PRESIDENT'S AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
By Julie Kane
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 26 - April 2, 1998
It seems that everyone she works with agrees--Sandra Blevins richly deserves the President's Award for Excellence for her exceptional performance. Responses come from a wide spectrum: faculty members, students, alumni, and classified staff members--even a Rhodes Scholar. As an enrollment-services assistant in the Mathematics Department, she not only completes her work flawlessly, but assures that the department runs smoothly when emergencies occur in other areas.
According to of the Mathematics Department Head Robert Olin, last year Blevins handled the enrollment-services-specialist position when the usual employee was on medical leave. "During this same period the grants officer and bookkeeper broke her foot and was also out," Olin explained. "Sandy took over that job, and the department did not skip a beat."
In the senior exit interviews, each student is asked which member of the department made the most significant contribution to their career at Tech. This past year, Blevins was chosen by 75 percent of the students.
Blevins has worked in the mathematics department since 1985. She started as a receptionist, and was promoted through the ranks to her current position. This past spring, Blevins took over the job of office manager to reduce the strain on the department head. The undergraduate program chair praised the move, as Blevins is considered to have the widest and deepest perspective dealing with office issues in the department.
In a letter supporting Blevins for the president's award, R. Dean Reiss, professor and assistant chair, said, "The department's respect and gratitude for Sandy's dedicated service is symbolized by the brick in the Virginia Tech Women's Way which is to be inscribed, `Sandy Blevins, Math Magician.'"
Blevins maintains a professional and welcoming demeanor, even during stressful periods. Last fall, the department handled more than 2,000 force-add requests from students which required large measures of tact, skill and speed on her part. Olin explained, "Her efficiency and personality is a primary reason we processed those requests so efficiently and satisfactorily."
As secretary for undergraduates, Blevins takes pride in keeping students on track. "Since Sandy has been here, not a single mathematics student has failed to graduate because of an undetected requirement deficiency," Riess said. Each year at graduation exercises graduates applaud loudly when she is recognized.
Riess concluded, "It is not often that a person in a departmental staff position has such a profound positive effect on so many university students, staff and faculty members, and administrators. The Mathematics Department, and the university as a whole, is extremely fortunate to have Sandy Blevins holding the Mathematics Department together.
Walter Hartman Jr.
By Lynn Davis
The quiet, faithful lab mechanic for the Food Science and Technology's dairy teaching and research facility, the man with the "FSTech" license plate, Walter E. Hartman Jr. has garnered one of the President's Awards for Excellence. Faculty and staff members and students alike call him "indispensable."
Associate Professor of Food Science and Technology Sue Duncan praised him "for exemplifying team spirit. He promotes good will within our department and carries that positive image into the community."
Department head Cameron Hackney noted, "We are very short-handed in our department, so we have really come to depend on Walter's versatility and willingness to help others and make the department run smoother." The gracious helper is responsible for all processing of dairy products in support or research, Extension, and teaching activities.
Hartman's contribution to the department and university go far beyond his formal job description. Not only does he serve as dairy pilot-plant manager, but he is also research technician, teaching assistant, event organizer, general repairman, and jack-of-all-trades. He has extended his knowledge and improved his understanding of food science by taking many of the courses within the department.
This background has made him all the more valuable to graduate and undergraduates students, faculty and staff members, and industry. He puts in many volunteer and emergency overtime hours and has saved the department thousands of dollars through his abilities to salvage the lab's aging refrigeration systems.
The versatile, always-striving-to-learn-more Hartman diligently helps prepare departmental functions, often staying late or arriving early to make sure everything is properly set up and organized. He also volunteers for college and university functions--all this, despite commuting from Roanoke.
Students know him as their advocate. He knows the students through his active involvement in the teaching labs, pilot-plant research operations, Food Science Club activities, and as the assistant coach to the Virginia Tech Dairy Products Evaluation Team.
Hartman willingly supports student research needs by contributing his mechanical talents for equipment fabrication, support on sensory panels, encouragement during thesis preparation, and sounding board for encountered problems. He expresses pride when one of the graduates lands a good job.
His enthusiasm for his food-science department was contagious enough to propel his 18-year-old daughter into choosing to major in the department.
Hartman works another job with the Roanoke Times, in addition to providing guided tours of McCormick Farm on weekends. "Walter is truly an asset to the entire university," Hackney said.