The Outstanding Staff Awards program was established in 1989 as a show of appreciation to Tennessee Tech's most outstanding clerical and support staff. Awards are based on job performance, attitude toward work and the university, attendance and perseverance, professional development and suggestions for improvement.
Living up to her nickname, "Ms. Goodwrench," Elizabeth (Liz) Walker will tackle any "fix-it" challenge around the Physics Department. Just a peek at her resume shows she's a hands-on person; she lists using a drill press, band saw and small hand tools as skills. But Walker combines her penchant for fixing problems with education and experience that make her exceptional.
She joined TTU in 1986 after earning a bachelor's degree in physics from Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. As scientific equipment technician, she purchases and maintains all the physics lab equipment.
"You can see the sparkle in her eyes when new equipment arrives," said Gloria Julian, Physics Department secretary. "Her enthusiasm for her job has not waned in the 15 years she has been at TTU."
Walker's responsibilities also include scheduling and setting up teaching labs and lecture demonstrations, designing new experiments, and assisting faculty and teaching assistants with maintaining and improving labs. Physics professor Ray Kozub says he finds Walker's ability to remember every detail of the complex system of "what needs to be where and when" extraordinary.
"Liz is a genius when it comes to juggling schedules to make running our high-quality labs possible," said Kozub. Walker also looks outside her regular duties for ways to help the university. Her contributions since 1987 to TTU's annual Science Bowl for high school students help enhance the goals of the Physics Department.
"Ms. Walker is an inspiration to me," said junior physics major Mary F. Kidd. "She is always extremely patient with students."
Walker is a repeat winner of the Outstanding Staff Award, having been honored in 1994.
Lee Bledsoe keeps the Music and Art Department in tune, maintaining and tuning more than 50 pianos, overseeing more than 250 other musical instruments and managing some 200 annual events. Darrell Garber, dean of TTU's College of Education, says what happens to an ailing instrument that Bledsoe repairs is almost magical.
"When he first arrived, Lee found a unplayable harpsichord in extreme disrepair," said Garber. "In his 'spare time' over a year, he completely rebuilt the harpsichord and now it is played in various performances on campus."
Bledsoe ran his own piano service in Fredericksburg, Va., for several years before joining TTU in 1998. Since becoming the Music and Art Department's piano technician and events coordinator, he has completely revamped the complex calendar management system. The pencil and paper request forms have been replaced by an online scheduling calendar.
"He manages a non-stop schedule on a daily basis and never, never, responds to 'just one more thing'with anything less than a positive, 'I-can-do-that' response," said Joseph Hermann, TTU Director of Bands. "He is perhaps the most important individual we have in making our rehearsals and performances operate problem-free."
Even Steinway entrusts its $80,000 grand pianos to Bledsoe, giving him the rare opportunity to care for the classic pianos when guest artists perform at TTU. Bledsoe was named TTU's January 2002 Ambassador of the Month.
Referred to by her colleagues as the "driving force behind the workflow of registration process," Shirley Dyer has stayed ahead and in control of the changes in the registration process during the last 18 years. As office supervisor in the Registration Center, Dyer has seen the registration process transform from using computer punch cards to online web registration systems.
Dyer's supervisor, Yvonne Gribble, Assistant Director of Records and Registration, catalogued the attributes that makes Dyer outstanding: flexibility, advance planning strategies, attention to detail, complex cognition, customer service skills and patience.
"I believe I could write a book on the accomplishments and contributions she has made to this university," said Gribble.
As a key staff member, Dyer works with the Tennessee Board of Regents on a regular basis with enrollment reporting. She has presented several times at the Tennessee Student Information Systems Users Conference and has served on a campus SIS committee for many years.
"Because her area is a high service area, she always considers how any changes will affect students, her immediate staff and other departments on campus," said Wanda Maxwell of the Chemistry Department.
A previous TTU Ambassador of the Month award winner, Dyer joined TTU in 1984.
Sonya Bowman has been credited with creating a more efficient interlibrary loan system for the university, for her adroit handling of the schedules of 60 student workers, and for her management and organizational skills.
Beyond those outstanding qualities, she shows she cares about people in several different ways. Her supervisor says she can even help people with library fines "leave the building looking as if they had just received a blessing."
"For 10 years, she has served the university with enthusiasm, commitment, grace, a willingness to grow, the capacity to shoulder responsibility, and the fortitude to meet challenges," said Deanna Nipp, Coordinator of Public Services. Having earned a certified Professional Secretary designation in 1995, Bowman regularly attends customer service training seminars.
"Sonja cares," said Winston Walden, director of the library and Media Center."She cares about her work, she cares about the people she serves, she cares about the people who work for her, and she cares about her colleagues in the library."