University to honor its top four staffers for 2013-14

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Four staff members who have made exceptional contributions to Western Michigan University have been selected to receive the Annual Make a Difference Award during WMU's Academic Convocation at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10.

The Make a Difference Award is a peer-to-peer program that recognizes WMU staff members for their accomplishments and daily investment of energy and creativity. Recipients of the program's annual award are selected from each academic year's semiannual award winners and represent that year's four most outstanding employees.

The recipients for 2013-14 are Mary Lou Brooks, Elena Gaudio, Nancy T. Landsberger and James P. Oswalt.

They will be recognized during WMU's annual Academic Convocation at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. The event also will feature WMU President John M. Dunn's State of the University address and presentation of four other prestigious campuswide honors: the Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Distinguished Service, Distinguished Teaching and Emerging Scholar awards.

Mary Lou Brooks


Mary Lou Brooks

Brooks, who joined the staff in 1993, is office coordinator for the Department of Geography. She began her WMU career as a secretary in what is now the Academic Resource Center, then took a promotion in 1999 and moved to the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, where she rose to become office coordinator. Brooks transferred to the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies in 2006 and to the Department of Geography in 2007.

She earned unanimous praise for her thoughtful nature and selfless willingness to help others. "I have never failed to receive support, a shoulder to cry on or a laugh from Mary Lou," one graduate student nominating her wrote. "We call her our 'mom' away from home. She has provided me with advice, humor, chocolate, lunch and love for the past two years I have been here. She can solve almost any problem and will go out of her way to help you with yours."

Several nominators provided examples of how Brooks has gone above and beyond to help them or someone else. "She has, on many occasions, taken students to the emergency room, to a therapist or to a professor the student is afraid to talk with by himself/herself," one wrote. "She is selfless with her time and energy."

Many supporters also praised Brooks for her professional skills and the key role she plays in keeping the geography office running smoothly by providing everything from outstanding customer service to innovative ways to cut costs. They also emphasized that she tirelessly promotes the University as well as her department.

But nominators continually returned to Brooks' genuine commitment to everyone she interacts with, whether assisting with activities on campus or in the local community. "She is an invaluable source of information and inspiration to her colleagues," one wrote, while another avowed that, "Mary Lou has made a difference in many people's lives, not just in the geography department."

Elena Gaudio


Elena Gaudio

Gaudio, who joined the staff in 1987, is executive assistant in the Office of the President. She began her WMU career as an executive secretary for collective bargaining and the University attorney. She took a clerical position in the Department of World Languages and Literatures in 1993, where she rose to office coordinator, then transferred to the Department of Spanish in 2003. Gaudio was named executive secretary in the president's office in 2006 and was promoted to her current post in 2010.

Time and again, nominators described her as a consummate professional who embodies efficiency and effectiveness. They emphasized that along with commanding impeccable skills, she is a doer who makes things happen through her incessant hard work and collaborative attitude.

As one nominator summed it up, "Elena is the perfect example of what it means to be the best of the best. Every task she performs is done expertly. She is prepared in every circumstance, thinking about what will be needed. She leads the office with true humility and grace. Even when the stress level becomes elevated, Elena is a role model of how to project a positive attitude in every situation."

Several nominators noted that Gaudio has the complicated job of working with all of WMU's many constituents and at all hours of the day and night. "Her ability to navigate challenges with creativity and customer appeal is unsurpassed," one co-worker wrote, while another reported that, "Elena is a wise counselor, a standard bearer of integrity and professional excellence, and is as highly respected as anyone on this campus."

Gaudio also was lauded for her determined work behind the scenes to assist students as well as for being an outstanding ambassador for WMU and "a Bronco through and through." She not only attends art exhibitions, concerts and athletic games, but also volunteers to work many events and encourages others to become involved in the life of the University.

Nancy T. Landsberger


Nancy T. Landsberger

Landsberger joined the staff in 2002 and is office coordinator for the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She began her WMU career as a parking clerk in the Department of Public Safety and moved to the Department of Accountancy in 2005 to take a promotion to office assistant. Landsberger was promoted to finance assistant in Extended University Programs a year later and to her current post in 2009.

Students and colleagues uniformly commended her for her generous spirit and going above and beyond to aid those she encounters, from campus visitors who are lost and phone callers who reach her office in error to students struggling with big as well as small problems.

Summing Landsberger up, one co-worker wrote that "Nancy is a shining star at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is a great ambassador for WMU with her warmth, guidance and assistance to all she comes in contact with." Another nominator put it even more succinctly, writing that, "She is the most helpful, friendly, outgoing person I know and always willing to help in any situation."

Landsberger also was lauded by many nominators for her competence and work ethic. One of her supporters was doubly impressed because his nominee's department offers the third largest civil and construction engineering program in Michigan and is one of WMU's most active research units. "She comes to the department first and leaves very late," that supporter commented. "Not only does she do her work to her utmost capacity, she helps everyone in the well as visitors."

Several of Landsberger's nominators cited her for her ceaseless efforts to help the University and everyone associated with it succeed. "She feels personally responsible for everyone's success on campus, and if there is ever a failure, she is searching for ways to improve," one nominator wrote.

Meanwhile, one part-time instructor noted that, "So many logistical things have to happen to make a class go well." "She helps me with the ones I need help with, and she takes the time to teach me the things I can do on my own—which lets me be self-sufficient and frees her up to work miracles for everyone else."

James P. Oswalt


James P. Oswalt

Oswalt, who joined the staff in 2009, is a millwright/maintenance mechanic in the maintenance services area of Facilities Management. He initially was assigned to the University's East Campus and in 2010 was assigned to the main campus.

Oswalt's nominators consistently recognized him for his professionalism and work ethic. "His daily work is done with an integrity few possess," one wrote. "He works hard and believes in an honest day's work for his pay, and he does the job with an amazing attitude. He is always upbeat and positive."

Describing Oswalt as a preventative maintenance mechanic, one of his former supervisors went on to praise him for working day in and day out behind the scenes to take care of problems before they become bigger problems. "He works hard and is very dedicated to his job," that nominator wrote, adding that, "He is a very patient teacher and mentor to others in the shop and across campus."

Nominators not only characterized Oswalt as someone who goes the extra mile to do a good job for the University, but also as someone and would give the shirt off his back for a person in need.

"James is an incredibly kind and hardworking employee who always gives his all to everything he does. His dedication to his job and his co-workers is unswerving," a co-worker wrote. "His intelligence and supreme ability to do an outstanding job is only a small representation of his many great traits. Above all else, James is an amazing person who is always willing to lend a hand and support his co-workers, friends, family and complete strangers."

Another of his nominators emphasized how unusual Oswalt's character is in today's technological age of instant information and instant messaging. "Patience and common courtesy are not so common anymore—unless you are with this employee," the nominator wrote. "His patience is almost limitless, and it is in his nature to open doors, to allow others to go ahead or to share a kind word or a helping hand. It isn't something he thinks about as out of the ordinary because it is part of who he is."

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