2009 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.
Danielle Auld profile picture

Danielle Auld

Ultrasound Technologist, College of Veterinary Medicine


The interns and faculty at the The Ohio State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital are glad Danelle Auld decided to leave human care at the Medical Center behind to build a career with animals. Not only do they feel they got one of the best ultrasonographers on campus, but her patience coupled with a positive and caring attitude also means they get to be around one of the highest-quality people as well.

Noted one radiologist trained at Ohio State, “Danelle is responsible to a large degree for the confidence I have in my technical abilities as a radiologist and sonographer, but I have a long way to go in rivaling her in instructional ability and professional demeanor.”

Auld is renowned in the hospital for her teaching approach, which shows only kindness to interns when they make mistakes or struggle to complete a task. She exhibits the same mentality with her patients and their owners, even on the littlest detail. One nominator wrote that while some radiologists might think nothing of just shaving an animal’s abdomen to be able to use a sonograph, Auld understands that defacing an animal’s coat can be traumatic for an owner and she works with them to minimize the cosmetic blemish.

Her skills, honed over nine years in the hospital and eight years prior at the Medical Center, are beyond reproach. And her influence goes beyond interns to fourth-year vet students, with whom she meets on a daily basis to go over imaging basics or reviewing cases of biopsy results.

“This is above and beyond the technologist-student interaction seen elsewhere in the hospital,” one nominator wrote. “There is no doubt that students leaving OSU carry these skills to future employers.”

Auld’s annual reviews should be the standard, another nominator wrote. “How do you make suggestions on improvements needed when there is no room for improvement?”

Lynda Behan profile picture

Lynda Behan

Director, Academic Enrichment Program, Marion Campus


When Lynda Behan began working as a part-time tutor at Ohio State Marion’s Writing Center, its modest mission was to serve those students most in need of help in basics such as spelling and grammar. Since that time, she’s expanded her — and the center’s — reach.

Not only did she develop the Writing Center into a more comprehensive support service by expanding its staff, hours and the nature of her own tutoring, but she made the center itself part of the campus’ Academic Enrichment Program, which coordinates all tutoring services on campus.

“As head of a vital department to the university, Lynda knows how to minimize anxiety, promote positive attitudes and stimulate excitement for learning among our students and their families,” a colleague wrote.

Through it all, her communication and writing skills have continued to gain respect — and not only from students.

“Lynda has been an invaluable help to faculty and staff in their writing projects,” one of her colleagues wrote. “As an active and critical reader, she asks questions about content as well as form, causing us to think through our assumptions about what our audiences will readily understand and what needs more explanation.”

Even outside the scope of her daily work, she serves the campus in numerous ways: On search committees, as adviser to undergraduate student government, staff representative on the United Way campaign and even as an unofficial campus ombudsman of sorts.

“That’s all indicative of the high regard in which Ms. Behan is held on campus,” a colleague wrote. “Her involvement helps address, defuse or resolve difficult issues, maintains morale and keeps the campus moving forward.”

John Berry profile picture

John Berry

Director of Student Life, Ohio State Newark


To consider John Berry is to think of him as “well connected” — not in the sense of who he knows but more in how he is plugged in to the needs of the students at Ohio State Newark.

Berry has worked tirelessly to bring a sense of purpose and understanding to the students during his nine years there. He has created and implemented programs for multicultural affairs, community service, service learning and experiential learning.

And the student experience on campus has blossomed under Berry — from two student programs per month before his arrival to three weekly, more than doubling the recognized student groups to 48 and adding two intercollegiate teams and two more intramural programs per quarter.

“I can say without a doubt that the co-curricular student experience has become a major recruitment and retention mechanism for our campus,” one nominator wrote.

Berry is a leader in the truest sense of the word, serving on the leadership cabinets for both Ohio State Newark and Central Ohio Technical College. He also is a member of the campus’ Diversity Committee, was a representative to the Council on Student Affairs/Life on the Columbus campus and represented the regional campuses in the Student Affairs/Life strategic planning sessions and the Judicial Affairs services review.

And when the new Warner Library and Student Center was being conceptualized, Berry worked with the architect to make sure the facility had unique, usable spaces for education, tutoring and student gathering. “His dedication to collaboration rather than competition helped to make a success of an often trying process,” another nominator wrote.

Cheria Dial profile picture

Cheria Dial

Associate Director, Honors and Scholars Center


Cheria Dial’s service record in the areas of student advising, advocacy and improving the academic environment for students is extensive and impressive.

She serves as an adviser to the Honors Ambassadors, the student group that supports the recruitment and retention of honors students; works to streamline the housing selection process for honors students; serves as a staff resident director for Honors and Scholars study abroad tours; and was the driving force behind the creation of Unity, the student group that won a Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award in 2007.

“Cheria’s list of activities, presentations and experiences is a long one, but one should not assume that it is shallow in depth,” wrote a former colleague. “To the contrary, when Cheria makes a commitment to anything, she sees it through with her complete attention. She not only gets the job done well, she also influences and motivates those around her to perform at similar levels. As a result, the work of the University Honors and Scholars Center continues to be recognized for its quality and commitment to students.”

In everything Dial does, she shows her deep and abiding dedication to students.

“I have watched Cheria work tirelessly on behalf of students; she can regularly be found working with students, even late at night or on weekends,” another colleague wrote.

“She is not the kind of person who leaves her work behind her when she departs from campus every day — she truly loves working with students and spends her time thinking about how to improve their academic experience and quality of life.”

Karlene Foster

Associate Director, International Studies


Karlene Foster knows the International Studies curriculum inside out, making every student feel open to the possibilities before them.

And that’s saying something; with IS being an interdisciplinary major with no faculty of its own, advising students is especially challenging and requires a broad but detailed knowledge of courses not only across departments, but across the campus.

“The programs she helps students construct are rigorous, coherent and flexible, appropriately pitched to each one’s interests and goals in completing the major,” a colleague wrote.

“Karlene recognized my passion for global health and HIV/AIDS activism early on, and I truly believe I would not have had the opportunities I have had without Karlene’s support and encouragement,” wrote a former undergraduate student she advised. “Karlene is more than a great advisor; she is a great mentor who truly takes an interest in her students’ lives.”

When Foster first started her job, she was sole adviser to a program of 150 students. As IS has grown and expanded its reach, so, too, has Foster — first to the position of assistant director and then to associate director as IS has expanded to almost 1,000 students who have physics as a first or second major, with a second advisor and a full-time secretary.

She also is the program’s fiscal officer, designer of its promotional materials and office decorator.

“For the past nine years, Karlene has been the lynchpin for one of the fastest growing and academically accomplished programs on campus,” wrote a colleague. “In those nine years, she has been multi-tasker extraordinaire, functioning as office manager, student advisor, HR specialist, fiscal officer and marketer. It is difficult to separate the program’s success from her own.

“Her good judgment, thoughtfulness and her ability to think strategically make her an excellent representative of her program and the university.”

Debra Gallagher profile picture

Debra Gallagher

Graduate Program Coordinator, College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Science


Throughout Debra Gallagher’s 28 years of service in FAES, there have been many organizational transitions, and she has helped to smooth the way for others during these periods of change.

“There are more than 50 graduate students in the Department of Animal Sciences, and Ms. Gallagher is approachable and welcoming to every single one of us,” wrote one of those students. “In her role, she guides us through a myriad of hurdles, from the acceptance of our application to graduate school through graduation itself.”

Gallagher’s dedication to what she does has earned her numerous awards in the past, including the Pavey Award, the University District Organization and University Community Association Service Award, the Shirley Brooks-Jones Citizenship Award and the Council of Graduate Students Outstanding Service Award. These awards exemplify Gallagher’s dedication to FAES and to the university’s mission of education and service.

She’s also served on the board of the University District Organization, contributing to community life in the area.

 “Working with current students, handling and organizing the continuous flow of applications, letters, GRE scores, etc., for potential students to ensure that a timely review is received for each applicant and handling questions about these applications are all part of her job,” said a colleague at the Department of Animal Sciences.

“Debra handles this myriad of responsibilities not only with considerable ease, but with the positive spirit that makes both current and prospective students know that they are special.”

Marjorie Hall profile picture

Marjorie Hall

Administrative Associate, Ohio State University Extension Human Resources


When personnel anywhere in OSU Extension have a question about employment or human resources issues, have trouble navigating the statewide system that is Extension or simply need a source of institutional or organizational memory, chances are they’ll hear: “Call Marge.”

For nearly 40 years, Marjorie Hall has been an institutional icon in Extension — a colleague, mentor and friend to students, coworkers and administrators all over Ohio.

“Marge’s work ethic and commitment to getting the job done are unparalleled,” wrote a colleague. “Her dedication and her desire to deliver excellence in all that she does are well known and respected by many in our department and throughout the university.”

Besides her work ethic, Hall is recognized for her supportive link to retirees, many of whom stay in touch long after their retirement.

“She recognizes the value in maintaining those relationships long after so many have forgotten their names or titles,” a colleague wrote. “Marge realizes they made an impact and she helps the rest of us respect their historical imprint on our organization.”

And of course with a career that spans almost four decades, talk occasionally turns to her own future retirement. When the subject comes up, “a sense of fear encompasses the more than 1,000 employees in Extension — they anguish over the thought of not being able to ‘run something by’ Marge,” a colleague wrote. “But it is more than just her assistance they seek, it is her compassion, wisdom and sense of humor that bring many to her door every day. The position can be refilled, but the person could never be replaced.”

Sharon Kelsey profile picture

Sharon Kelsey

Administrative Associate, Center on Education and Training for Employment


Colleagues say Sharon Kelsey’s professionalism in her role as business manager and her wealth of institutional and procedural knowledge make her the “backbone and nerve center” of the Center on Education and Training for Employment.

“Sharon is highly productive and extremely efficient and is an effective liaison between our center and other units on campus,” a nominator wrote.

“But more importantly, she pays considerable attention to empowering others within the business office to work efficiently and effectively, and with a positive attitude and approach.”

Kelsey plans, monitors and oversees the daily fiscal operations of the large and complex service/research center that is the Center on Education and Training for Employment (CETE).

“Even though she needs to constantly multi-task, Sharon always has that amazing ability to maintain that attention to the little things,” the nominator wrote. “She makes everyone’s job easier by keeping track of deadlines and tasks that need to be completed and reminding everyone of when those deadlines are.”

But as professional as she is in her daily job, her humanity keeps things light.

“Sharon is always willing to help, friendly with staff and visitors alike, diplomatic when it comes to personnel matters and most of all takes a supportive and facilitative role when it comes to getting the work done,” a colleague said. “Her word is golden, her advice always wise and her interpretation of HR and business matters accurate and reliable.”

Matthew Misicka profile picture

Matthew Misicka

Program Manager/Assistant Director, Center for Life Sciences Education


For this year’s Campus Campaign efforts, the Center for Life Sciences Education (CLSE) recorded an impressive participation rate of 86 percent.

It’s an open secret around the center that the reason for that success is Matt Misicka, CLSE’s assistant director.

“He sent personalized pleas to each staff member listing funds in which they might be interested,” said one nominator. “He sent another plea offering to match any contribution up to $72.”

When he’s not out beating the bushes for charity, Misicka is busy making sure all life sciences lab and recitation sections have instructors to teach them. He oversees training for teaching assistants and meets with potential Ohio State students and their parents.

The job requires a daunting set of skills: Juggling, time management, patience and diplomacy.

“Matt embodies everything that an outstanding staff member should be,” one colleague wrote. “He collaborates with faculty and staff across campus, expertly supervises his staff, encourages TA development, promotes outstanding undergraduate education, and most importantly, nurtures a culture that makes his colleagues look forward to coming to work each day.”

Not only does Misicka embody an excellent staff member, he also is a dyed-in-the-wool Buckeye (graduating from Ohio State in 1989 with a degree in zoology) and an active advocate for Ohio wildlife and the environment. He is a volunteer lobbyist for the League of Ohio Sportsmen and works with urban youth on outdoor sports.

“Matt is one of those deeply committed, loyal and hard-working staff members who make all of us look good,” said one nominator.

Carol Ries profile picture

Carol Ries

Director of Commencement and Special Events, Office of the President


Even though most have never met her, every one of the approximately 14,000 students who graduate from Ohio State each year owes Carol Ries a debt of gratitude.

After all, she’s the one who’s been making big moments like these possible for more than 30 years.

And what’s more, Ries also is responsible for making other magical things happen across campus, like weekly brunches with 300-400 guests during football season and all events that transpire at the university residence.  

What astounds all who know her is how she pulls everything off without losing her cool, even during sudden torrential downpours during commencement ceremonies and the seismic challenge of moving graduation from the stadium to the Oval for 1999-2001.

“Carol Ries epitomizes that metaphor about the duck who appears to gently float on the waters while actually paddling like hell beneath the surface,” write one nominator.

Another nominator chose a different metaphor — or series of metaphors — to describe the many roles Ries plays on a daily basis. “In her capacity as director, she must be part negotiator, cheerleader, drill sergeant, coach and ringleader — a feat she has performed to perfection,” this colleague said.

Not only does Ries perform a job that would daunt many of us, she does it with grace and good humor. She is “unassuming and selfless,” writes an associate, always willing to offer her assistance and the expertise she has accrued over her career.

“Carol is one of the best ambassadors of this university and a great source of institutional knowledge,” wrote a close colleague. “She is a mentor to me and I value immensely all that I have learned from her.”

Donnajean Goff Swaneck profile picture

Donnajean Goff Swaneck

Lead Kindergarten Teacher, Child Care Program


Donna Swaneck’s kindergarten class sounds like the most exciting classroom on campus. Not only do her students get to do all the stuff that makes this first year of school fun — music, stories, yummy treats — they also get to fling tomatoes.

Yes, tomatoes. As part of Swaneck’s innovative and exciting curriculum, students use geometry to determine the best angles for firing tomatoes with their very own “tomato cannon.”

That’s just one of the ways Swaneck has brought her creativity and energy to bear on a job she’s been doing for almost 30 years. Nominators, including colleagues and parents of children who have benefited from Swaneck’s teaching, cite her dedication to her craft and her constant striving to better her skills.

“She is never satisfied with the status quo but is constantly reflecting on her teaching practices, searching for ways to make her teaching more responsive to children’s needs,” wrote one colleague.

An area of particular focus and excellence is mathematics. Swaneck has devoted countless hours — both in and out of her classroom — to enrich her students’ mathematics learning, and as a result has seen her pupils go on to excel in first grade and beyond.

“Donna is continually implementing new mathematical activities that encourage her students to acquire many skills that are usually left for later grades,” one reviewer wrote.

“Simply speaking, her classroom is a spectacular model of what is possible with young children and mathematics.”

Robin Wyatt profile picture

Robin Wyatt

Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Department of Physics


Robin Wyatt is the type of staffer who makes a workplace not just a workplace, but a community.

Not only is she exemplary in her duties helping more than 250 physics majors in the department navigate through their courses and schedules, as well as managing the Student Evaluation of Teaching forms that evaluate instruction of more than 10,000 students per year, she’s an outstanding departmental citizen.

“She has played a major role in all of our winter and spring picnic committees and strives to make these events enjoyable for the faculty, staff and students who attend,” a nominator wrote. “She also contributes her wealth of knowledge during the Undergraduate Studies Committee meetings and serves on the Women in Physics and Physics Staff Advisory committees.”

Wyatt also put together the weekly physics TEA (Talking, Eating, Action) events that bring physics majors together to relax and connect with their classmates as well as faculty, graduate students and staff and have become a positive recruiting tool for students who may feel the university is “too big” to provide individual attention.

Her outreach efforts also have proven successful, as she coordinated the department’s first Girls Reaching for Achievement in Sports and Physics (GRASP) summer camp in 2008.

“Robin is the ‘mom’ to all the undergraduate physics majors who come through here,” another nominator wrote. “She’s the heart and soul of the program as far as the students are concerned, and she really makes a difference in the lives of our majors.”

Nominations                    Previous Winners