Published: Fri Oct 26, 2001
Four Tennessee Tech University employees -- Betty Fine, Dennis Goodwin, Betty Harris and David Walker -- recently found out what colleagues have been thinking about them.
The sentiments of appreciation and respect were delivered in the form of the university's 2001 Outstanding Staff Awards
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.
Before computers were commonplace in every office, Fine threw her energy into learning how they could help her keep up with chemistry department paperwork. More than 21 years later as the department's head secretary, she still has the same attitude about staying ahead of the curve.
"She is the type of person who has to grow; she can't just coast through life," said chemistry professor Barbara Jackson.
Since 1979, Fine has served as department secretary, supervising students, preparing budgets, managing the stockroom and cooperating with 16 full-time and several adjunct faculty. About 25 percent of the incoming Arts and Sciences freshmen each year work with her during advising if they are planning health science careers.
"Her successes have been evidenced by the significant number of people getting into various professional schools," said TTU's health pre-professional adviser Eugene Kline.
A Certified Professional Secretary, she holds an associate's degree in criminal justice and is working toward a bachelor's degree in sociology/criminal justice. Chemistry department chairperson Scott Northrup credits her with an unusually extensive knowledge of administrative and academic affairs on campus.
"Betty is well-loved and respected in our department and in the community; she's a highly esteemed and valued part of who we are," said Northrup.
How do you know Goodwin is doing a great job? Pay attention to the clear dial tone and quality phone service on campus. The evidence of his quality work can be taken for granted, unless you happen to see him in a ditch with his favorite shovel.
For more than eight years, Goodwin has held the primary responsibility for maintaining, repairing and moving all campus phone and cable television lines. Charlie Ferrill, TTU's telecommunications office manger, says Goodwin is instrumental in keeping service provided to every building.
"Dennis is the closest thing to a model employee you will find," said Ferrill. "He's that someone who goes quietly about his work, unheard and unseen, but providing nothing less than first rate service."
After a successful career at GTE South, Goodwin joined the university in 1992. He holds multiple certifications on new and old university telecommunications equipment and cable television equipment.
"He is wholly committed to his service to the university," said Tammy Hargis, the university's telecommunications account service manager. "Although we provide approximately 3,500 phones and more than 2,000 cable television drops, we have only one Dennis."
One professor sums up how biology graduate students solve most of their day-to-day problems.
"See Betty," said Phillip Bettoli, a TTU biology professor. "Every graduate student I have advised over the years will attest to the fact that Betty Harris was always there to help him or her."
Harris is resolute in her support of students and the work of the Tennessee Cooperative Fishery Research Unit. She is secretary to the unit, which is an arrangement among the federal government, the university and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
"Few on campus have to be familiar with both university and federal rules," said Bettoli, "That is one of Betty's primary tasks, and she performs these duties marvelously."
A Certified Professional Secretary who joined the university in 1986, Harris created and maintains the unit web page, as well as a library of about 600 published papers on mussels. She earned the 2000 Outstanding Performance Award from the U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Division.
She is credited with volunteering her own time to provide help on grant proposals, reports and manuscripts. She also received praise from several colleagues for her ability to keep up with and apply a mountain of federal directives and guidelines.
"It is her initiative, judgment and dedication to the program that distinguishes her," said James B. Layzer, the research unit's leader.
Although his job title is lab technician, Walker is considered a teacher in every sense. Mechanical engineering department students and faculty alike seek his creative and practical suggestions on their projects.
A member of the department since 1977, Walker's expertise is in machining; he supervises students in the metal and wood shops.
"He often has a quick and better solution typically offered humbly and without presumption," said Edwin Griggs, TTU's former chairperson of mechanical engineering. "You think, 'Why didn't I think of that?'"
He has an uncanny eye for caution and precision, according to Dale Wilson, chairperson of mechanical engineering. During the last department accreditation visit by an outside board, the evaluator referred to Walker as the "department's greatest asset."
His support and importance to the Mini-Baja student racing team also is well recognized; he supports the team and travels as a team adviser to regional competitions. Even other university teams ask for his help, and in the spirit of good sportsmanship, he often is found helping repair their vehicles.
"I have heard it said that no single person is irreplaceable," said associate professor Jeff Marquis. "Mr. Walker is one person for whom I would make an exception."