"Pride Personified" is a celebration of the people who make the Widener community outstanding. Employees are invited to nominate their colleagues who exceed the highest expectations, and whose standards of excellence make the Widener community an even better place.
Do you have a colleague who exceeds the highest expectations? Someone whose standard of excellence makes our Widener community an even better place? Please share your nominations for Pride Personified with me by submitting a nomination form.
"Pride Personified" Recognitions
- June 2018 - Mike Gaffney
- May 2018 - Jennifer Buckley
- April 2018 - Lydia DeBiase
- March 2018 - Bob Smith
- February 2018 - Gen Vong
- January 2018 - Rick Orme
- December 2017 - Catherine Feminella
- November 2017 - Nora Kogut
- October 2017 - Vince Touey
- September 2017 - Lindsey Ruby
- June 2017 - Tim Cairy
- April 2017 - Jocelyn Cosmen
- March 2017 - Tom Stockwell
This month’s Pride Personified honoree is Mike Gaffney, whose title as emergency management administrator belies the wide scope of his contributions to Widener. Mike redefines dedication. When a pipe froze and burst in Harris Hall over a holiday break, flooding half the building, Mike made sure the building was dried out, repaired and ready for students to return in a few short days. Mike boosts morale for his coworkers when he hosts an annual luncheon for them each January. He shops for, pays for, and cooks ham, meatballs, sausages and more for up to 90 people who rotate through the celebration, which is Mike’s way of thanking his colleagues for their good work.
Mike has completed every major project on time and on budget. He has a reputation for holding vendors accountable to the promises they’ve made to Widener. “He’s never let me down in the 10 years we’ve been doing this together,” said Carl Pierce in Operations.
Congratulations, Mike, for dedication that exemplifies going above and beyond!
When the Office of Human Resources hired Jennifer Buckley as a temporary employee to help with some filing backlog, they had no idea she would be a super star who wanted to do much more. Luckily, a Human Resources coordinator position opened up in the spring of 2015 and Jennifer joined the team.
Jennifer is the go-to person for Title IX and employee relations issues. She assists with student intake, employee exit procedures and generally helps keep the office moving forward. Jennifer designed the electronic materials for the PageUp performance management system, including the user training, and was a key player in enhancements made to the employee handbook. Jennifer has a keen eye for branding and presentation and helps make university Human Resources products look great.
Her colleagues say Jennifer is someone who goes the extra mile. She shares her perspective to improve department materials and processes and is quick to lend a hand.
“Jennifer is a super star who is always willing to pitch in to make our team stronger and make employees have a better experience with our department,” said Beth Glassman, chief human resources officer. “She is a valuable member of the team who truly makes me proud to work at Widener.”
Lydia DeBiase takes care of people by nature. It’s just her way. Those of us who work and study at Widener have the privilege of sharing our time with this compassionate and caring person who warrants recognition as this month’s Pride Personified honoree.
Lydia joined our full-time faculty in the School of Human Service Professions in 2013. She is an assistant clinical professor and the bachelor of social work program field director. That means she’s preparing students for jobs in social work — careers dedicated to the well-being of others.
She sets a good example. This winter, when a student who lives alone lost power for three days because of a snowstorm, Lydia drove 45 minutes on snowy roads to help the student get her garage door open and her vehicle out. Lydia then invited the student into her home, where she provided dinner and invited the student to stay until power and heat were restored at the student’s residence.
Lydia is an alumna of the university, and worked in the field of child welfare for 17 years before joining the university faculty. She exemplifies the student-centered spirit found at Widener, and in our School of Human Service Professions.
Have you ever experienced a computer problem, and had to reach for the phone to seek help? Bob Smith is the ITS employee making sure that help arrives.
This month’s Pride Personified honoree is dedicated to getting, and keeping, Widener computer users on track with their machines.
Bob is the HelpDesk Lead. That means he supervises the HelpDesk staff of four employees and 30 student workers to ensure calls for help are addressed in a timely manner, and to clients’ satisfaction. The HelpDesk serves all staff, faculty, and students.
“Bob is the kind of employee who goes the extra mile to ensure people’s problems are resolved quickly and effectively,” said his supervisor, John Kitchen, Director of Client Success. “He ensures urgent matters are treated appropriately and will jump in if his help is needed to resolve an issue. His work ensures people have the tools they need, working effectively, to achieve success.”
Bob also sits on teams that are planning for new technologies, like the Office 365 integration. He assists with technology training services, including for the new Canvas system, and willingly goes above and beyond to take on extra duties that contribute to ITS’ effectiveness. He joined the department nearly five years ago as a temporary employee. We’re glad he stayed.
She’s the smiling face that greets everyone arriving for work in Old Main each morning, and a key member of the team committed to safety across campus.
This month’s Pride Personified honoree makes a career out of taking care of Widener.
Corporal Gen Vong is a campus safety dispatcher. She sits behind the glass in the office space on the ground floor of Old Main, where she admits visitors, students, staff and faculty.
She’s also monitoring images being fed from roughly 240 security cameras around Widener. And, she is able to electronically open and close buildings around campus from her remote location in Old Main. Yes, that means if you entered Kirkbride Hall after 8 a.m. today, Gen made sure it was open for you.
Gen answers department phone calls. She dispatches campus safety officers throughout campus and contacts 911 if outside assistance is necessary. When Delaware Law School needed extra staffing help in the last few months, she stepped up and worked some additional shifts there, too. She joined the department 10 years ago.
“Gen is a real team player,” said Campus Safety Chief Kevin Raport. “She does a lot of work behind the scenes to support our efforts, from helping us manage daily logs to keeping vendors to their word on our software services. She’s a troubleshooter and just a big asset to the university. I’m so pleased to see her get this recognition. It is well deserved.”
Reliable, effective classroom technology is vital to the academic experience we provide at Widener. This month's Pride Personified honoree is dedicated to its success.
Rick Orme works in ITS with Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT). He is known for providing exceptional service with a commitment to excellence, and as team lead, is an instrumental part of TLT classroom technologies support.
"Rick allows us to do amazing things for the students, and makes an integral contribution to their learning and success," Distinguished Professor and Chair of English Janine Utell said. " I quite literally could not do my job without him and the TLT classroom support team he leads."
Rick has worked at the university for more than a decade. This year, he took on the added responsibility of managing a large-scale audio-visual upgrade across six buildings. He is also a key member of the team tasked with implementing Canvas. His work includes developing faculty training programs on the new system.
"His ability to connect with people from different departments and units on campus, knowing exactly who is responsible for what, and getting things to work smoothly, is simply astounding," said his supervisor, Joanne Caione-Keating, director of TLT.
Rick holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Widener, and completed his M.Ed. in Instructional Technology this fall.
Our December Pride Personified honoree is an individual whose work is dedicated to ensuring Widener students have an outstanding experience in the university’s residence halls. Catherine Feminella, assistant dean for student development and engagement, oversees residence life for nearly 1,500 undergraduates, including 89 percent of freshmen.
Catherine’s goal is ensuring students have the best possible experience living on campus. She works hard to make the residence halls a home away from home for Widener students, where they have a positive living environment that strengthens their academic experience. No challenge is too big or too small for her.
Catherine’s upbeat temperament projects confidence and is a source of reassurance for students and parents who need advice. She embraces the many facets of her job with absolute commitment, and it is not uncommon to find her on campus late at night or very early in the morning ensuring students have the support they need in residence halls that are operating smoothly.
“Catherine goes above and beyond to deliver an outstanding residential experience for our students,” her supervisor, Associate Provost and Dean of Students Denise Gifford, said. “She has a unique combination of drive and a positive attitude, along with a gentle touch, that make her approachable and effective. Students and staff know they can depend on her.”
Catherine earned her undergraduate and two master’s degrees from Widener, and is currently working on her dissertation for the Doctor of Education, Higher Education Administration degree.
Counselor, advocate, organizer and bridge builder — these are words colleagues use to describe Nora Kogut, the November recipient of Widener's Pride Personified honor.
As assistant dean of undergraduate programs for the School of Engineering, Nora oversees a myriad of services and programs that help current students succeed, and help prospective students find a path to Widener. From academic coaching and counseling, to managing the engineering living and learning community, to serving as the primary person for engineering student recruiting, Nora is known as someone who goes above and beyond.
"From every corner of the campus, I only hear positive things about Nora's impact on student success and her excellent work," School of Engineering Dean Fred Akl said. "She really is one of the best."
Akl said Kogut has a sincere and caring style. No matter how many demands there are on her time, her door is always open for students who need her.
"Nora is a forward thinker and innovative person who tries to put herself in the shoes of the student, or parent, and really advocate for them. She is a great facilitator to help bridge gaps and work through complications," said Jason Britton, director of admissions, who works closely with Nora on recruiting. "She really does have a focus on the student and the family."
Nora is also an alumna. She earned her bachelor of science in business administration at Widener in 1979, and a master of business administration in 1986. She held business positions at Boeing and Westinghouse Electric Corp. before joining the university. She started at Widener as adjunct faculty in the School of Business in 1995, and assumed her current role in 2000.
An inspiring coach in the classroom and on the track—that is how colleagues and students describe Vince Touey.
Vince, the October recipient of the Pride Personified award, is not only the head men's track and field/cross country coach, but also is an adjunct instructor in the math department. In both settings, he ensures all students have the support needed to succeed.
"To be a good coach one has to be an intuitive, persistent and personable educator," said Director of Athletics Jack Shafer. "For Vince, his abilities as an educator and as a coach are personified in these three qualities. He's an empowering individual that gives all of himself to his students and his teams."
Vince's accomplishments over the last three decades at Widener University are extensive. He coached both the men's and women's programs for 25 years, as well as the last few years just for the men's squad. He has taken a near last-place finishing team in the Middle Atlantic Conference and turned it into one which consistently is among the front runners in the conference each season.
Under Vince's watch, Widener has won 28 track and field championships between the men and women and four cross country titles. He has coached numerous individual Middle Atlantic Conference champions and has produced 58 All-Americans, including a six-time national champion in Macharia Yuot, a runner who escaped civil war in Sudan as a child, and 16 of Widener's 57 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.
Vince's coaching success isn't only about winning championships. It is about connecting with students so they can reach their full potential.
"He brightens the day of all his students, and if you know him, you know this is 100 percent true," said Nate Sites, a junior psychology and pre-physical therapy student. "For the track and field team, he doesn't just teach you how to get better as an athlete, he teaches you how to be a better man. I never knew that one man could be as influential as coach has been."
Vince, who earned his master's in education from Widener in 1996, brings a similar attitude his Math 101 and Science Initiative for the Retention of Freshman (SIRF) classes. He helps freshman in SIRF learn organizational and problem-solving skills that serve as a foundation for success as biology, chemistry and environmental science majors.
"For the amount of work he does and the way students love him, Vince definitely deserves Pride Personified," said Dr. Neil Watling, chair of mathematics. "I am happy for him."
Calm. Tireless. Determined. These are words that come to mind when colleagues describe Lindsey Ruby, the September recipient of the Pride Personified award.
All special events that happen in the busy University Center are coordinated by Lindsey’s office, from short-term programs and conferences to long-term uses. Lindsey, whose title is Director of University Center Administration, also handles many of the special events that happen in Alumni Auditorium. She has worked at Widener for nearly 10 years.
“She has a calm about her,” Lindsey’s supervisor, Associate Provost and Dean of Students Denise Gifford said. “She is determined and service-focused, and she is able to make sure all the details are managed for a successful event.”
When Widener agreed to host “Finding a Light in the Darkness,” an important summit on the opioid crisis presented by the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas and the Delaware County Criminal Justice Advisory Board last year, Lindsey was the lead organizer for Widener. She worked many extra hours to make sure the event was a success, and her contributions were so valued, the Delaware County Council passed a resolution at a meeting last fall that recognized her efforts.
In addition to managing her regular duties, Lindsey served as co-chair of Commencement 2017, which involved managing seven major events including both the graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies. This represented a significant addition to her workload. The Commencement Committee tackled several new challenges this year with new protocols for distributing diplomas, and a new rain-or-shine policy for holding graduation outdoors.
“She’s a tireless worker,” her commencement co-chair, Rudy Treichel, assistant dean and director of graduate programs in the School of Engineering, said. “She’s very level headed, and she’s not afraid to listen and work to leverage another person’s idea.”
Treichel called Lindsey an “obvious choice” for Pride Personified. He said he did not know her well before they began planning commencement together, but he was lucky to have her as a partner. “Everyone said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Lindsey’s with you,’” Treichel recalled. “She was on top of everything.”
Tim Cairy has worked at Widener for 18 years and serves as the director of student success and retention, a position created 6 years ago to improve the student retention rate, which stood at 72 percent. Today, the student retention rate is 82 percent—an impressive increase of 10 percent in a short period of time. Tim played a significant role in improving Widener’s retention rates, and he is a driving force in helping us reach for even greater heights.
Tim is devoted to working with undergraduate students who are at risk of falling behind or of not being retained. These students often need creative strategies or extra support to succeed. Tim has the unique ability to be able to connect with a spectrum of students—from athletes to artists and honor students to struggling students—as well as their parents. He collaborates with the undergraduate academic divisions and student services and is a critical player in Widener maintaining its commitment to student success. Tim's work helps shape university policy and practices.
“He has the ability to guide and support students in every possible way, while still holding them accountable for their decisions and performance,” said Lou Anne Vike, assistant dean for academic programs. She "can't imagine anyone better for the job.”
An alumnus who once played football for Widener, Tim is a constant presence on campus and his concern for students is obvious to all who know him. He attends student athletic events, often bringing his sons Timmy and Jake with him, and engages with students at the Wellness Center. He eats lunch with students, and he walks, talks, and texts with them around campus, recognizing that his work goes beyond the walls of Pineapple House.
During his interview for President for a Day this past spring, Michael Brant ’17 mentioned Tim's positive impact, so we asked him to elaborate. Michael said: "Tim was the very first person I sat down and talked with when I first visited Widener four years ago. The one-on-one conversation I had with him did more to narrow down my decision of a major than any previous resource. He was thorough, knowledgeable, and comfortably professional. One of Tim's notable skills is that he can easily relate to students. Just recently, during an Accepted Students Day, I watched as he made an entire room of high school seniors and their parents laugh. That's not easy!"
A prankster who has a penchant for Widener trivia, Tim adds a dose of fun to meetings and workshops, often brightening the mood with his great sense of humor. Tim is truly Pride Personified!
Jocelyn Cosmen is a housekeeper who works in Sharples Hall, where keeping things clean is just the beginning of her many contributions to the students’ residential experience.
Jocelyn is a kind and caring person who always goes the extra mile to make Sharples Hall feel like home. She is cheerful and energetic, and builds relationships with students. She makes everyone feel welcome and warmly greeted, and explains that it is just as important to laugh and talk with our students as it is to clean their building.
“I try to be their mom away from home,” she said. The students agree. One of the residents of Sharples Hall said, “Jocelyn is one of the nicest people on campus and never fails to bring a smile to everyone's face. She goes out of her way to make Sharples home away from home for all of her residents, and builds personal relationships with everyone she meets. Jocelyn goes above and beyond in everything she does, and I am so grateful to have met her. Thank you for everything, Jocelyn! We love you!"
Tom Sockwell is a master carpenter in the maintenance department, but he is known as the go-to person for all sorts of facilities dilemmas.
“We call him McGuyver,” said Carl Pierce, executive director of operations. When the Student Health Services office needed a check-in kiosk that would house two computers in the waiting room, Tom custom built a wooden kiosk for them. It is a piece of superb craftsmanship constructed in a way that allows users privacy when entering their personal information on the computers. And, it saved Student Health Services the cost of purchasing a less-functional solution from an outside vendor.
Tom also built a wooden podium used for important university functions, like commencement. The podium is of the highest quality, and Tom’s work once again helped the university save on costs. Those who have collaborated with him marvel at Tom’s ability to take a rudimentary description of what is needed, and create a well-constructed solution. He is quiet, calm, and great with emergencies. He dismisses praise and credit for his work, but he deserves it.