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Meet the 2022 Staff Merit Awards recipients

Indiana University Bloomington’s annual Staff Merit Awards ceremony will honor six staff members at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in Presidents Hall at Franklin Hall.

The awards, which honor staff members for outstanding service to IU Bloomington, come from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. RSVP if you plan to attend the ceremony.

Meet the winners:

Allen Hall, Facility Operations

Allen Hall. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University Allen Hall. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University A laser-like focus on IU Bloomington building security defines Allen Hall’s 33-year career as a locksmith/carpenter in the Facility Operations Carpenter Shop.

“He understands our organization’s mission to maintain a quality environment here on the Bloomington campus,” said Hall’s supervisor, Thomas Lirot. “His attitude and professionalism never change. Employees like Allen make accomplishing projects a whole lot easier for all of us.”

Hall is a graduate of IU’s industry-recognized apprenticeship program in carpentry and in standard and commercial locksmithing. He has also served the program as an instructor.

“Allen’s knowledge of locks and door hardware is unparalleled,” said his colleague Paul W. Aydt, a carpenter in Facility Operations. “He has set up keying systems for multiple campus buildings and departments and assisted IU architects in establishing door hardware specifications campuswide.”

Hall’s expertise was called upon for the cross-campus implementation of intruder locks, which secure doors from the inside to block unauthorized individuals. These locks are now features of most classrooms and offices at IU Bloomington.

“He currently manages the needed door hardware inventory to meet the on-demand needs of campus operations,” Aydt said. “Allen has invested his time in being a true professional as a locksmith. The university is fortunate to have someone as knowledgeable and dedicated as he is.”

IU Capital Planning and Facilities construction manager Joe Townsend praised Hall’s positive attitude, strong sense of ownership of campus facilities and attention to customer service.

“Allen is a pleasure to work with,” Townsend said. “He is extremely diligent and organized regarding chain of custody of the keys for our campus. His duties demand high responsibility, and Allen takes these responsibilities very seriously. Allen works directly with customers to identify security strategies for the facilities we construct and subsequently works with hardware providers to implement those designs and keying solutions in the field.”

Shirley Richardson, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Clinic

Shirley Richardson. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University Shirley Richardson. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University One of the top programs of its kind nationally, the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Clinic at IU Bloomington relies on the superb organizational skills of program management assistant Shirley Richardson to uphold its tradition of excellence. The clinic is a unit of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. Under faculty supervision, graduate students are trained in offering mental health services to the public.

“Shirley, simply, is the glue that holds the clinical psychology program together,” said Brian D’Onofrio, the Sharon Stephens Brehm Endowed Professor in the department. “It is clear to me that without her, we would not have national prominence as a top-10 program, be able to provide a supportive and communal atmosphere for students, or deliver clinical services to as many people in our community.”

For 20 years, Richardson has supported the successful functioning of the clinic in many ways.

“This work depends not only on understanding the procedures but also on effective relations with faculty and students, both before and after leaving IU,” said Richardson’s supervisor, John E. Bates Jr., professor and director of clinical training. “Beyond these critical jobs, Shirley has served as a resource on many other aspects of the program, critical to helping students, faculty and administrators of the program, the department, the university and the public.”

Bates lauded Richardson’s ability to adapt to changing expectations. An example is her role as program coordinator of the department’s $1.4 million National Institute of Mental Health research training grant in clinical and translational science.

“She has shown incredible initiative in learning new systems for managing the data, producing spreadsheets that summarize the information in useful and thoughtful ways,” said professor William Hetrick, department chair and the grant’s principal investigator. “I can say with absolute certainty that without her expert leadership and skill in compiling and organizing our competitive grant renewal application, Indiana University would not still have this training grant.”

David Sparks, Facility Operations

David Sparks. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University David Sparks. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University The recently completed Health Sciences Building and the dozen or so other high-profile facilities surrounding it are in good hands with David Sparks, facility operations supervisor in the Building Services Division. An IU Bloomington staff member since 1997, Sparks rose through the ranks to his current position, beginning in a custodial role and eventually excelling in and completing Facility Operations’ management training program, said his supervisor, Will Weber.

Sparks now manages 18 custodians and a general supervisor, and “this leadership has produced a very low staff turnover rate in our division,” Weber said. The consistency, he added, has been valuable to Building Services and customers.

The area that Sparks and his team are responsible for keeping neat and clean comprises nearly 863,000 square feet, or about 48,000 per custodian. In a period of staffing reductions, Sparks has demonstrated outstanding organizational skill and ability.

“The daily requirements to serve this customer base include patience, consistency and professionalism,” Weber said, adding that the Sparks team must fulfill needs in spaces as diverse as day care centers, secured data facilities, and administrative and academic buildings.

Seth Debro, building manager of the Health Sciences Building, cited a recent experience hosting a meeting of the IU Board of Trustees.

“I was new to the building and wanted to make a great impression and was perhaps a little anxious,” Debro said, “but David assured me that he and his staff would have the building ready. They exceeded my expectations, and the trust in him and his staff has continued to blossom.”

Creative problem solving is a trademark of Sparks’ approach.

“David can always think outside the box and come up with a different, more cost-efficient, less painful more effective way of doing things to accomplish a task, usually with better results,” said Kip Shell, Building Services supervisor.

John Taylor, Facility Operations

John Taylor. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University John Taylor. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University Even the most fleeting glance at the IU Bloomington skyline reveals a vast array of roofs, varying in size, color, style, age, materials, construction methods and more. John Taylor, sheet metal mechanic in Facility Operations for the past 30 years, is an undisputed expert on all of them.

After completing the university’s apprenticeship program, Taylor took the lead role in a campus roofing crew. Ever since then, he has applied his extensive knowledge to the creation and maintenance of these critical elements of the campus infrastructure. In doing so, he operates as something of an unsung hero according to his supervisor, Greg Spaulding.

“The work John does is often underappreciated,” Spaulding said, “as no one thinks about their roof unless it is leaking.”

Not only is Taylor intimately familiar with the very roofs over the heads of everyone at IU Bloomington, but he also consistently carries out his duties in an inspiring and cheerful manner.

“He maintains a positive attitude no matter how difficult the job is,” said Jason Higdon, Facility Operations fire/security supervisor. “Timelines are always a stress on any department, especially when working with others, but he has the ability to show strong support for all involved, no matter which department he works with.”

Taylor’s co-workers remark on his openness to others’ suggestions and his ability to offer advice that results in a coordinated approach to complicated projects.

“His dedication to being a team player is evidenced by his willingness to help the other crafts in any way he can,” Higdon said. “Not only does he have to work closely with the other crafts, but also with many other entities, including contractors. He always comes to work on time and is ready to do whatever he can in order to get a job on its way to completion.”

Annie Willis, Student Advocates Office

Annie Willis. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University Annie Willis. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University When students face challenges — whether related to academics, finances, conduct, health and wellness, grades or any issue that can have an impact on their success — they look to the Student Advocates Office for a wide range of support services. And these students, as well as the office’s staff, all look to associate director Annie Willis for her steady, experienced leadership in helping students navigate whatever difficulties may arise.

Now celebrating her 40th year of professional service to IU Bloomington students, Willis is known across campus as a source of care, compassion and respect. She has had a positive impact on thousands of students through her positions in the Office of Student Financial Assistance; the Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs; and, for the past eight years, in Student Advocates.

Students’ families also benefit from Willis’ gracious, considerate attention.

“Annie works diligently to help troubleshoot each situation while providing appropriate resources and referrals, all with an ethic of care for the student and their family,” said Kathy Adams Riester, associate vice provost for student affairs and executive associate dean of students.

Willis also is a vital resource for the retired faculty and staff volunteers who make up the office’s team of advocates, and she is a tireless creator of connections with partner offices that assist and encourage students.

“Annie has volunteered her time to serve as an advisor to several club sport programs over the years,” said Chris Arvin, executive director of Campus Recreational Sports. “Similarly, Annie has been a valued contributor to our volunteer advisory board. She has been a constant presence on this board.”

“She makes sure that students have a wonderful Hoosier experience,” said Hannah Armstrong, chief of staff in the Division of Student Affairs. “Annie lives her values of kindness and caring every moment of every day and does it in a way to gently nudge those around her to expand their hearts to consider doing more of the same.”

Timothy Womock, Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center

Timothy Womock. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University Timothy Womock. Photo by Ethan Gill, Indiana University Gloria Howell met Timothy Womock when she was a graduate student, toiling at her dissertation in a study room at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

“He was always present to encourage me when the journey seemed unbearable and the finish line nowhere in sight,” she said.

Howell now directs the Neal-Marshall Center, and she considers it a pleasure to supervise Womock, the center’s events services coordinator.

“Tim is one of the reasons why our space feels like home,” she said. “He treats all of our students and staff like family.”

Womock’s position frequently requires that he work outside the standard 8-to-5, Monday-through-Friday schedule to support the wide variety of events held at Neal-Marshall.

“While he could go to his office and rest during events, he often takes the time to get to know the organizers — campus partners, student leaders and community patrons — and will stick around to learn about their work and enjoy the program,” Howell said.

Brandi Loving, graduate assistant at the center, said she has gained a profound sense of empowerment from working with Womock.

“Tim was one of the first people to make me feel that a Black woman from Texas, and the first in her family ever to enter a Ph.D. program, belonged at IU,” she said.

While advising a student group that was planning an event in Neal-Marshall’s Grand Hall, Genevieve Labe, an assistant director at the IU Health Center, witnessed Womock’s diligence and empathy firsthand.

“Tim walked in to simply check on how the setup was going and quickly realized that the students needed a lot of help,” she said. “Tim left for a few minutes, returning with extra equipment, put on upbeat music and began to mentor the students on how on to proceed with the setup.

“Not only did he provide more support than required, but he also supported the students in a way that held them safely so they could learn, de-stress and enjoy the event they had planned.”

Karen Garinger is a contributing writer for Indiana University.