Engineering, TEES honor faculty and staff for excellence, safety and years of service

December 13, 2012
| By: Aubrey Bloom

Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering and director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), recognized faculty and staff at Texas A&M Engineering's annual holiday reception Dec. 6 on campus.

Honored with the Dean's Staff Achievement Awards were Helen Hastings, Master of Industrial Distribution graduate program specialist in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution; Kaye Matejka, business administrator in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution and the Thomas and Joan Read Center for Distribution Research; Tammy Persky, program assistant in the TEES Energy Systems Laboratory; Austin Riddle, TEES research engineering associate in the Texas Center for Applied Technology; Barbara Slusher, business associate I in the Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Kathy Waskom, engineering organizational services manager in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Hastings is described as the "centralizing and harmonizing force" in her department, where she is the lone support staff for a large, demanding distance education program. Hastings' supervisor says the program has grown rapidly because of her great quality of work. From planning to managing admissions to marketing the program, her leadership role has made a real impact and her personal touch is key to success. For example, after planning a huge alumni reception, the event had to be cancelled the evening before due to heavy rain. She stayed late, personally calling all the alumni. Email would've been easier, but alumni were impressed that she cared enough to reach out and make sure they got they got the cancellation message.

Matjeka has a long history of service to Texas A&M Engineering. For more than 30 years, she has handled budgets, human resources, faculty tenure and promotion packages, accreditation, faculty and staff awards and administrative support to the department head and administrative team. Praised for her professionalism, she is an advocate for her coworkers and has encouraged them to advance their careers through certifications and professional organizations. In 2010, the staff presented her with a Boss of the Year award. Says a coworker, "A leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. No one embodies this ideal more than she does."

Persky is praised for quickly transforming the work environment with "sparkling professionalism and efficiency." Not only does she handle staff travel, expenses, student workers, assisting with project proposals and reports, this "go-to" person is also the dedicated administrative assistant to the associate director of the lab. Known for stepping up when needed, she took on an enormous responsibility as coordinator for a key conference and learned on the job how to master the many aspects of the project. It required a lot of extra time, but the event was a huge success. Her coworkers praised her for being a "true professional of the highest standards with a great attitude and dedicated to customer service."

Riddle has served TEES for 11 years and in that time, established himself as a consummate professional who's described as an "excellent problem solver, loyal and willing to take on any task, large or small." His primary focus is software development and the development of user interfaces. Willing to mentor new team members and open to the ideas of others, he is known for balancing and managing multiple tasks and recently has stepped forward to help with customer engagement. Says his supervisor: "He promotes positive morale, is always upbeat and displays a can-do attitude. He believes in his work and he inspires others to be their very best."

Thanks to her values of hard work, dedication to excellence, Slusher is credited by her supervisor for making her department function "infinitely more smoothly." She has the widest range of work responsibilities of all staff members: managing the front office, handling teaching and research supply orders, scheduling meetings and the first to volunteer to assist anyone with anything. She makes a point to learn as much as she can about the department so that she's ready to jump in wherever she's needed. Coworkers say she infuses a spirit of service and teamwork into the department. Says one coworker: "It's extremely uplifting to work with someone who always has such a positive outlook."

Waskom makes it her personal responsibility to ensure her department put its best foot forward. An exceptional problem solver and relationship builder, her supervisor says she leads by example and doesn't hesitate to take on the tough jobs. After the sudden passing of a key staff member, she stepped up and reorganized staff duties and developed efficient processes to cover the tasks. To help support a stronger working relationship with the advising staff, she now works two days a week in another building. Says a faculty member, "She's never grumpy or short with people and works hard to help in any way, which promotes positive morale in the office."

Joel James, client/server system administrator in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, received the Safety Excellence Award, which recognizes outstanding safety in the classroom, workplace and engineering labs. James is said to wear many hats in his department and safety is just one of many where he excels. He led the effort to restructure processes for handling chemical waste in his department. Last spring, a fire occurred outside the building and he put himself between students and the fire until help arrived and after the incident, placed additional fire extinguishers around the area. His supervisor said James' respectful and friendly demeanor with faculty, staff and students is appreciated, saying, "Nobody likes to be the 'bad cop,' pointing out safety concerns, but he has a special talent of helping others realize safety compliance is important."

Banks also recognized faculty and staff for their years of service to the college and/or TEES. Celebrating five decades of employment with Texas A&M was Lee Lowery from the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering. Also from civil engineering, R.E. Bartoskewitz was honored for 45 years of service and Harry Jones was recognized for his 40 years. (Pictured: Lowery, Bartoskewitz and Jones)

Recognized for 35 years of service were:

  • Dennis Allen, industrial and systems engineering
  • Charles Glover, chemical engineering
  • Thomas Lalk and Gerald Morrison; mechanical engineering
  • Thomas Pollock, aerospace engineering
  • Elizabeth Robbins, petroleum engineering

Recognized for 30 years of service were:

  • Kalyan Annamalai, mechanical engineering
  • Maria Barrufet, petroleum engineering
  • Harvey Hawkins and Mary Urbanovsky, civil engineering
  • Vikram Kinra, aerospace engineering
  • Deborah Kucera, Fiscal Office
  • Sai Lau, mechanical engineering
  • Randy Marek, chemical engineering
  • Judy Meeks, industrial and systems engineering
  • Randy Shirley, Engineering Budgets and Payroll
  • Exa York, donor relations

Recognized for 25 years of service were:

  • Janice Allen, Carl Benner, Mladen Kezunovic and Krzystztov Michalski, electrical and computer engineering
  • Tina Broughton and Walter Daugherity, computer science and engineering
  • Sherry Escalante, office of the dean
  • Kay Ison, Risk and Compliance;
  • Cesar Malave, industrial and systems engineering
  • Cheryl Malone, Information Systems
  • Paul Nelson, nuclear engineering
  • Karen Pilant, Strategic Research Development
  • Jeff Polasek, chemical engineering
  • From mechanical engineering: Taher Schobeiri and Dori Wilson
  • Rudy Schultz, petroleum engineering
  • Jun Zhang, civil engineering

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