June 8, 2009

Volume 3, issue 41
June 8, 2009
The Fountain

Janice Abraham Award recipients honored for service, dedication

(l-r) Nancy Mitchell, Oscar Waggoner, Dona LaFran

The annual Janice Abraham Award is presented to Whitman College staff (non-faculty) members who have made significant contributions and provided outstanding service to the college. The award honors and celebrates staff who go above and beyond job expectations, bring forward creative and innovative ideas, promote the philosophy of customer service and contribute to the excellence found at Whitman. Nominations may come from staff and/or faculty; winners receive a cash award and a personalized plaque. Presented at the June 3 Staff Appreciation event, the 2009 recipients are:

Dona LaFran, executive assistant for Penrose Library, has worked at Whitman for about 10 years. She was cited for, among other attributes, being the “glue” that holds Penrose together and for creating a comfortable and nurturing atmosphere there. “She has dried many a tear and calmed countless nerves with calming assistance, advice and reassurance. She goes out of her way to ensure that everyone feels welcome, that her work is completed in an efficient and professional manner, and that no detail is left unattended.”

Nancy Mitchell, associate director of alumni relations, has been a member of the Whitman community for nearly 24 years. She was lauded for bringing “quiet grace, nerves of steel, a spontaneous smile and an outstanding work ethic to a highly demanding job.” Also, “She has given complete support to three or four different alumni directors and vice presidents now, adapting to their work styles and well as to continuous new challenges with intelligence, talent, creativity, total commitment, and grace.” She also received well-deserved accolades for her work on last fall’s football reunion.

Painter Oscar Waggoner, described as “a person who touches all of us,” was praised for being cheerful and positive and for being “a perfectionist in his work who is always considerate to people trying to work in the space that he’s painting.” A co-worker wrote in the nomination: “Can you just imagine how many gallons of paint he has put on the walls, ceiling, floors, bridges, etc., along with hanging sheet-rock, taping and doing the drywall work too in his time at Whitman? Whoa!”

For a list of past winners, click here.

Lots of appreciation at staff event

Last week’s Staff Appreciation event drew a full-house for brunch, award presentations, recognition of years of service and camaraderie.

The Whitmanaires, the staff and faculty choral group conducted by Paul Dennis, RCC administrative assistant, set the tone for the event, with a strong, upbeat performance that included “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” featuring a solo by Laura Cummings, senior assistant for study abroad. The audience gave them a standing ovation.

PAC Chair Darla Schuster, data and gift processing assistant, welcomed the staff and introduced the rest of the Personnel Advisory Committee, which helped plan the event and organized a series of tours and workshops during the academic year.

President Bridges voiced his appreciation for the staff’s hard work, noting that despite financial challenges, Whitman had a profoundly successful year. “We got through this together,” he said. “Your spirit inspires me.”

“I’ve attended many of these gatherings, and I cannot remember a better turnout,” said Stacy Giusti, assistant registrar for academic relations. Schuster confirms the high attendance and reports that she has received many, many positive comments from staff members who enjoyed the event, the great food and the amazing Whitmanaires. “The camaraderie seemed more notable than ever before.” For Cindy Matern, director of human resources, of course, the highlight of the day was the announcement of the Janice Abraham Award winners. “The staff at Whitman has so many deserving people,” she said, “but it was fun to honor three really great employees in front of their peers.”

Whitman’s graduation rates among the best

Whitman’s average four, five and six-year graduation rates are the highest in the state of Washington, among the best in the West and rank in the top-30 among national liberal arts colleges. But the news is even better than reported in recent Seattle Times and USA Today articles about graduation rates within and across the states, since they included old data.

Whitman’s current average 6-year rate is 89 percent. The 2002 cohort rate is an exceptional 92 percent. The current average 4-year rate is 80 percent.

“Graduation rate is a key factor for students and parents when considering colleges,” says Tony Cabasco, dean of admission and financial aid. “It’s an often overlooked aspect by students and parents, but at Whitman it is an important metric because it directly reflects the level of academic and student support. It’s an indicator of overall student success.”

Staff Accomplishments

Development staff members Teri Durfee, advancement services assistant, and Sarah Jones, advancement services manager, teamed up to design and implement a new online donation Web page through Whitman’s Online Alumni Community provider, Harris Connect. The site was featured in the Harris’ quarterly Client Showcase, which highlights best-practice examples of advancement work and is delivered to more than 1,000 college and university clients. “This complex project required persistence, creativity, and a keen sense of our business,” said Becky Kennedy, director of advancement services who supervised the project. “We hope that their efforts will make giving to the college easier for alumni and other donors.” Also contributing to the project were Polly Schmitz, assistant vice president for alumni relations; Tamara Tinhof, director of donor communications and relations; and Helen Tanaka, interim director of the Annual Fund. Click here to see the results of their efforts, and feel free to try it out by making a gift to the Annual Fund!

Parting Shots

Click for full size

Pete ’49 and Hedda Reid ’49 welcomed a full house of friends, faculty, staff and alumni to Pete’s retirement party June 4. The many tributes to Pete and Hedda throughout the event were glowing, but more than one speaker voiced doubt that “Mr. Whitman” would really retire this time after 61 years on the job. His first retirement, said President Bridges, was in 1990, when he retired from the position of treasurer. He stayed on as an adviser to the president, and it is rumored that there was a near-miss at retirement sometime in the years since.

President Bridges announced that the annual Town-Gown Award will, from this day forward, be called the “Pete and Hedda Reid Award for Service to Walla Walla,” as a lasting tribute to the Reids for their involvement over the years.

Aisha Fukushima ’09 created a tribute and farewell video featuring Memorial Building staff, and the Reids were fêted by old classmates, young alumni and their son, Dan, the only one of their four boys that could attend the party. Don’t forget, he said, that behind every successful man is a good woman. “She lays his clothes out for him every morning.”

  Click for full size

The Communications team presented Pete with a token of affection and appreciation. Borrowing from the world of sports, they honored his “legendary” status with a bobblehead.

Taking the podium after the accolades Pete said: “There were so many things I wanted to say, but I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to retire. Let’s do this every year.” He also thanked Hedda, who, he said, had the more difficult job of staying home and taking care of their four boys and their home. “I had the easy job. It’s been a great career,” he said.

All 11 presidents he worked with were “excellent people and they were the right person for the time they served. I have complete faith in the abilities of those who will run the college in the future.”

Whitman College
In This Issue
Janice Abraham Awards
Staff Appreciation Event
Whitman's Graduation Rate is Tops
Staff Accomplishments
Parting Shot: Pete Reid

Past issues

The Fountain is published by the Office of Communications. Send news to Editor Lenel Parish at thefountain@whitman.edu. Photos are accepted. Submissions are due by Tuesday at 5 p.m. for the following week's issue. Director of Communications: Ruth Wardwell. Online: www.whitman.edu/fountain