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PRESIDENT'S AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 26 - April 3, 1997

Sandy Crigger

By Sookhan Ho

"Some departments at Virginia Tech have assistant heads," wrote Management Department Head Jon Shepard. "We have Sandy Crigger."

In nominating the department's head secretary for the President's Award of Excellence, Shepard wrote that Crigger "is by far the most outstanding executive secretary" he has worked with in his 16 years as an administrator. Crigger, who has worked at the university for 22 years, handles "ticklish situations coolly and with full communication," Shepard said. "As a result, Mrs. Crigger has created, and consistently strives to maintain, a `community' atmosphere rather than an environment in which secretaries are doing their work in isolation from overall departmental priorities."

In his letter of support, Associate Professor Bob Madigan wrote: "Those of us who were here when Sandy joined this department 12 years ago can testify to the enormous impact one person can have on the effectiveness of a unit. Within a few months, a major problem area in the department was transformed into an area of strength. We `muddled through' when she left us for a few months in 1988-89, and were elated when she rejoined us."

Crigger, he said, "wrote the book on service orientation; she seeks out and meets the needs of students and faculty members. She also leads by example, and her concern for others is reflected in the behavior of the other support staff members." Crigger is also "absolutely reliable; to ask Sandy to do something is to know it will be done well and on time." Lastly, he said, "the quality of the work produced and capabilities of the support staff have continuously improved. I attribute this primarily to her leadership in seeking ways to improve our office operations."

Management Professor Steve Markham also commended Crigger's interpersonal skills. "In her very quiet and unassuming manner, she has been able to deal with a wide range of people." She has, he said, "molded her role into something far and above the call of duty for even an executive secretary."

Debra Falls

By Catherine Doss

Program Support Technician Debra Falls has been described as the type of employee who makes institutions like Virginia Tech great. For Falls, the formula for being a model employee is very simple.

"I always want people to be treated the way I would want to be treated," she said. Falls' exceptional performance and commitment to the university have earned her one of five 1997 President's Awards for Excellence at Founders Day.

Falls has worked for Tech for 11 years, most recently in the Office of the Dean of Students where she coordinates details for the university's orientation program. She assumed the position under adverse circumstances in March 1995. At that time, the orientation database was crashing weekly. The first mailing to new students was more than a month late. Reports to college offices were non-existent. And the university was considering removing the orientation program from the Dean of Students Office.

Over the next few months, Falls kept the program afloat. She made mailings happen through sheer determination. She got reports to colleges as fast as the computer would generate them. She learned the orientation process literally on-the-job because both she and her supervisor were new to their positions. And because the university was under a hiring freeze at the time, Falls did all this for six months without the upgrade that would normally have accompanied the job. Within several months, Falls was winning the trust and confidence of others and began to rebuild credibility for the program.

"I was surprised even to be nominated for this award," Falls said. "It's the kind of thing that just takes your breath away." A lot of her job entails alleviating the anxieties of many incoming students and their parents. "I try to make each one of them understand that even though we are a big university, we also care about each and every student," she said.

Falls' supervisor, J. Thomas Brown, assistant dean of students, said "Debbie took on a tough assignment, but rose to the challenge and was instrumental in turning the program around. In addition, she has a wonderful, positive attitude about her work and those with whom she interacts."