Last July, when the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal named St. Thomas “A Best Place to Work,” the newspaper quoted me as saying the award “has confirmed what I have known for many years: that St. Thomas is a great place to work. I have long appreciated the commitment and dedication of our faculty and staff.”
Today, I will take advantage of a perfect opportunity to pay tribute to 280 staff members and professors who have indeed made this a great place to work, and I hope you will join me.
The event, the fourth annual Faculty and Staff Recognition Awards Celebration, will begin at 3:30 p.m. in OEC Auditorium, with special honors to two service award winners, 41 recent retirees and 237 people with hiring anniversaries. You will have a chance to say thank you and wish our co-workers and colleagues our very best.
Special congratulations go to Dr. Bruce Kramer, winner of our Diversity Leadership Award, and Gayle Lamb, who will receive the Distinguished Citizen Award.
Bruce is cited for creating more diversity within the College of Applied Professional Sciences, where he is dean and has taught for 15 years, and his efforts to recruit students of color. He knows what it is like to be a “minority,” having served as a high school principal in Egypt, Thailand and Norway, and he finds “synergy” in diversity. “There is so much work to do,” he says in a video that will be shown at today’s ceremony. “I feel like I am just doing my job and doing what I ought to be doing . . . doing what a good person does.”
Gayle is best known as a Food Service employee for 25 years, but you see her all over campus and in the community. One new project for her is service on the board of Good Samaritan Discipleship, a Minneapolis nonprofit corporation that is raising money to build a school in Liberia, Africa. Gayle is the first person to admit she finds it hard to say “no” to these kinds of projects. She has “skills to share,” she says, so she may as well put them to good use. That’s what I called a distinguished citizen.
The faculty and staff celebrating hiring anniversaries have worked at St. Thomas for at least 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 40 years. My math tells me that adds up to 3,125 years of collected service. It’s not easy to single out one or two people, but I intend to do so here by highlighting two of our longer-tenured employees, Dr. Scott Wright and Mary Jean Loomis.
Scott technically is retired from St. Thomas, but he’s still teaching a history course and he has plenty to keep him busy as an ordained deacon at St. John Vianney Church in South St. Paul. He arrived at St. Thomas in 1968 as an acquisition librarian, became O’Shaughnessy Library director, received a Fulbright grant to teach in Japan and then taught full-time in the History Department for three decades. Scott calls St. Thomas “a wonderful place to work” and “a place where people care about each other. I find that very positive.”
Mary Jean is described in a video as the “official unofficial greeter” of anyone who enters the Alumni Center. “Nobody gets by my door,” she says with pride, because “I love to see who comes in.” Mary Jean has worked for seven administrators in 25 years in the College of Business, and for the last seven years she has been an administrative assistant (and door greeter …) in Alumni and Constituent Relations. She calls herself “a perpetual mom on campus,” and finds that she has stayed young because of her interactions with students.
Bruce, Gayle, Scott and Mary Jean all have wonderful stories to tell, and I think you should listen to them. So leave your office early today, stop by OEC Auditorium, hear some more stories and thank all of our honorees for what they do for the University of St. Thomas.