Outstanding U.Va. Employees Awarded for Being There When It Counts

Each year, the Leonard W. Sandridge Outstanding Contribution Awards program honors University of Virginia employees from the Academic Division, the Medical Center and U.Va.’s College at Wise who have shown exemplary service and commitment to the University. Administered by University Human Resources, the award is the highest honor for U.Va. staff members.

Several supporters likened 2015’s winning employees and their work to Sandridge, the longtime administrator for whom the award program is named, because they share his legendary dedication, passion and service to the University.

Each honoree receives a $1,000 award and an engraved gift. On Tuesday, a red carpet welcomed the award-winners, their families and coworkers to the Service Awards ceremony, held in the John Paul Jones Arena, when employees with 10, 15 and 20 years of service were also recognized.

Employees with 25 years of service or more in five-year increments will be celebrated June 8 at the John Paul Jones Arena. They’ll be treated to a dinner party with a 1950s theme, complete with root beer floats and a classic 1950s car show.

The Outstanding Contribution Award winners also will join the Board of Visitors for a luncheon in Newcomb Hall Ballroom on June 12.

Below, linked to each outstanding contribution awardee’s name, are remarks from nominators about how the employees have gone above and beyond their duties to carry out the University’s mission, making it their own.

Leonard W. Sandridge Outstanding Contributor Award Winners

Academic Division

Lynda Birckhead, Office of the President

Bucky Crickenberger, lead electrician, Facilities Management

Sarah Doran, chief of staff and director of School and Departmental Relations, Student Financial Services

Charles (Russ) Manley, chief operating officer, Department of Medicine

Eric Newsome, outreach/webmaster, Materials Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Science

Medical Center

Karen H. Bagley, licensed practical nurse, Renal Services, Lynchburg Dialysis

Thomas “Tony” Epps, health unit coordinator, 5 North

Margaret Kellison, registered nurse clinician, Infusion Center, Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center

Virginia Kelly, registered nurse coordinator, gastroenterology clinic, Digestive Health Clinic

MaryKate O’Hear, registered nurse clinician, Newborn Intensive Care Unit

U.Va.-Wise

Janett Rue Gembach, office manager, Office of the Chancellor

 

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Lynda Birckhead, President’s Office

Years with U.Va.: 47

Nominator says …

“Over the past decade, Lynda has led the Office [of the President] to realize a savings of more than $500,000 annually through reorganization of the office to create operational efficiencies. Some of the changes Lynda implemented have been successful because they are unnoticeable: Lynda is so familiar with the office’s ‘rhythms’ that she can keenly make adjustments that save time and money without disruption. Many of the changes have made a tangible difference in the way my staff fulfills the office’s mission, which is to foster an environment in which the University’s senior leadership can propel U.Va. into the top tier of universities, public and private, throughout the nation and the world.

“Lynda is willing to take on any challenge, from hosting foreign dignitaries and handling after-hours problems to implementing new technology and promoting the University’s work to the community. Her folksy charm puts both colleagues and strangers at ease. She is not afraid to roll up her sleeves or to listen and learn. ‘And,’ Lynda says, ‘if you have something worthwhile to say, say it.’ Lynda’s measured and diplomatic approach to her work epitomizes the qualities of the University as a community of trust.”

Bucky Crickenberger, lead electrician, Facilities Management

Years with U.Va.: more than 33

Nominator says …

“With an array of experience and skills in many other areas such as operating bucket truck or crane truck, he is an asset to have in this department. He works really hard every day with almost no supervision. Bucky mentors others in the team when they have questions or problems. He is and always has been very dependable when needed and is the go-to person in this team. We often call him ‘Mr. U.Va.’ for his dedication to the University.

“The focus of his life’s work continues to be the success of U.Va.’s mission by supporting the necessary resources for student education, research, housing and comfort. … Bucky can be counted on to help anyone in need; his technical abilities are second to none.”

Sarah Doran, assistant director, Student Financial Aid

Years with U.Va.: 29

Nominators say …

“She cares deeply about the needs of students, staff and faculty. She works hard to understand those needs and then, to the extent those needs can be met through Student Financial Services, she works tirelessly to do so. Whether it is talking directly with students, designing a new process that simplifies and enhances efficiencies or ensuring that those affected by changes are given the support and information they need to succeed, Sarah is friendly, considerate and endlessly patient.”

“She puts herself in the customer’s position and challenges her colleagues to do so as well; as the parent of three grown children who have attended college, she is well-qualified to do so. In addition to helping her colleagues make high-quality decisions, she spends substantial time providing personal assistance to both undergraduate and graduate students. … She regularly receives cards and letters from some of these students wherein they express their gratitude for all she does for them.”

Charles (Russ) Manley, chief operating officer, Department of Medicine

Years with U.Va.: three

Nominators say …

“Russ is truly an exemplary leader who is always available, a great listener, a strong facilitator and open to continuous self-improvement. His contributions to the University community are felt every day. Not only has he been instrumental in improving the Department of Medicine (the largest academic unit in the University with over 250 faculty and 500 staff), but also he has actively and effectively participated in key School of Medicine initiatives, as well as those that involve the entire Health System.”

“In this relatively short amount of time, Russ, in collaboration with the department chair, has completely and positively turned around the Department of Medicine to the positive benefit of patients, staff, faculty, the Health System and the University as a whole. Russ has a keen sense of mission and has used his excellent financial acumen, as well as management skills, to greatly improve the morale, productivity [and] financial standing.”

“What sets Russ apart is his humility and sincere commitment to the physical and mental wellbeing of each person with whom he engages. He combines keen business savvy with heartfelt warmth and commitment to the collective success of our organization. Russ has an exceptional ability to facilitate change, lead others, accomplish difficult goals, foster collaboration and bring a sense of joy, pride and unity into the work environment.”

Eric Newsome, outreach/webmaster, Materials Science and Engineering

Years with U.Va.: 10

Nominators say …

“Eric is the consummate team player. His position on a team is often multidimensional: providing leadership and motivation, brainstorming new ideas, solving problems or providing exceptional logistic support. A perfect example of this breadth of ability is reflected by his responsibilities and contributions in the orchestration of this month’s Reunion Weekend on the occasion of MSE’s 50th year as a department. He is a motivating and guiding force, creative, able to pay attention to detail, as well as see the big picture, and exceptionally hard-working. He is also uniformly encouraging and supportive of others, and sets an example of professionalism and optimism for the administrative and research staff, students and faculty of the department.”

“In August 2013, Eric accepted the role of vice chair of the Provost Employee Communications Council. … During this time the decision was made to merge the PECC with two other employee councils to form a Staff Senate, which now represents a much larger constituency of staff. Eric had an extremely instrumental role in this, as he served on the transition team. … He was immediately asked to be on the Staff Senate Executive Committee. … Little did he know, the newly elected chair would need to step down, and Eric would be promoted to the role of co-chair very suddenly. … He is an amazing spokesperson, leader, and always has well-thought-out input and questions for our speakers.”

Karen H. Bagley, licensed practical nurse, Renal Services, Lynchburg Dialysis

Years with U.Va.: 10

Nominators say …

“Karen is a dedicated teacher of both staff and patients. She works with patients every day to make sure they understand the dialysis process and are accountable for their choices. She can often be heard quizzing the patients about the settings on the machine to ensure they can correct any inadvertent errors in programming.”

“As in all areas of medicine, she has witnessed innumerable changes to best care practices for dialysis patients throughout her career. She has shared her wealth of knowledge to help bring about some of these changes in our unit. Her focus for change in based solely in the holistic needs of the patient.”

Thomas “Tony” Epps, health unit coordinator, 5 North

Years with U.Va.: 26

Nominators say …

“Tony is the most amazing co-worker to all of us on 5 North and we want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the respect, integrity, stewardship and excellence he embodies each and every day that he comes to work as our health unit coordinator. His kindness, warmth, empathy and caring spirit are uniquely his own and our unit is incredibly fortunate to call him our co-worker.”

“Tony always goes above and beyond with follow-up calls for patients who have been discharged and his phone etiquette is always respectful, even with upset family members. Tony can always defuse a difficult situation!”

“His sense of humor makes a stressful job easier! We absolutely love when Tony is working! His smile and friendly demeanor are contagious!”

Margaret Kellison, registered nurse clinician, Infusion Center, Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center

Years with U.Va.: 13

Nominators say …

“Margie is a kind and compassionate care-giver, as well as an outstanding charge nurse in the infusion area. Last fall, Margie demonstrated her true commitment to improving the patients’ experience and her colleagues’ day-to-day workflow by spearheading the efforts to consolidate the Access Center services and the Infusion Center into one space.”

“Margie met with key stakeholders within the Cancer Center to assure she had addressed as many issues as possible. Through structured meetings and informal conversations with her colleagues, she enlisted their support and commitment to assisting with this move.”

“This move has shown significant outcomes that validate benefits to the patients and the staff: employee engagement and patient satisfaction scores continue to increase, due in large part to Margie’s efforts.”

“Margie’s passion and commitment have positively impacted our patients, as well as the day-to-day work environment of her colleagues.” 

Virginia Kelly, registered nurse coordinator, gastroenterology clinic, Digestive Health Clinic

Years with U.Va.: three

Nominators say …

“According to her physician partners, Virginia is an indispensable clinician and teacher in her role as nurse coordinator in our Hepatitis C care program.” 

“Virginia cares for patients with an unmatched passion that knows no limits or boundaries. Her attention to detail has positively affected the lives of patients, family members, colleagues and trainees over her time here.” 

“As Hepatitis C changes rapidly, Virginia constantly maintains her knowledge and works tirelessly with insurance companies and pharmacies to obtain medications.” 

“In her time with us, over 150 patients have been cured – truly remarkable!” 

MaryKate O’Hear, registered nurse clinician, Newborn Intensive Care Unit

Years with U.Va.: two

Nominators say …

“MaryKate has been a NICU nurse for almost three years now and is beginning a graduate program to earn her master’s degree to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.”

“If MaryKate is taking care of a patient who doesn’t have family around often, she will take donated books and read to the babies, whether snuggling and rocking them back to sleep or opening the porthole to the isolette so they can hear a human’s voice.”

“MaryKate forms relationships with patients and their parents, has helped with fund-raising and attended multiple events to benefit the March of Dimes. She is a very compassionate nurse who puts her whole heart into what she does.”

“She works very hard to give a voice to patients who cannot speak for themselves.”

U.Va.-Wise

Janett Rue Gembach, office manager in the Office of the Chancellor

Years with U.Va.-Wise: 36

Nominators say …

“Rue Gembach has been a productive, valued member of the U.Va.-Wise community since 1979. Because of her excellent work, she has risen through the organization and is now the office manager for Chancellor Donna Price Henry. In this position, Rue interfaces with the entire campus community, as well as many external constituencies, while maintaining the work of the Chancellor’s Office, serving as clerk of the U.Va.-Wise Board (which reports to the Board of Visitors), keeping the chancellor’s calendar and countless other duties as needed.”

“Chancellor Henry, as those before her, relies on and trusts her, and Rue’s support is often needed on nights and weekends due to the chancellor’s schedule. Rue is always ready to make sure the work of the college is a high priority with her. However, this doesn’t stop Rue from many years of volunteer work on campus, including taking tickets at football games.”

“Rue believes in the college’s mission and its focus on student success and service to the region. She believes in our students and wants the best for them. And Rue always exemplifies Mr. Sandridge’s motto, ‘Do what’s right,’ and strives for the best result, while exemplifying the highest integrity.”

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications