2006 Distinguished Staff Award

The Distinguished Staff Awards, the university’s highest staff recognition, annually honors 12 staff members for their exceptional leadership, accomplishments and service to The Ohio State University.
Mabel Freeman profile picture

Mabel Freeman

Assistant Vice President
Undergraduate Admissions / First Year Experience
Office of Enrollment Services and Undergraduate Education


Colleagues and students value Mabel Freeman as a collaborator, mentor and coach. “She has been a major force in contributing to a warm, welcoming environment, one that makes students feel at home and makes their parents confident about the rightness of their children’s choice at OSU,” wrote one nominator. Freeman, who began her career with The Ohio State University in 1985 as assistant director of the newly established honors center, has brought together the processes of recruitment, marketing and outreach, application processing, orientation and first-year programming to give Ohio State a significant competitive edge over other public and private institutions. She thinks and acts both locally and globally on matters of access to higher education, and her unique mix of intellect, vision, wit, leadership and humanity helped integrate the worlds of undergraduate admissions and first-year experience. Under her leadership, the last five entering classes at Ohio State have had better first-year experiences and remained in college at significantly higher rates — thanks to such initiatives as the First Year Success programs. As a result, Ohio State’s First Year Experience program has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a national benchmark for first-year success among all colleges and universities. As past national president of Mortar Board, Freeman was the Ohio State chapter adviser for many years and in 2004, the local chapter of students, alumni and the national organization recognized her extraordinary commitment and service by naming the local chapter in her honor. One nominator wrote, “She is simply the epitome of great leadership and engagement by Ohio State.” 

Toni Greenslade-Smith profile picture

Toni Greenslade-Smith

Director of Housing Services
University Housing


“From being a quintessential professional to a housing expert to a marketing maven, Toni Greenslade-Smith has been the steam that has propelled University Housing to the occupancy levels and high regard that it enjoys today,” wrote one nominator. Greenslade-Smith continually impresses colleagues with her progressive commitment to student learning and customer service that is demonstrated by the Office of Housing Services. She has worked for Ohio State for 23 years, during the majority of which she has administered the residence hall contract process and coordinated housing assignments for students living on campus. During the summer months, she reviews housing contracts for some 9,000 students who apply to live in the residence halls. Under her leadership, the number of students returning to the residence halls has increased to approximately 35 percent from 28 percent. Greenslade-Smith is committed to the recruitment and selection of diverse student employees, resulting in an increase in the number of undergraduates from traditionally marginalized populations who work in Housing Services. Being a mother of six has helped her identify with the concerns of parents, while still having a real bond with students. She is an individual whom others seek for guidance, advice, support and exchanging ideas; a role model that others can easily and proudly emulate. Always willing to get the job done despite the obstacles, she is described by coworkers as “A delight to work with — organized, with a can-do attitude, flexible, always open to new ideas, calm in the face of difficulties and fun.”

Donna Hobart profile picture

Donna Hobart

Executive Director of Business and Finance and Special Assistant to the Dean
Fisher College of Business


Donna Hobart “is an extraordinarily talented, hard-working, professionally skilled member of the university community who has had a major impact on the well-being and fiscal stability of the academic units across campus.” Under Hobart’s leadership, the quality of administrative service in the Fisher College of Business has improved dramatically for all constituents. Her creative approaches to reporting financial data have resulted in the realignment of the college’s internal budgeting process to be more responsive to faculty, staff and students. Hobart was considered one of the most valuable members of the University Senate Fiscal Committee — where she exceeded all expectations, according to one nominator — and since 2004, has served as chair of the Central Distribution Subcommittee. She was impressively vigilant in her oversight of the university’s enormous and complex budget. Her efforts have led to the ability of the whole campus to discuss a number of critical issues, which include budget rebasing and the distribution and reconciliation of fee revenues and the calculation of state support distribution among the colleges. Hobart also takes her expertise beyond the university, serving as a member of the Central Association of College and University Business Officers and on the advisory committee of its Collegiate Management Institute. One nominator wrote, “Her love of Fisher College and of Ohio State, and her willingness to assist and teach others, sets Donna apart from the many other fine staff members at Ohio State.”

Grace Johnson profile picture

Grace Johnson

Assistant Director
Office of International Education


Grace Johnson is an exceptional individual who does everything within her power to improve the quality of work-life for her office coworkers, faculty, staff and students. Believing deeply in the value of an international educational experience for all students, no matter their financial resources or their academic field, Johnson has worked tirelessly for 15 years to ensure those students interested in going abroad will not be prevented from doing so due to bureaucracy or the lack of funds or institutional support. As assistant director in the Office of International Education, Johnson has been instrumental in the creation and ongoing management of diverse study-abroad programs in 40 countries. She is a true champion of the university’s efforts to “internationalize” and educate students for all that globalism implies. “The students are the real beneficiaries of her work because they get to travel abroad on well-planned and smooth-running academic and cultural programs,” one nominator wrote. Along the way, her dedication has enhanced the educational experience and touched the lives of thousands of students. She promotes study-abroad throughout campus; has worked to create a congenial and effective work environment for her staff of six full-time advisers, a fiscal officer and two support staff; and has succeeded in building a solid team of professionals. Another nominator wrote, “Grace is one of those essential people without whom Ohio State would crumble and fall to its knees.”

Rick Mitchell profile picture

Rick Mitchell

IT Systems Manager
Ohio State ATI


One nominator wrote, “Because of Rick Mitchell’s knowledge and thoroughness, The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) remains on the cutting edge of technology,” As a one-person IT department, Mitchell’s work touches every student on the Wooster campus. In an effort to improve overall campus connectivity, he rewired most of the current network, thus increasing speed as well as reliability of all network and Internet access. Mitchell recently received the 2005 College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Shirley Brooks-Jones Citizenship Award. He was involved in all facets of a project to equip classrooms with instructional technology, which included ceiling-mounted projectors. While serving on the steering committee for a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Education Title III grant that was awarded to ATI to improve instructional technology, Mitchell has helped upgrade many of the computers on campus, create a wireless environment and introduce video-conferencing and distance education to campus. In addition, he researched, purchased and installed the new sound and video system in the Student Activities Center, all in an effort to enhance and improve presentation capabilities during Welcome and Visit Days as well as student life on campus.

Carolyn Myer Norton profile picture

Carolyn Myer Norton

Administrative Associate 2
School of Public Policy and Management


In more than 30 years of service, Carolyn Myer Norton has proven herself as a thorough and creative problem solver, seeking innovative solutions in accordance with university rules and regulations. A “master of operations,” Norton is familiar with recruitment, admissions, curriculum development, faculty promotion, budget planning and fiscal reconciliation, consistently providing the highest level of service to the School of Public Policy and Management and its constituents. As the only administrative associate on a full-time staff of three, Norton is always available with her insight, understanding, suggestions or judgment. Considered indispensable by members of the school, she is regarded as a highly competent professional who is exceptionally precise, well organized and attentive to all the details. “She is always compassionate, supportive and encouraging, and she works patiently and effectively with a very wide range of personalities, working styles and abilities,” wrote one nominator. She has demonstrated the highest level of competency and commitment to the School of Public Policy and Management and has provided counsel and support to the many directors who have come through the school, the many faculty who have relied on her administrative support and the staff and students who depend on her ability and energy. In completing tasks that range from financial management, personnel administration and procurement — whether they are part of her job description or beyond — she continues to amaze colleagues with her energy and unflappable resolve.

Sharon Pfeil profile picture

Sharon Pfeil

Office Administrative Associate
College of Medicine


Sharon Pfeil has been associated with Ohio State for more than 20 years, working tirelessly to enhance the quality of work life for colleagues and students while providing service excellence to faculty, staff and students. She also develops creative solutions to problems to create more effective and efficient departmental operations. As an advocate, Pfeil helped attract a large endowment for the purpose of advancing medical research and medical care. She created a system that makes it easy to find virtually all the patients who are referred to other areas in the Medical Center, permitting easy access to their medical information when it is needed. Her current responsibilities are numerous and include managing and supervising daily operations and activities, composing and answering correspondence, helping with travel arrangements, coordinating faculty recruitment and credentialing, coordinating faculty promotion and tenure applications, serving as the medical student coordinator for the emergency medicine department and maintaining concise medical records. As the student coordinator, Pfeil also streamlined the DOC1, an emergency medicine clerkship required for all College of Medicine students. “She often carries an important burden in being the first “face” that people from other departments and other institutions see, and she is most professional and friendly, which gives our department a great first impression,” one nominator wrote.

Jill Pfister profile picture

Jill Pfister

Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs
College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


“Jill Pfister’s commitment to students and program development for the entire university are substantial,” one nominator wrote, “and her work at the university level is characterized by the highest levels of professionalism and respect for others.” Pfister works personally with students through all their academic difficulty and is able to balance academic integrity with counseling and compassion. For the past 23 years, Pfister has dedicated considerable time helping the college in all areas, including developing strong working relationships with other colleges whose academic goals are related to FAES. She participates on 11 different committees, including the Career Path and Outcomes Committee; Dual Majors, Dual Degrees and Minors Committee; the college Committee on Academic Affairs; the SIS Student Records and Advising Advisory Committee; and the Internship Coordination/Promotion Committee. She is director of the college’s honors program, having helped developed an honors undergraduate research forum, and she is currently developing a scholars program. Colleagues and students place tremendous value in her thoroughness, clarity and high academic standards. In addition to her involvement at Ohio State, Pfister is a 4-H adviser, coordinator for the Silver Bucket Award, dairy judge for Showman of Showman at the Clark County Fair and secretary for the Tecumseh High School Athletic Boosters. Another nominator summed it up best: “People like Jill Pfister are the reason why our college is known as the friendliest college on campus.”

Debbie Rhodes profile picture

Debbie Rhodes

Morrill Tower


As a supervisor in the housekeeping department in Morrill Tower, Debbie Rhodes is patient and supportive of her employees and takes an interest in their personal lives and education. She has proven herself to be fair, honest and meticulous about her work. An innovative self-starter, Rhodes handles pressure well and always goes above and beyond to get the job done, voluntarily working overtime to meet a deadline. Rhodes makes sure, through the direction of her staff, that students new to the campus and even the area always feel welcome and at home upon their arrival. But Rhodes is more than just a boss to her staff; she’s a good listener and outstanding teacher, helping them overcome language barriers and succeed in all aspects of their lives. Rhodes is not afraid to get her hands dirty, and she works alongside her staff, no matter the job. Her staff considers her to be the best housekeeping manager on campus, describing her as “a unique person, not only as a boss, but as a friend to all.” Rhodes takes pride in training her staff, enabling some to continue on to be managers.

Mei Wang profile picture

Mei Wang

Business Manager
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
College of Engineering


Mei Wang is described by all who know her as superb, bright, efficient, reliable and a host of other superlatives. Colleagues praise her for her interpersonal skills and her integrity. She is tireless, dedicated and not afraid of hard work, as evidenced by her Herculean effort to take charge of the finances at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and completely restructure it into a modern financial system. To build this system, Wang basically had to trace back every source of income, purchase order and commitment that had been made by the department for more than five years. William “Bud” Baeslack, dean of the College of Engineering, confirmed his high regard for Wang by calling upon her to serve on several important college fiscal planning committees as the only staff person. Her understanding of departmental, college and university procedures, as well as her ability to work effectively as a team member, make her stand apart from other fiscal officers in engineering. Always available to answer questions from faculty, staff and students, Wang truly enjoys being able to give back to the community. When the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s business officer left the university, Wang volunteered to take on his duties in addition to her own. During a period of four months, she worked more than 80 hours per week while maintaining a delightful personality and a sunny disposition. In addition to her hectic work environment, Wang volunteers on weekends delivering hot meals to the less fortunate through Meals on Wheels.

Jean Whipple profile picture

Jean Whipple

Computer Consultant/Office Associate
Department of Anthropology


Jean Whipple’s exceptional contributions of time and talent in service to the university have earned her the reputation as an amazing colleague within the Department of Anthropology. While dedicating herself to causes that further the department and Ohio State, Whipple also is admired for her calm responses to administrative crises, her functional and personal nature and the growth of her responsibilities and oversight in measure with her capabilities. “Whipple’s dedication to charitable causes enhances the visibility and capacity of Ohio State as an engaged community member on local as well as global scales,” wrote one nominator. On her own time, she started an annual event where she personally cooks in exchange for donations to a graduate student travel fund, and she has collected school supplies for Iraqi children. Under Whipple’s guidance, the department’s student computer lab developed into a first-rate facility and she constantly helps faculty meet their computing needs. A fountain of knowledge for all things technical, Whipple assisted in creating Web pages, demonstrated how to use computer programs and suggested computer courses for students to take, all while maintaining one of the most secure servers on campus. Whipple has even produced publication-quality pen-and-ink drawings on her own time to illustrate faculty research, showing her love for her job.

David Wiseley profile picture

David Wiseley

Associate Director of the Ohio Union
Office of Student Affairs


Colleagues and students recognize David Wiseley’s selfless dedication to the Ohio Union and the students it serves. He has blended professional excellence and creativity with personal service, leadership and warmth, and he has significantly touched the lives and careers of innumerable colleagues in his four years with the Ohio Union, leading by example and encouraging them to make a difference in the lives of others. He served as the financial mastermind behind the implementation of the $2.1 million Student Activity fee — which supplements more than 900 student organizations — and is ensuring that students receive the maximum benefit. He also provides direct oversight of Explore Columbus, a program that enables students to buy discounted tickets for events throughout the city. This year, 47,000 tickets were sold. But perhaps the most significant project Wiseley has been involved in is the planning for the new Ohio Union. Recognized for his financial wizardry externally as well, Wiseley was selected to chair the Big Ten Union financial reporting committee and recently was appointed to a financial oversight committee for the Association of College Unions International. Most remarkable among his accomplishments, however, is that the Ohio Union has been in the black every year since he became business manager. “His integrity and spotless reputation have enabled him to lead the Ohio Union’s efforts to comply fully with all university and student affairs policies and procedures,” wrote one nominator. “He is a wonderful mentor to many student leaders and young staff and he cheerfully contributes on every level,” wrote another.

Nominations                    Previous Winners