President’s Award presented to three outstanding staff members

Three staff members were honored with the 2011 President’s Award for Distinguished Service at the Staff Service Awards brunch June 8. This annual award honors up to three staff members whose outstanding contributions to campus culture have a transformational effect on university colleagues, students or visitors with whom they come into contact. The honorees each received a $1,000 cash award, and their names will be engraved on a plaque on display in the Adelbert Hall quad-side foyer.

This year’s recipients, announced by the Staff Advisory Council Staff Recognition Committee, are Kathleen Dowdell, Cheryl Lauderdale and Merless Willis.

Other nominees—selected from more than 3,000 eligible staff members—include: Jared Bendis, Marcia Camino, Joseph Corrao, Michael Gilkey, Benjamin Margevicius, Danielle Morris, Curtis O’Neal and Wendy Shapiro.

Kathleen Dowdell, Department Assistant IV, College of Arts and Sciences

In Kathleen Dowdell’s 11-year career as a department administrator in the College of Arts and Sciences, she has played an integral role in a variety of initiatives. Even outside of her department, it’s easy to see her influence around campus. Employees benefit from her commitment to the university on their very first day: Dowdell headed up an effort to involve the Staff Advisory Council in the orientation process, during which SAC members provide helpful guidance to new employees. She strives to promote employee training, and she and a fellow department administrator developed the Staff Educational Enhancement Fund to help eligible staff receive funds to cover costs of training.

Also contributing to the university’s future, Dowdell founded the college’s Green Team and served on the steering committee for the university’s Climate Action Plan. Through her involvement, and because of her initial suggestion, the university will boast an on-campus garden to be maintained by student and staff volunteers.

“Kathie knows how to make things happen not only in her position as department administrator, but in all of the committees she serves on within the university,” a nominator wrote. “Her quiet example has inspired many of us who have come to know her.”


Cheryl Lauderdale, Associate Director of Alumni Relations & Special Events, Weatherhead School of Management

As the associate director of alumni relations and special events for Weatherhead School of Management, Cheryl Lauderdale helps make every experience at Weatherhead School a little bit easier. “Cheryl’s calm demeanor is always a welcomed factor at special events. During commencement, I have seen Cheryl move coatracks, print extra name tags, help an anxious student, assist an elderly grandparent and monitor the food served by catering, all with a smile and a can-do attitude,” a nominator wrote of Lauderdale’s 25-year career with the university.

Not only does she manage high-stress situations at hectic events with ease, but she also works directly with students in a number of outlets. For example, Lauderdale often meets with international students new to the United States and uses her positive demeanor and energy to connect them with alumni, provide them with information about campus resources and welcome them to the city.

She develops innovative programs for students, which undoubtedly contributes to an active alumni base. “These students remember the school and come back as alumni due to Cheryl’s warm and welcoming personality—it is so meaningful that Cheryl has been a contributor and a familiar face in their development from students to alumni to key professionals,” a nominator wrote.


Merless Willis, PCard administrator, Procurement & Distribution Services

Friendly, helpful and patient are three words consistently used to describe Merless Willis, PCard administrator in Procurement & Distribution Services. “Her effective listening skills and undivided attention she gives to each and every caller are the reasons why so many staff highly appreciate and respect her,” a nominator wrote.

Willis started at the university in 2002 as a campus police and security first dispatcher, where she served for nearly five years. She then moved to Procurement & Distribution Services as a clerk IV, a position she held until last fall, when she earned her current role as a PCard administrator.

Willis’ attention to detail, strong interpersonal skills and willingness to go above and beyond her duties are ways in which she is helping further the reputation of the department and increase awareness among other departments. As a nominator explained, “She consistently empowers staff by sharing pertinent information in order to help staff understand the systems so that they may better serve their departments and produce excellent work.”


The President’s Award for Distinguished Service was created in honor of Roseanne Shaerban (May 9, 1958 – Feb. 6, 1989), a university employee whose qualities and commitment set a standard for distinguished service. Shaerban’s family, friends and co-workers remember her for the care, concern, loyalty and support she demonstrated to the university community.