was a founding member of a group to build staff morale in the school.

Ina Martin

Operations director, Materials for Opto/electronics Research and Education (MORE) Center

Photo of Ina Martin

Ina Martin is instrumental in helping to foster a community among researchers, as one of her nominators noted. Her contributions are so recognized that she garnered 13 nominations for the President’s Award honor.

As operations director of the Materials for Opto/electronics Research and Education (MORE) Center, Martin has taken a hands-on approach to all aspects of the MORE Center from the outset, from coordinating renovations to the space and ordering equipment to managing finances and recruiting industrial participation. Over 10 years, Martin has personally trained more than 400 individuals on the center’s equipment. 

An expert in film fabrication, Martin is a mentor to many undergraduate students and has partnered with the Office of Support for Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors to offer a seminar to help students in applying to graduate school. One nominator said Martin demonstrates genuine care and concern for students.

Martin is also helping lead the restructuring of core facilities at Case Western Reserve and has pushed for better communication among the facilities’ managers.

But her outreach is not limited to CWRU students. In 2012, Martin was instrumental in launching the Green Big Science Machine (now the Mean Green STEAM Machine), which is aimed at building awareness around engineering and science for Cleveland youth.

Michael McCarthy

Assistant dean of student services, School of Law

Photo of Michael McCarthy

Described as a friend and personal mentor during tough times, Michael McCarthy serves as the law school’s assistant dean of student services, ensuring students have the necessary support to thrive in school through one-on-one meetings, planned events and group activities that teach them to alleviate stress and build coping mechanisms.

When COVID-19 struck, McCarthy was instrumental in helping the Student Bar Association launch the law school’s COVID-19 student support fund, and later, a resource-sharing program for students to connect those in need with assistance. He also volunteered to manage the programs so the students would not face extra strain during their adjustment to online classes.

A tireless advocate for diversity, McCarthy is also helping to raise the school’s profile as a welcoming place for LGBTQ students, submitting optional surveys to help raise visibility and awareness about LGBTQ resources and programming at CWRU law school.

As best said by his nominator, McCarthy makes a “transformational impact on the CWRU campus community with his presence, each and every day. We are SO LUCKY to have him in our corner.”


Robin Kramer Volunteer Award

Robin Kramer was a university employee who was dedicated to volunteerism. In her honor, the university created the Robin Kramer Volunteer Award to recognize a staff member who is an active volunteer in the CWRU community.

Kathy Miller

Director of administrative operations, Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences

Photo of Kathy Miller

In both her work life and personal life, Kathy Miller is dedicated to serving others. When she sees a need, she does what she can to contribute in the biggest way both at CWRU and throughout the Cleveland community. 

“This woman is incredibly selfless,” her nominator wrote. “Kathy leads a team of administrators and works to empower and lead her team, making sure they feel appreciated, and selflessly volunteers her time and skills to several organizations.”

As director of administrative operations for the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, she is committed to process improvement, ensuring that the department is providing top-notch customer service, and “works to empower and lead her team” to achieve that.

When the work day ends, Miller’s service continues in a number of ways. She has worked as a volunteer, a shavee and an event organizer for Shave It Off, a fundraiser that raises money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer research, and as a Wish Granter for Make-A-Wish foundation. In the fall, Miller organizes departmental toy and coat drives for Toys for Tots and Recovery Resources. Last year alone, the department collected and donated 47 coats.