2006 President's Award for Outstanding Service Recipients

2006 recipients of UMN President's Award for Outstanding Service

2006 Recipients of the President's Award for Outstanding Service pictured with President Robert H. Bruininks.

Carol Chomsky

Carol ChomskyCarol Chomsky joined the Law School faculty in 1986. Throughout her tenure, she has demonstrated exceptional service to the Law School and the University community through her outstanding teaching, advocacy for access and inclusion of women and minorities within the institution, and a commitment to institutional improvement through service on governance and University-wide committees. In her role as coordinator of the Law School's Judicial Externship Program, she has matched hundreds of law students with state and federal judges. Carol was the co-developer of the Structured Study Group Program, which is described as one of the most effective educational tools for first-year law students. Through her work on the Bush Faculty Development Program Advisory Committee and the Council on Enhancing Student Learning, she has contributed to the development of resources for and mentoring of newer faculty. Her commitment to the interests of women and minorities, both in scholarship and service, are unparalleled. She has served as a faculty mentor to undergraduate students of color through the President's Distinguished Faculty Mentor Program and as coordinator of the University's Early Career Teaching Program. She has contributed significantly to the planning and development of the Commission on Women (now the Office for University Women), and has served on the Senate Committee on Equity, Access, and Diversity, and most recently was elected chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee. She has also served on numerous professional organizations locally and nationally, including the Society of American Law Teachers, Association of American Law Schools, and the American Society for Legal History.

Betty Jo Johnson

Betty Jo JohnsonBetty Jo Johnson, Executive Administrative Specialist in the College of Education an Human Development's Development and Alumni Relations Office, has worked at the University for almost thirty years. During her tenure, she has worked tirelessly to promote civil service/bargaining unit employee excellence. Described as an activist and leader, she worked as an official union steward, advising employees of their rights under the bargaining unit contract. She has played a significant role in the planning and organization of the Annual Staff Day for Civil Service/Bargaining Unit employees and the years of service events. She has also served as a member and then co-director of the Civil Service/Bargaining Unit Initiative, an initiative created to improve the workplace climate for women. She is truly a champion for University staff. Not only is she is an outstanding community builder among her peers but within her college as well. Each year she is instrumental in planning the college's recognition event, which brings staff from various offices together on a social basis. In addition, she has been an active volunteer for freshman convocation and organizing blood drives. Betty Jo has contributed to the life of faculty, staff, and students in many ways. One person wrote, "She is an exceptional member of the University of Minnesota community, and a shining example of how one person can really make a difference."

Dennis Jones

Dennis JonesDennis Jones is a teaching specialist in the Department of American Indian Studies who works tirelessly to preserve Ojibwe and Dakota, the state's two indigenous languages and cultures. He is considered to be the single most important factor in the growth of the language program at the University of Minnesota and in the rebirth of the Ojibwe language across the region. He created an Ojibwe language immersion program in Canada, his home country. Approximately six times a year, University students and community members participate in week-long immersion camps. It is because of him that former students now run programs of their own throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. He is also credited with the creation and implementation of the "language table" concept, which is designed to bring together a group of people committed to speaking a native language over a shared meal on a weekly basis. Dennis has been recognized by the Hennepin County Community Health Department for being a positive role model, from the City of Minneapolis for his outstanding contributions in the area of language and culture, and from the Minnesota Indian Education Association for teaching excellence. "Through his exceptional level of service on and off campus, Dennis has become an important ambassador for the University of Minnesota," one person wrote.

Mary Jo Kane

Mary Jo KaneMary Jo Kane, faculty member in the School of Kinesiology in the College of Education and Human Development and the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, joined the University of Minnesota faculty in 1989. She is an internationally recognized scholar and considered one of the nation's experts on the social and political implications of Title IX. Described as someone who always puts the University first, she has contributed enormously through her leadership and service over the tenures of three University presidents. As a member of the Commission on Women (now Office for University Women), she worked tirelessly to improve the campus climate for women. She played a significant role in the development of new University-wide policies and procedures designed to ensure academic integrity throughout the Athletic Department, which now serves as a nationwide model for academic reform in intercollegiate athletics. She played a pivotal role in the successful initiative to merge the Men's and Women's Athletics departments. And, most recently, she played a key leadership role in the Strategic Positioning Initiative. She has served on numerous governance and other important University committees, including the Advisory Committee on Athletics, vice chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee, and co-chair of the President's inaugural event. This fall she will serve as vice chair of the University Senate. One person wrote, "Anyone who knows Professor Kane is immediately struck by her passion and energy, as well as her enthusiasm and love for the University of Minnesota. Whether she is chairing a search committee, addressing an international delegation, or appearing on National Public Radio as a world-renowned academic scholar, she represents the highest ideal of service to the University community and beyond."

Jenny Meslow

Jenny MeslowJenny Meslow is the director for the Center for Health Interprofessional Programs. She has dedicated more than twenty-five years of service to the University's Academic Health Center. Throughout her service, she has mentored countless students in the development of their leadership skills. She was instrumental in the creation of CLARION, a student-led organization focused on developing future leaders to improve quality and patient safety in healthcare. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement has endorsed the program as one of the most promising new initiatives in healthcare education. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Students Committee on Bioethics. One student wrote, "Amongst the abundance of greatness at the University of Minnesota, Jenny Meslow truly stands alone. Her vision is clear, her resolve is without question. Jenny has helped me and many others understand what our professions encompass and identify our role in the world of healthcare." Her dedication to students and their professional development outside of the classroom is described as "unsurpassed." Her commitment to the University and the Academic Health Center is demonstrated through her service. She served as chair of the Fairview University Medical Center Turtle Derby for ten years. The Derby is a fundraiser to support children's services at the hospital. Since 2004 she has served as chair for the University's Relay for Life. And, in 2001, she was selected as one of the 25 members of the inaugural class of the University of Minnesota President's Emerging Leaders Program.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie NelsonDebbie Nelson is the Special Assistant to the Associate Dean and Director of Curriculum Development in the Law School. She is described as someone who embodies institutional wisdom, and on a daily basis provides exceptional service to all members of the community. Her attitude and commitment to the University serves as a model to others. For more than three decades she has demonstrated exceptional dedication and commitment to the faculty and the students. She has helped hundreds of faculty teach better, and thousands of attorneys succeed in school. She is instrumental in fostering a sense of community at the Law School and beyond. Even though it is not in her job description, she plans the retirement parties, pot-lucks, and organizes care packages to members of extended Law School family serving in Iraq. In addition, she is active in her community. The dean wrote, "Debbie has provided the very best service and support to the entire Law School community. Her attitude of helpfulness, inclusion, and respect for every single member is the foundation for the positive law school experience we provide for our students. Her service is nothing short of exceptional."

Lou Pignolet

Lou PignoletLou Pignolet, Institute of Technology Distinguished Professor, has been a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry for thirty-six years. Described as an innovator, a mentor, and a model citizen, Professor Pignolet has made outstanding contributions to teaching, research, and service. He has made a notable impact on science education in the state. In the 1970's, he created the Lando Summer Research Program, which brought sophomores and juniors from other institutions to spend a summer doing research at the University of Minnesota. He also was responsible for a summer program in chemistry created for Native American junior high school students and the Chemical Outreach Program, a program in which undergraduates in chemistry and related fields demonstrate chemical experiments to classrooms, scout troops, and family events. "Chem Day," another initiative he created, attracted more than 600 high school students and teachers annually. Not only have these programs brought publicity to the University, but have also taught kids that science is fun and interesting. He has served on numerous committees at the department, college, and University level, including the Graduate School Research Advisory Committee, the Special Committee on K-12 Education, the Student Judicial Affairs Committee, and the President's Distinguished Faculty Mentor Program. He is the recipient of several awards and recognition such as the Morse-Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education and has been named eight times "Best Chemistry Professor of the Year" by the IT Student Organization. One person wrote, "Lou Pignolet has cheerfully and steadily carried out heavy service responsibilities for over a period of decades, while at the same time exhibiting the highest degree of excellence in his teaching and mentoring of both undergraduate and graduate students."

Charles Patterson

Charles PattersonCharles Patterson has been a Senior Laborer in Landcare since 2001. He contributes significantly by keeping the campus clean and safe throughout the year. Because of his dedication, thousands of people who are on campus or visiting each day are able to enjoy the physical beauty of the campus. His positive attitude and commitment to excellence are known across campus. He was instrumental in the successful clean up of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and the U Light Up the Night block party in Dinkytown. His contributions to the clean up of these areas helped in forging better relationships between neighbors and the University. He epitomizes the definition of customer service. One person wrote, "As I look at the reports from the strategic positioning culture task force, I think of Charles. Culture in not a thing. It is the manifestation of actions and behaviors that are in turn driven by shared aspirations, expectations, values, systems, and programs. It characterizes institutions but is embodied by individuals. It means different things to different people. It can be an inspiration or an excuse. It can be embraced or an afterthought." Charles represents University culture at its best. He is an inspiration and embraces the positive aspects of work. Charles is doing his part toward making us a top notch University.

Sharyn Schelske

Sharyn SchelskeSharyn Schelske is the director of the McNair Scholars Program in General College. For more than thirty years she has been dedicated to helping young people who are generally low-income, first-generation students, and students of color, realize their educational goals. She has been the creator and leader of several programs that mentor and serve TRIO-eligible young people (TRIO is a federally funded program designed to help low-income Americans enter college and graduate school). Because of her exemplary work, the University of Minnesota TRIO program is considered a national model. She served on the Minnesota TRIO board for twenty-five years and for twenty years as co-chair of the Legislation and Education Committee. As the first co-chair of the ten-state MAEOPP Regional Leadership Retreat, she pioneered the development of the current Emerging Leaders Institute. Because of her extraordinary leadership, the University of Minnesota was one of the first ten institutional members of the Council for Opportunity in Education. She served on the Government Relations Committee of the Council for eight years, and as part of a team, designed and evaluated the National McNair Evaluation. The interim dean of General College wrote, "Sharyn's work touches communities, young people from high school through college, research labs, and faculty research groups. She is the real thing, serving the University, the neighboring communities, and our collective well-being. I know that my career would not have been as productive as it has been without her intervention at a critical moment. In saying that, I think I speak as would thousands of others."

Thomas K. Soulen

Thomas K. SoulenThomas K. Soulen, Emeritus Associate Professor of Plant Biology, served the University of Minnesota for thirty-eight years. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated his commitment to excellence in his service as teacher, advisor, and mentor to students and a role model to his fellow faculty. He has received the Horace T. Morse Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education and the CBS Dagley/Kirkwood Undergraduate Education Award. He also received the John Tate Award for excellence in undergraduate advising. His leadership in outreach to K12 teachers and their students has been exemplary. For more than fourteen years he played a pivotal role in providing opportunities and promoting science in the classroom. His project "Investigative Plant Biology for Elementary Teachers," became a model in higher education for science projects funded through the federal grant program. He has served on many University, college, and department committees, including the University Senate, the Bush Excellence in Teaching Program, the Senate Committee on Student Affairs, and the All-University Honors Committee, to name a few. His colleague wrote, "Dr. Tom Soulen has had an exemplary career as a scientific educator, dedicated to excellence in teaching at the University and at Minnesota public schools. His service has been characterized not only by a drive to excellence, but also with a sense of modesty and a generous spirit. His activities have had a long-term impact on the quality of teaching and advising at the University of Minnesota and on many individuals."

Theodore R. Thompson

Theodore R. ThompsonTheodore R. Thompson is a Professor of Pediatrics and associate head for Education and Community Programs in the Department of Pediatrics. He currently serves as co-medical director for the Children's Center at Fairview-University Medical Center and is the medical director of Outreach for University of Minnesota Physicians. He joined the Medical School faculty in 1969 and since then has been committed to excellence in clinical care, outreach, and education. He has devoted his life to improving access to quality healthcare locally and state-wide. He is dedicated to advising and mentoring students as well as colleagues at the University of Minnesota and at other institutions. He spearheaded the establishment of several outreach programs throughout the state and played a key role in the development of health care delivery in rural Minnesota. He was also instrumental in developing the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the University of Minnesota. During the Fairview merger, he was the consummate bridge builder and under his leadership the quality of clinical education was improved significantly. He has served on countless University, college, and department committees, in addition to many professional organizations. A colleague wrote, "As a board member and officer of University of Minnesota Physicians, and as medical director and now, chief of staff elect of the Medical Center, Ted has been recognized and valued as a leader that serves tirelessly in his commitment to collaboration and quality. Patients come first to Ted - always have and always will. He has recognized that effective teams (in the newborn intensive care unit and in the boardroom) are the keys to achieving the best for patients. He has spent his most impressive career making teams happen and then moving them to excellence."

Gary Wilson

Gary WilsonGary Wilson, head coach, Women's Cross Country and Track & Field, has dedicated the past twenty years to educating, motivating, and mentoring student-athletes. He is described as being an outstanding example of service to all who know him, someone who instills a true sense of community and who sets a positive example of friendship not only for his team, but also his colleagues. His standards for his student-athletes are high, both in the classroom and competitively. For more than ten years, his teams' cumulative GPA has been over 3.0. Last year, fifty of sixty-five student-athletes achieved a GPA over 3.0. Competitively, he has guided his teams to scoring performances at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in thirteen of his twenty seasons. This spring his team won its first-ever Big Ten Outdoor Championship in his tenure. He leads by example and educates his team on the importance of giving back. He has led several service initiatives with his team, including reading to school children, visiting hospitals and nursing homes, and helping with activities to raise funds for hurricane victims. When a colleague and friend was diagnosed with cancer, Coach Wilson cared for him and opened up his home to him when he could no longer live alone. During this time, he organized gatherings at his home for friends of Jack, current and former student-athletes and staff so they could say goodbye. He called these gatherings "Tuesdays with Jack." "Gary Wilson lives his values," one person wrote, "he puts his heart into everything he does." He has been recognized often for his coaching success, including the induction into the prestigious Drake Relay Coaches Hall of Fame, president of the Women's Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association, and coaching the U.S. junior team at the 1993 World Cross Country Championships. He also was instrumental in the establishment of the Roy Griak Invitational, the Gopher's annual cross country event that has grown into one of the largest single-day cross country meets in the nation. Most recently, he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association 2006 Midwest District Coach of the Year.