Just Rewards

February 9, 2004

Mark Miester
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Scott Cowen and an award winner Ajit Pradhan was in a meeting to plan his department's holiday party when an unexpected guest entered the room: Scott Cowen.

"He asked me, 'Who are you? What are you guys discussing?' Pradhan recalls. "And then he said, 'Do you know why I'm here?'"

Pradhan, a senior instrumentation specialist in the chemistry department, was one of 10 Tulane employees surprised by Cowen on the morning of Dec. 17 with the presentation of a 2003 Tulane Staff Excellence Award.

The awards, initiated in 2001, recognize staff members from across the university whose performance during the year goes above and beyond the call of duty.

"Tulane's greatest asset is its people," says Anne Banos, vice president and chief of staff. "The staff excellence program is a marvelous way to applaud the efforts of outstanding individuals."

Pradhan was cited for his work maintaining and training users of the department's nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, which were virtually unused prior to his arrival.

"My job is to give chemistry department faculty and students the tools they need for doing research," Pradhan says. "It's pretty satisfying to know people appreciate it."

In addition to a $1,000 cash prize and a plaque recognizing their achievement, award win-ners attended a dinner in their honor at the home of Scott and Marjorie Cowen. Andy Heck, vice president for human resources, sent out a letter soliciting nominees for this year's awards in August. By October, the awards committee had received 70 nominations from across the university.

The nine-person committee, chaired by Barb Brauner and Carol Jouet in human resources, then evaluated and ranked each nomination, eventually whittling down the list to 10 candidates whose names were submitted to the president. Cowen, Heck and Brauner then personally delivered the awards to recipients, most of whom had no idea they were even nominated.

"The morning of the award I was a little worried," says Melburn Bradley, office clerk and driver in the department of surgery, who received the award for performing every task with grace and radiating an infectious warmth and enthusiasm for his job. "There was a special meeting and I didn't know what it was about.

Then Dr. Cowen came in and said, 'You've been nominated,' and I was just breathless. It made me feel good knowing that people appreciate me, both at Tulane and in the department."

In addition to Pradhan and Bradley, eight other Tulane staff members received 2003 Excellence Awards. Susan Gautier, office manager in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine's biostatistics department, was recognized for her support and administrative management of nine full-time faculty, 14 full-time research staff and more than 10 student workers.

James Landry, senior department administrator in psychology/neurology, was cited for developing a business plan that in three years moved the department from a $450,000 deficit to a $280,000 excess.

Debbie Olavarrieta, executive secretary in physiology, was honored for performing her duties expediently and with a high degree of efficiency despite an increased workload. In particular, she coordinated the projects of 12 investigators that resulted in a successful multimillion-dollar grant proposal to the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Gail Plauche, a supervisor in the Primate Center's pathology lab, was recognized for exceeding the requirements for her job and doing so with unmatched compassion. Pat Schuessler, senior program coordinator in the Office of Finance and Administration, was cited for her role as "big sister" to the medical school's 600 students, acting as an excellent listener, problem solver and trusted confidant.

Robin Stead, manager of computer operations in liberal arts and sciences' cell and molecular biology department, took on new responsibilities, and her skills and service in computer operations resulted in enhanced productivity of faculty, staff and students. In particular, Stead was recognized for her work researching computer purchases, setting up systems, maintaining the departmental website, and helping to purchase and service audiovisual equipment used for teaching and research presentations.

John Sudsbury, associate director of media relations, was integral to the athletics department's Think Green campaign, during which he assumed nearly all responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the media relations office. He also was a major contributor to the athletics website, personally posting links to 856 articles about Tulane sports between August 2002 and July 2003.

Judy Vitrano, associate budget director, was recognized for her role in developing the Decentralized Management Concept model, which is expected to be a huge step forward for Tulane in reaching the objective of financial stabilization. Vitrano designed guidelines, worksheets and calculations that will be key to the success of the implementation.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000