June 3, 2013

Volume 7, Issue 41 June 3, 2013
The Fountain

Honors, awards, humor and bacon plentiful at Staff Appreciation Brunch

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Returning as emcee, Whitman’s resident stand-up comedian Brian Griffith, WCTS system administrator/developer, was true to form last Friday, slinging jokes and getting big laughs at the Staff Appreciation Brunch. Griffith opened the event with a humorous approach to the year in review, then offered a fresh batch of jokes aimed at Whitman’s budget officers, including theme songs for each one.

Up next was President Bridges, who listed his picks for the “Top 10” accomplishments of Whitman’s 2012-2013 academic year, such as the college’s record-breaking athletics season, the success of the Now Is the Time Campaign, and Eric Idle’s performance at Commencement, noting that having an entertainer is much more exciting than having an academic as the speaker.

He also announced the Janice Abraham Awards, presented annually to staff members who go above and beyond job expectations, bring forward creative and innovative ideas, promote the philosophy of customer service and contribute to the overall excellence of Whitman. The 2013 recipients, along with excerpts from nominators, are: 

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Kyle Singer and Nancy Tavelli (Not pictured: Michelle Shafer)

Michelle Shafer, biology lab coordinator
“Michelle has become indispensable to many people in Division III. She makes it possible to mentor more students in the research lab and spend more time with them.”

“Beyond her specialized skills, what really sets Michelle apart are more transferable qualities. She is innovative, resourceful, versatile and highly capable at generally figuring out ways to do things better and more smoothly.”

“She handles her diverse job responsibilities with great calmness and a sense of humor.
She has spearheaded or participated in numerous outreach and charity projects.”
“I am amazed at the amount of things that Michelle does, and she is always willing to listen and help when I have a question.”

“Michelle has smoothed my path at every turn. She is always positive, smiling and so willing to help with anything.”

Kyle Singer, WCTS developer
“Kyle built the new curricular planning and scheduling tool from scratch and was asked to make constant revisions with very little turnaround time. He did much of the work on his own time, because he was dedicated to the successful completion of the project.”

“He always greets people with a helpful ‘can-do’ attitude, and he embodies the Whitman attitude of rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done.”

“He also served as co-leader and expert resource for a process mapping and improvement project for HR and payroll.”

“As the chief architect of the myWhitman portal, he crafted new tools that make it easier for all campus community members to access online resources. His work reflects careful attention and sensitivity to the needs of campus community members.”

Nancy Tavelli, associate dean of students: campus life
“Nancy’s innovative thinking and dedication to serving student form the foundation of the Residence Life program. She dedicates countless hours to people and projects, including anything from community service alongside student staff to coordinating searches for candidates in other departments to hosting meals in her home for advisees.”

“Nancy is tireless in her service. She is committed to helping new professional staff in and beyond her department as they develop the creativity, flexibility, perspective and skill sets necessary to lead and thrive. Her impact on so many lives at Whitman has been nothing less than profound.”

“Nancy’s dedication to Whitman is exemplary. And she has gone above and beyond any expectations I’ve had of a supervisor, colleague and cherished mentor.”

Click here for a list of past Janice Abraham Award recipients.

Also recognized were this year’s retiring staff members and Years of Service Award recipients.


  • Ginny Matthews, administrative assistant for the Welty Center
  • Sally Hooker, associate to the Provost and Dean of the Faculty
  • Gayle Worthington, administrative assistant for the Physical Plant
  • Ron Urban, registrar

30 Years of Service

  • Kidan Tesfay, Sherwood Center custodian

25 Years of Service

  • Barbara Cox, credentials coordinator
  • Maxine Darrow, library assistant – cataloging
  • Harold Holm, stage technician
  • Martha Holt, biology laboratory coordinator
  • Sharon Kaufman-Osborn, counselor
  • Pat Sorenson, division II assistant

20 Years of Service

  • Tracee Anderson, assistant director of counseling
  • Jeff Donahue, construction project manager
  • Shirley Harper, assistant custodial supervisor

Too many other staff to list here also were recognized for their 15, 10 or five years of service.

Click HERE for a photo gallery.

Remembering Gary Brown, former grounds supervisor

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There is sad news to report – former Grounds Supervisor Gary Brown passed away last week. He started working for in 1991 and was promoted to grounds supervisor in 1992, remaining in that position until he left the college in 2011. As seen in the photo, Brown often gave campus landscaping and tree tours.

Dan Park, director of the physical plant, said: “I remember Gary’s extraordinary knowledge of all plants and trees. He also had the ability to look at a planting area and visualize every detail of a finished landscape project taking into consideration all the relevant factors. We all can enjoy Gary’s vision and creativity when we walk the Whitman campus.”

Brown’s son and daughter-in-law, David and Emily Brown, welcome campus community members to attend the memorial service honoring Gary’s life. It takes place Wednesday, June 5 at 2 p.m. at Herring’s funeral home. For questions or further information contact emilyminear77@gmail.com or 509-301-3611.

NBC Nightly News includes Whitman in its annual Commencement feature

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Click to view video »

This year’s Commencement was spotlighted by NBC Nightly News in its annual recap of commencement ceremonies across the country. Commencement speaker Eric Idle is featured singing his iconic song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” to 2013 graduates. 
The video shows highlights of speakers ranging from President Obama at Ohio State University to Stephen Colbert at the University of Virginia to Oprah Winfrey at Harvard.

Construction Update – Tennis Courts, Baker Faculty Center

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Tennis Courts – The construction fence for the tennis courts project went up last week, shutting off vehicular access to Memorial and Maxey and closing the Boyer Street driveway. The sidewalk on the north side of the tennis courts also will be closed. Access to Maxey will be from Ankeny Field. The tennis courts project is expected to be complete at the end of August. For background on the project, see this Whitman Pioneer article. Photo by Catie Bergman, Whitman Pioneer.

Baker Faculty Center – Effective Monday, June 3, the parking area at Baker Faculty Center will be closed as renovations begin on the building. The parking area is scheduled to reopen Nov. 4, 2013. This renovation project will accommodate the move of the Alumni Relations office, and the building will be renamed the Baker Center.

Staff news brief

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Michelle Ferenz, head women’s basketball coach, was named Coach of the Year, announced last week during the 37th Annual Blue Mountain Youth Recognition Evening event at Baker Boyer Bank. Ferenz, who led Whitman’s team to the NCAA Division III tournament Elite Eight after a historic 2012-13 season, also was honored as NWC Coach of the Year in February. Brian Dohe, director of annual giving and president of the Walla Walla Exchange Club, which sponsors the award, had the honor of presenting Ferenz with her plaque. Katharine Curles ’07, assistant director of student activities and Wa-Hi swim coach, also was nominated for the award. For more on the BMSAs, read last Thursday’s UB article.

Parting Shot
By Greg Lehman, photographer/communications officer

parting shot

Demolition of the aging tennis courts is underway. Full size.

Whitman College
In This Issue
Staff Appreciation
Remembering Gary Brown
Commencement on NBC Nightly News
Construction Update
Staff News Brief
Parting Shot

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