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The President’s Staff Awards celebrate the accomplishments of staff members across the University.

The annual President’s Staff Awards—the Meliora Award, Lamar Riley Murphy Leadership Award, Witmer Award for Distinguished Service, the Staff Community Service Award, and the new President’s Spotlight Award—recognize employees whose innovative leadership, dedication, and sustained contributions have had a positive impact on the University of Rochester and the community.

The 2023 recipients will be honored at a June 7 reception in Helen Wood Hall. Commemorative plaques on the River Campus and at the Medical Center will also recognize the winners.

Meliora Award

The Meliora Award recognizes staff members whose work performance and dedication during the preceding few years exemplify the University’s motto, Meliora.

Eitan Freedenberg
Rochester Education Justice Initiative

portrait of Eitan Freedenberg.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Eitan Freedenberg ’20 (PhD), associate director of the Rochester Education Justice Initiative (REJI), is being recognized for his pioneering work for the University-affiliated initiative that provides higher education opportunities for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.

He has been instrumental in making the program a success, securing grants, developing relationships, and managing the complex logistics of working with both the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and incarcerated students.

Freedenberg oversees day-to-day operations and strategic planning for REJI’s college programs at Attica, Groveland, and Wyoming correctional facilities and works on faculty recruitment, training, and curriculum development. He also serves as REJI students’ primary academic advisor.

Recently, Freedenberg has worked with colleagues across the University and the state to enroll REJI’s initial cohort of Rochester bachelor of arts students at Attica this fall.

“None of what REJI has thus far accomplished would have been possible without Eitan’s unparalleled excellence or the steely resoluteness of his commitment to our students,” writes REJI director Joshua Dubler, an associate professor of religion and classics, in his nomination letter.

Colleagues describe Freedenberg as a competent, considerate, and capable leader who balances the details with the big picture.

In a letter supporting Freedenberg’s nomination, Associate Professor of Anthropology Kristin Doughty writes: “He is absolutely the center of REJI’s day-to-day operations, even as, on campus, he is typically behind the scenes, and accordingly undervalued. I hope that this award will serve as an opportunity to render visible his brilliant and unique contributions to the program, and to the University of Rochester.”

Harvey Gamble
Environmental Services, Strong Memorial Hospital

portrait of Harvey Gamble.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Harvey Gamble, director of environmental services at Strong Memorial Hospital, is being celebrated for his leadership and dedication to the staff in his department, emphasizing the key role they play in the delivery of safe patient care.

Colleagues highlight Gamble’s positivity and his willingness to hear concerns and suggestions with empathy and respect. “Mr. Gamble’s open-door policy is real and his advice is meaningful,” says Andre Scantlebury, an operations manager at Strong. “Harvey Gamble believes in his team and the work we do.”

Several letters of support for the award call attention to Gamble’s leadership at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when fears and uncertainty ran high. When masking was introduced as a protective measure, he initiated the “Over the Nose It Goes” campaign to inform staff and visitors about the proper use of masks.

“Harvey’s calm, trusted demeanor, his compassion for the staff, and his demonstrated concern for their safety and well-being contributed to reassuring the staff that they would be protected,” writes Kathleen Miller, senior director of census management.

Rosemarie Kolker
Quality Improvement, Strong Memorial Hospital

portrait of Rosemarie Kolker.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Rosemarie Kolker is praised for her consistent display of the MELIORA values of equity, leadership, integrity, openness, respect, and accountability.

Kolker, an associate quality officer, leads the quality analysis team in the Office of Clinical Practice Evaluation, which provides clinical data to improve care, ensuring compliance with state and federal mandates, and maximizing payments for Medicare patients. The quality analysis team Kolker leads is well known for its integrity, wisdom, and timeliness in meeting the needs of those seeking to understand and promote the hospital’s performance.

She has successfully coordinated data collection work and navigated audits while leading efforts to accurately report on measures and keeping hospital leadership apprised of performance. She has also played a key role in meeting COVID-19 data reporting requirements and providing a real-time understanding of the clinical strain to hospital leadership.

“Not only does she effectively display higher-order analytical, evaluation, problem-solving, and communication skills but she takes the time to ensure others do as well,” writes Rachel Ingham, an analyst/programmer at Strong, in a letter supporting Kolker’s nomination.

Assistant Quality Officer Mark Ott adds: “Her quiet leadership, placing team over self, is evident in everything she does.”

Witmer Award for Distinguished Service

The Witmer Award is presented to staff members whose careers have been characterized by outstanding and sustained contributions to the University.

Jim Alkins
Senior laboratory engineer and Fabrication Shop manager, Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

portrait of Jim Alkins.
University of Rochester photo/ J. Adam Fenster

Jim Alkins is a natural teacher who is sought after for his knowledge, mentorship, and ability to get things done.

Alkins joined the University in 2015, after 33 years with the Eastman Kodak Company. As a senior laboratory engineer and manager of the Fabrication Shop in Rettner Hall, Alkins has mentored hundreds of students in all skill levels—through the classes he teaches and by mentoring and helping student organizations such as Solar Splash, UR Makers, the Robotics Club, and Baja SAE.

Alkins teaches an introductory course on the safe and effective use of basic machine tools, including lathes, mills, band saws, and drill presses.

“Walking into a machine shop can be quite intimidating for many students, especially those who have never worked with tools before, but Jim is able to set them at ease and teach them the skills they need to be confident in their fabrication abilities,” write Hajim School Dean Wendi Heinzelman, Associate Dean Paul Funkenbusch, and Assistant Dean Alvin Lomibao in their nomination letter.

Alkins also helps students discover their passions and provides a space for students to relax and de-stress. He is a guide and mentor who has made an enormous positive impact on students.

“Every year a multitude of students seek out Jim prior to Commencement to thank him for his help and advice,” writes James Zavislan, a professor at the Institute of Optics and manager of River Campus Fabrication Facilities, in a letter supporting Alkins’ nomination. “Alumni visit him at Meliora Weekend. Many share that they use him as a model to ‘pay it forward.’”

Berthenia Coltrane
Help Desk Manager, University IT

portrait of Berthenia Coltraine.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Berthenia Coltrane’s decades of caring leadership and service have had a positive impact on students and the University as a whole.

As manager of the IT Center in Rush Rhees Library, Coltrane hires, trains, and mentors many students, some of whom have gone on to become successful IT professionals. Additionally, Coltrane leads University IT’s high school mentorship program, through which she shares her skills and experience with the next generation.

Coltrane has also served as a workshop instructor for the Office of Minority Student AffairsEarly Connection Opportunity program, which helps to prepare students to engage in the University’s academic, social, and cultural opportunities. Her workshop introduces students to the University’s computing facilities, email, and resources that they can draw on throughout their years at Rochester.

Norman Burnett, assistant dean and director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs, says Coltrane has been enthusiastic about contributing to the success of the ECO program. “She is a fine role model who leads by example, has the ability to inspire others, and has consistently proven herself as a valuable resource to our department and the large number of students we serve,” he writes in a letter supporting Coltrane’s nomination. “In fact, students consistently inform me that they enjoy interacting with Berthenia because she is a great listener, motivator, and allows them to play an active role in solving their personal problems and technical concerns.”

Lisa Brown, an assistant director of University IT, says Coltrane “goes the extra mile” with everyone she works with. “She embraces the Meliora values of leadership, integrity, respect, and accountability,” Brown writes in a letter supporting Coltrane’s nomination. “She sets the standard for how we treat each other to ensure our community is welcoming to all and is a place where everyone can thrive.”

David VanWey
HR/Benefits Representative and Lead Analyst/Programmer, Laboratory for Laser Energetics

portrait of David VanWey.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

David VanWey brings a positive attitude and decades of knowledge to his role at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), making him a valued colleague and friend to many across the University.

VanWey was hired in 1991 to modernize the administrative functions of LLE. During that time, he developed or improved numerous processes for human resource management, accounting, purchasing, property, and inventory, among other areas. VanWey earned a master’s degree in information systems management from the Simon Business School in 1994, which gave him a new outlook in his role. In order to better understand the needs of the lab, he also trained with skilled technicians and engineers to qualify as a power conditioning operator.

Affectionately known as “Laser Dave,” VanWey is well-respected among his peers and is often asked to join working groups or advisory committees to help ensure proper design and implementation of new University systems.

“David welcomes questions and will never turn down an opportunity to provide insight on his view of effective, efficient, and productive operations,” writes Steve Stagnitto, administrative division director and controller at LLE, in a nomination letter. “Even more illuminating is his ability to listen to others and adapt if he recognizes a better solution or that change is warranted.”

As LLE’s needs evolved, VanWey has taken on more HR-centric functions. Colleagues say he is known for his compassion, empathy, and willingness to help employees navigate all aspects of the University’s benefits and HR policies and procedures.

“He always has his door open and consistently responds with a polite smile and positive attitude to provide exceptional service to over 400 employees, students, and visitors,” writes Steven Loucks, senior advisor to the LLE director, in a letter supporting VanWey’s nomination.

Lamar Riley Murphy Leadership Award

The Murphy Award recognizes an individual who is an exemplary role model who demonstrates innovative and proactive leadership.

Christine Brower
IT Associate Director, Research Product Management
Enterprise Data and Analytics, Information Systems Division

portrait of Christine Brower.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Christine Brower is a skilled organizer and communicator, proactive problem-solver, and a thoughtful and compassionate leader who approaches her work with professionalism, positivity, humility, and empathy.

As an associate director focusing on research product management, she leads a team that provides their partners in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute with the clinical data Medical Center investigators need to conduct their research. She skillfully implements new systems, manages workflows efficiently, and seeks proactive solutions to issues her team encounters.

Brower is also a mentor, a liaison to leadership, and a supervisor who supports her team’s personal and professional development. She also participates in department committees for diversity and inclusion, wellness, and employee recognition.

“She holds weekly 1:1 meetings with her staff, asking questions about any concerns we have as well as taking a genuine interest in our interests and lives outside of work,” writes Elizabeth Peacock, an analyst/programmer lead for the Enterprise Data and Analytics Research Data Warehouse, in her nomination letter. “In all interactions and communications, Chris is respectful and inclusive.”

Todd Reynolds, an analyst/programmer lead for the Enterprise Data and Analytics Research Data Warehouse, says Brower models what an exemplary employee should be. In a letter supporting Brower’s nomination, he writes: “She is consistently pushing herself to a higher standard and uses this to coordinate different teams to work toward common goals. She is supportive to everybody she works with, selfless, self-driven.”

Staff Community Service Award

The Staff Community Service Award honors a nonmanagement staff member whose commitment best exemplifies service to the University and the Greater Rochester community.

Clara Washington
Administrative Assistant, UR Medicine Quality Institute

portrait of Clara Washington.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Clara Washington is being honored with the Staff Community Service Award for her outstanding contributions to several organizations, including AutismUp, the Golisano Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and the Golisano Autism Center.

Since 2012, Washington has been a devoted volunteer for the Golisano NICU Parent 2 Parent program. Tricia White, Golisano NICU parent volunteer coordinator, says Washington’s perspective as a parent whose child was in the NICU is invaluable: “Her dedication, compassion, warm heart, and her own journey help families know they are not alone,” White writes in a letter supporting Washington’s nomination.

Washington also volunteers with the Gastrostomy Tube (G-tube) Buddy program. Her experience as a parent with a child requiring a G-tube was instrumental in the designing of the peer mentor program that aims to provide additional support for children with feeding tubes and their caregivers.

As proud parent of a child with autism, Washington is an advocate for services and support for the autism community. She is “a passionate advocate with a genuine respect for families, and her firm belief that every person deserves opportunities to be successful, has created a strong foundation for many,” writes Beth Ciardi, director of the Golisano Autism Center, in a letter supporting Washington’s nomination. “Her vested personal interest in supporting others has become a lifeline for many as they navigate the unfamiliar and overwhelming in their lives.”

Washington is a parent member of AutismUp, where she has attended support events and shared supportive, nonjudgmental information with other families raising a child with autism. She has given her time to support several fundraisers and she recently joined the organization’s board of directors, where she has already provided valuable input, guidance, and perspective that is helping shape the goals of AutismUp.

Washington has also contributed her time and talents to other community programs such as the Italian American Coalition for Kids, Open Door Mission, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

President’s Spotlight Award

Created in 2023, the award recognizes an individual who has spontaneously gone above and beyond in an exceptional act of kindness or service to the University or the Greater Rochester community.

Michael Chudyk
Groundskeeper, Support Operations, Facilities and Services

portrait of Michael Chudyk.
University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Michael Chudyk is being honored for his exceptionally heroic and selfless act of service to our community.

On April 5, Chudyk jumped into the Genesee River after seeing a man fighting for his life in its freezing waters near Wallis Hall on the River Campus. He dropped his tools, took off his shoes, and swam to the man, who was calling for help from the water. After traveling nearly 60 yards in the fast-moving current, Chudyk was able to bring the man to shore safely.

Numerous staff and bystanders including Neftali Baez Rosado, the father of a prospective student who was visiting for a campus tour, worked together on the riverbank in front of Wallis Hall to assist the man, who had reportedly fallen in the river near Scottsville Road. Also assisting in the rescue effort were University Health Service nurse practitioner Heather Pero; University Facilities staffers Larry Steele, DeJuan Carroll, and Noah Patterson; and Department of Public Safety Officer Louis DiPrima.

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