Staff honored for productivity, service, problem-solving

Five WSU employees will receive President’s Employee Excellence Awards at the Celebrating Excellence recognition banquet March 24, part of WSU’s annual World Class. Face to Face. Showcase festivities to honor the outstanding achievements of faculty and staff across campus.

The awards recognize outstanding contributions to WSU by administrative professional and classified employees from across the state. Each recipient is awarded a plaque and $2,500 provided by the WSU Foundation.

Nominations focus on outstanding contributions made by the employee toward increasing the productivity of the unit; innovative problem solving; positive working relations with students, the public, and co-workers; and community service.

The winners are:

Dana “Dee Dee” Torgeson, administrative manager, Department of Philosophy.

Torgeson is the lone office professional for her department but she handles her wide-ranging duties productively and efficiently and with the highest level of quality, said a nominator. In addition to all the usual office management, she has responsibility for computers, publications and Web pages. She “helps faculty look good” by designing posters and websites for them.

She took the initiative to get training as an academic adviser when she knew the department needed one. Her helpful, approachable interaction with students is credited in large part for the growth in majors seen by her department.

Torgeson helps with the Combined Fund at WSU and raises funds for cancer research in the community.

Keith Bloom, assistant director, Capital Planning and Development.

Bloom is able to find creative ways to accomplish what others say can’t be done, said one of his nominators. His tenacity, dedication to quality and ability to get the right people together to address difficulties on construction projects has ensured that projects are completed well, on-time and within or under budget, said others.

He contributes a sense of humor to the workplace and is “the epitome of a team player.” He has assumed a lead role in managing and mentoring the student intern program implemented by his department five years ago.

Bloom serves on the Pullman City Council, is a small business owner and has helped organize a Christmas dessert auction at Capital Planning and Development that in its second year (2005) raised $3,500 for two Pullman social aid agencies.

Don Frame, systems specialist III, Information Technology, WSU Tri-Cities.

When faced with a task, Frame asks “How can I help?” said one nominator. He’s not concerned about whether or not it falls within his job description. He cheerfully and willingly helps other Tri-Cities employees with their telephone and computer-related needs, working with them until he knows just what they need and never making the electronically challenged feel stupid. If he doesn’t know an answer, he’ll get more information or provide other contacts — and in a timely manner.

Frame regularly goes outside his job description to assist faculty in their grant work (typically designing and building electronic instrumentation). He shows a welcome interest in students, said one nominator, and a willingness to help engineering students in the lab.

He earned the Tri-Cities’ top employee award in 2004.

Charii Higgins, veterans affairs coordinator, Registrar’s Office.

Higgins is instructive, kind and a patient listener with WSU’s military students, whom she calls “her kids,” said one nominator. She also is fierce and relentless in cutting through roadblocks that may hinder these students from getting the help they need.

She has led efforts to ensure WSU student veterans receive the tuition waivers due them. She successfully pushed for expansion of the WSU Veterans Memorial and the establishment of faculty liaisons to mentor returning student veterans.

Higgins arranges counseling for military students who need it, mentors work-study students on how to best serve veteran students and has been known to host Thanksgiving dinner for “her kids” in need.

Tom G. Johnson, scientific instructional technician supervisor, Department of Physics & Astronomy.

Johnson is critical to the teaching mission of his department, where he is responsible for lecture demonstrations that help students “see” and understand difficult concepts, said one of his nominators. In addition, he does such work as computer troubleshooting, website creation and management, scheduling student computer labs, tracking inventory and more. Despite the many demands on his expertise and frequent last-minute faculty requests, he is creative, collaborative, patient and good-humored.

Johnson regularly conducts spectacular physics demonstrations for visiting middle school and high school students and even takes the show on the road as a good-will ambassador for WSU throughout the state.

For more information on the awards, contact the Office of the President at 335-6666.