On March 25, President Christopher L. Eisgruber (center) hosted a virtual ceremony for the 2020 President Achievement Award (PAA) recipients. Row 1: Joyce Bell, executive assistant, software and application services, Office of Information Technology; Robin Izzo, executive director, Environmental Health and Safety; Connie Brown, department manager, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering; Row 2: Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for Human Resources and PAA selection committee member; Darryl Johnson, logistics coordinator, shipping, receiving and loading dock, Department of Physics. Row 3: Sohaib Sultan, coordinator for Muslim life, Office of Religious Life, who was named a PAA recipient, prior to his passing on April 16; Hector Mejia, technology specialist 2, enterprise infrastructure services, Office of Information Technology; Anita Fresolone, senior HR communications and events specialist and PAA selection committee member.
Every spring brings a burst of pride at Princeton University in the annual time-honored tradition of celebrating Princeton employee service and achievement. This year, 555 employees are being recognized for their dedicated years of service, along with six staff members who were named as President Achievement Award recipients and two employees who received the Donald Griffin ’23 Management Award.
“Princeton staff members are the heart of Princeton University, supporting the University’s teaching and research mission. On behalf the Office of Human Resources, I want to congratulate all service recognition honorees who achieved service milestones in 2020,” said Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for human resources. “Thank you for your commitment and contributions to our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
Pride, gratitude, achievement: Service recognition of long-serving staff members
In this video, several service honorees describe what working at Princeton means to them.
“It is my pleasure to thank and congratulate all of the service honorees,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “Thank you so much for what you have done. I appreciate your service to Princeton.”
All employees will receive by mail their certificates of recognition embossed with a special copper-engraved rendering of Nassau Hall by the late Michael Graves, the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture Emeritus and a renowned architect and designer, along with a commemorative pin for their specific years of service. Those with 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 and 25 years of service also selected gifts from the special Princeton Service Recognition Program collection at Hamilton Jewelers.
By the numbers
3 employees with 50 years of service
6 employees with 45 years of service
33 employees with 40 years of service
20 employees with 35 years of service
37 employees with 30 years of service
44 employees with 25 years of service
117 employees with 20 years of service
140 employees with 15 years of service
155 employees with 10 years of service
Totaling 10,000+ years of combined service to Princeton University. For the full list of honorees, visit the Service Recognition Program page.
President’s Achievement Awards (PAA)
Six Princeton staff members were honored as recipients of the President’s Achievement Award for their commitment to excellence and exceptional performance. The recipients were honored in a virtual ceremony on March 25. The award recipients are: Joyce Bell, executive assistant, software and application services, Office of Information Technology; Connie Brown, department manager, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering; Robin Izzo, executive director, Environmental Health and Safety; Darryl Johnson, logistics coordinator, shipping, receiving and loading dock, Department of Physics; Hector Mejia, technology specialist 2, enterprise infrastructure services, Office of Information Technology; Sohaib Sultan, coordinator for Muslim life, Office of Religious Life.
The award was established in 1997 to recognize members of the support and administrative staffs with five or more years of service whose dedication, excellent work and special efforts have contributed significantly to the success of their departments and the University. The recipients received a framed certificate and a $2,500 award, and their names are inscribed on a plaque displayed in the Office of Human Resources.
In a recent Zoom call with the recipients, President Eisgruber shared his sentiments:
“Every year, this selection process is very difficult because we have such extraordinary and deserving candidates, so to emerge from a pool like that you really need to be spectacular. You are a reminder to me of how fortunate Princeton University is to have the dedication of so many different talented people. Each of you exemplify what makes Princeton such a special place for all of us. I am so honored to recognize your achievements and thank you for what you do.”
The following comments are excerpted from nomination materials and other information about the 2020 PAA award recipients.
Joyce Bell began her career at Princeton in 1966 at just 18 years old. She started as a steno clerk in the Controller’s Office and progressed over the years through a variety of roles to executive assistant, Software and Application Services in the Office of Information Technology. Hired at a time when Princeton undergraduates were all male, “it’s people like Joyce that helped pave the way for woman and minorities in the workforce today,” said Eemaan Siddiqi, Director of OIT’s custom application development group.
Over her 55 years at Princeton, Joyce has done her job with uncompromising excellence and commitment to helping every person who crosses her path.
“Since her hire she has proven herself again and again to not only have the aptitude and drive to excel in her role, but also the personal demeanor and integrity to foster the strong, deep, and lasting relationships she’s built with Princeton colleagues from across campus throughout her career,” said Jay Dominick, vice president of information technology and chief information officer.
Connie Brown is department manager for Operations Research and Financial Engineering. She engages with 17 faculty, 8 staff, 65 Ph.D. students, and 217 undergraduate majors, plus numerous postdocs and visitors, all who rely on her knowledge and strength.
Department chair and Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering Ronnie Sircar calls Connie “the bedrock of the department who has built and inspired a dedicated staff, thanks to an indefatigable spirit that calls forth the best in herself and others,” while former department chair and the Paul M. Wythes ’55 Professor of Engineering and Finance René Carmona comments on Connie’s “uncanny ability to sense and understand the issues facing all the constituencies of the department.”
Connie’s door is always open, and she has been an inspiration to many. Lauren Coleman, assistant to the chair, writes “She is incredible at transforming regular moments into teaching moments, acting as a role model for what a leader and mentor should be.”
Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti writes, “When this chapter of Princeton’s history is written, it will no doubt be titled Robin Izzo. In her role as COVID-19, incident commander, she has done more than anyone else I know to coordinate Princeton’s response to the pandemic.”
As executive director of environmental health and safety, Robin’s work touches all parts of the campus community including workplace safety, occupational health, laboratory safety, emergency management, environmental programs, and general health and safety. Associate Dean for Research Karla Ewalt writes, “With an extraordinarily full plate of responsibility in Environmental Health and Safety, Robin has her eye towards new ideas and programs to strengthen health and safety by creating a positive, conscientious culture amongst the students, researchers, faculty, and staff at Princeton.”
Executive Vice President Treby Williams writes, “Robin’s leadership is extraordinary. At every moment, she demonstrates expertise, deep caring, a collaborative spirit, superb judgment, clear communication and optimism. Through H1N1, meningitis B, and now the COVID crisis, I have had the privilege of Robin’s partnership. Her creative thinking, scientific knowledge and ability to establish strong working relationships have enabled outcomes that others would have deemed impossible.”
As logistics coordinator for shipping, receiving and loading dock in the Physics department, Darryl is affectionately known by his colleagues as the “Mayor of Physics.” Darryl “carries out his job with enthusiasm, integrity, and thoughtfulness,” said Suzanne Staggs, the Henry DeWolf Smyth Professor of Physics. “He manages to set such a shining example of good character and civility, that not only am I in a better mood every time I interact with him, but I also attempt to model some of my own interpersonal interactions after his generous example.”
From helping to ship the smallest package, to the most expensive equipment, and most recently, stepping up to handle many projects during COVID, including assisting with receiving, sorting, packaging and shipping out PPE that was desperately needed throughout New Jersey. Jason Puchalla, senior professional specialist and lecturer, said: Darryl is always offering to go above and beyond… he never drops the ball on tasks and has gone out of his way to add suggestions that improve a procedure.”
Graduate student Sarah Marie Bruno said, “Darryl is beloved by the entire Jadwin community. He treats everyone with the most genuine kindness and compassion…Even in the midst of the uncertainty of the pandemic, he has been a force for positivity and resilience. Manager of Grants and Financial Operations Laura Deevey said, “knowing Darryl makes you a better person. I know it has made me a better one.”
In September of 2010, Hector began his professional journey at Princeton University as a retail food service worker for Campus Dining. Through the University’s Summer Transfer Program, which gives those that are part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the opportunity to transfer to other University positions, Hector was introduced to Office of Information Technology, where they knew they discovered a “keeper.” Eventually he landed a full-time position in the department and is currently technology specialist 2 for OIT’s Enterprise Infrastructure Services.
Jay Dominick, vice president of information technology and chief information officer, said: “Hector Mejia seized an opportunity to grow, worked hard to learn and succeed, and hasn’t stopped since. The University and OIT are the fortunate benefactors of his insatiable appetite to attain new skills, broaden his area of expertise, and assume even greater responsibilities.”
Hector is a trusted colleague across campus and is known for his integrity, trustworthiness, and strong work ethic. He is always “striving for perfection. Even when everything goes well, Hector is already looking ahead to the next time, planning improvements.”
The Princeton community was saddened by the death of Sohaib Sultan, who was named as a President’s Achievement Award recipient shortly before he passed away on April 16. Sohaib Sultan served for 12 years as coordinator for Muslim life at the Office of Religious Life.He was not only the first Muslim chaplain at Princeton, he was the second institutionally supported Muslim chaplain in the United States.
In his 12 years at Princeton, Sohaib had become a valued leader and lecturer on campus who had created innovative co-curricular opportunities for spiritual, intellectual, and interpersonal growth, both for members of the campus Muslim community and everyone else. He was responsible for inviting many Muslim artists, intellectuals, religious leaders, and important guests to campus and when faculty want to bring a Muslim voice to class, they called on Sohaib.
“Islamophobia is present in our national culture and also on campus, said Alison L. Boden, dean of religious life and the chapel. “Sohaib dealt gracefully in every instance with people’s ignorance, blame, and stereotypes.” Boden added: “he was a gifted religious leader, one who created a diverse, loving, large Muslim community on our campus, one that joyfully attracts people from around the region, and that gives people an anchor and a home.”
Griffin Management Award
Two staff members have been honored as recipients of the Donald Griffin ’23 Management Award: Mona Fixdal, associate director at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, and Carmelita Becnel, production stage manager, Lewis Center for the Arts.
The award was established to honor Griffin — a 1923 alumnus who served as the longtime secretary and general secretary of Princeton’s Alumni Council — through a gift from his son James, a 1955 alumnus; his granddaughter, Barbara Griffin Cole, a 1982 alumna; and her husband, Chris Cole, a 1981 alumnus. The award is given by the Office of Human Resources to recognize administrators who would like to develop their leadership and management skills. The winners receive a grant of up to $2,500 to participate in professional activities scheduled within the next year to provide new insights and perspectives, renew motivation and/or enhance skills applicable to their current responsibilities.
About the award recipients:
Mona Fixdal is the associate director at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning in the Office of the Dean of the College. In her nomination, Katherine Stanton, associate dean and director of the McGraw Center, noted Mona’s quiet way of leading with both heart and mind. Mona took on significantly more responsibility at the McGraw Center, leading the implementation project for Canvas, a new learning management system, and building a team of instructional designers. Mona’s team members describe her as a manager who offers them a careful balance of guidance, support, and autonomy.
The Canvas project requires Mona to work with departments and faculty across the University, building good will and trust. She positioned the transition to Canvas as an opportunity to highlight the learning management system, and she built a team with teaching as well as technical ability. Moving all classes to a remote format in March 2020 made the reliance on teaching technologies and the skills and support that Mona’s groups provide even more crucial.
By receiving the Griffin Award, Mona will be able to take the course “Managing Yourself and Leading Others” at the Harvard Extension School, which will further equip her to work with the instructional design team, the technical team in the Office of Information Technology, and all vendors to ensure that faculty and instructional staff can take full advantage of these tools in their classes.
Carmelita A. Becnel
Carmelita Becnel is the production stage manager for the Lewis Center for the Arts and was cited as the “linchpin” to all events, rehearsals, and productions in the nomination by Chloe Brown, production manager and Marion Friedman Young, executive director. Carmelita is also a central figure in helping students reach their artistic goals by creating rehearsal and audition rooms where students feel safe to take the emotional risks of performing and creating art together.
In her primary role of training and mentoring student stage managers, Carmelita serves as a safety net, encouraging and teaching students as they learn to support student thesis theater projects. Often, she is the first person students turn to for advice about how to handle a difficult situation in the rehearsal room or theater. As a supportive and motivating creative force, Carmelita enables all students to thrive.
Carmelita is at the forefront of racial justice initiatives and has educated herself through study and training on anti-racism, consent, intimacy, and related topics. The Griffin Award will enable Carmelita to continue being an advocate for vulnerable students and to lead conversations about safe rehearsals and brave spaces with the Princeton student body, faculty and staff. She will attend the 2021 Arts Administrators of Color Network Conference and will take training through “A One-on-One Stage Manager Theater Anti-Racist/Intimacy Workshop” with Anne James, Founder of Intimacy Directors of Color.