NIU Operating Staff Awards winners announced

The four members of NIU’s Operating Staff chosen to receive this year’s Outstanding Service Award are each described by colleagues as employees who go above and beyond in ways big and small to not just do their jobs, but to make the university and the community a better place. Combined, they have more than 84 years of experience at NIU.

The recipients are Nancy Brown, building services worker, Building Services; Jay Monteiro, assistant to the dean for Marketing, Communications and Events, Department of Student Affairs; Leslie Pergament-Nenia, office support associate, Department of Curriculum and Instruction; and Lynn Retherford, coordinator of teacher certification, School of Music.

About 1,530 employees make up the Civil Service staff. Each year, four are selected by a committee of their peers to receive the award of plaques and $1,500. They will be honored at luncheon on Tuesday, May 9, in the Ellington Ballroom in the Holmes Student Center.

Here is a closer look at the honorees:

Nancy Brown, Building Services

Nancy Brown

The hallways of Swen Parson Hall are brighter in every way because of Nancy Brown. The building services worker is known not only for her dedicated service and unmatched work ethic, but also for her signature smile and the caring, warm way she greets and encourages everyone she comes across.

In spite of her strict schedule and increasing workload, she makes time to serve the university and the community as well. She is parliamentarian of the Operating Staff Council, recently chaired the Staff Fest committee and is on the Presidential Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

Brown’s service work in the community is truly remarkable. She has served as the youth director for the United Church of Sandwich for 10 years, has volunteered for Hesed House, Open Door, Feed’em Soup, Safe Passage, Hope Haven and plans annual Habitat for Humanity week-long mission trips. She has also volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for seven years. In addition, she serves as finance commissioner for the village of Leland. Her list of community service commitments goes on.

“In her day-to-day job as a building service worker in Swen Parson Hall, Nancy takes great pride in being the positive role model for the students and her co-workers,” said Andy Small, one of her nominators. “She keeps in contact with a number of her students — even after they graduate — and makes sure they have what they need while they are here.”

Small said all of Brown’s co-workers have stories about the many ways she has helped them or students in the College of Law.

“It is often said that the most influential person in a student’s life is a building services worker,” Small said. “They are there on a daily basis to lend a hand, to help celebrate life’s victories and bring compassion and understanding to tragedies. Nancy is that person, and she prides herself on being that person.”

Jay Monteiro, College of Visual & Performing Arts

Jay Monteiro

It would be hard to find an employee more connected, service-oriented or dedicated than Jay Monteiro. During his more than 19 years of employment at NIU, Monteiro’s work has touched nearly every area of the university, and colleagues say NIU is better off because of his dedication.

When describing Monteiro’s service at NIU, one nominator described Monteiro as a respected supervisor, colleague, mentor and friend to “literally hundreds of NIU professionals.” Most of his employment at NIU has been in roles connected to alumni relations and human resources.

Monteiro recently took on a new role at NIU, as Assistant to the Dean for Marketing, Affairs and Events in the College of Visual & Performing Arts, but he was nominated by his colleagues during his time in his role as Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management for Human Resources. In that role, he oversaw human resource functions for 22 departments. His duties included serving as a liaison with the university’s human resources department, and representing the division in a long list of labor related projects and tasks.

“In Jay’s work within NIU, he consistently demonstrates effectiveness that is above and beyond expectations,” said nominator Amy Franklin, Assistant to the Vice President. “His caring presence, knowledge and experience provide employees with the guidance, support and direction necessary.”

In the community, Monteiro is a highly accomplished musician who plays with local ensembles, for the Kishwaukee Area Concert Band and Jazz in Progress. He is also involved with the DeKalb Municipal Band, Stagecoach Players, Waterman Community Choir and Celebration Chorale. Monteiro also works as a freelance florist and has decorated the grand staircase in Altgeld Hall for the holidays for the last decade.

Leslie Pergament-Nenia, Curriculum and Instruction

Leslie Pergament-Nenia

For the past five years, Leslie Pergament-Nenia has worked as the office support specialist for the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic in the NIU College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. In this role and in various others where she has served at NIU during her more than 28 years of employment, colleagues say she has earned a reputation for going above and beyond.

As the only full-time employee of the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic, Pergament-Nenia has established herself as an ambassador of the clinic, a proactive leader and a quick study. She is impressively able to stay on top of and communicate the status of projects, challenges and celebrations for all of the clinic’s part-time staff. She is willing to step in and volunteer as a tutor, volunteer coordinator and in a variety of roles outside of her normal job description. She serves as a positive, hard-working and well-loved liaison between the clinic, university and community.

Many of the clinic’s events take place at night or on the weekends, and Pergament-Nenia has volunteered her time in a variety of roles, including as a photographer, greeter, story reader and exhibitor.

“Leslie’s fun spirit is contagious and touches all who call or come to the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic and its events,” said Mary Keil, a reading specialist who works with the clinic.

Pergament-Nenia has given much to her community over the years as well, especially through her volunteering and leadership for the local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Sometimes she even gives of herself quite literally: Over the years, she has donated 10 gallons of blood to the Heartland Blood Bank of DeKalb.

Lynn Retherford, School of Music

Lynn Retherford

Colleagues describe Lynn Retherford as persistent and uncompromising in advocating for students in the School of Music and across the university.

“She will not allow a student to fail if there is even the slightest thing she can do to provide assistance,” said Mary Lynn Doherty, coordinator of Music Education and associate professor.

Two alumni – Bobby Vriezen and Michael Lipinski – who are now band directors at Yorkville High School, also wrote letters nominating Retherford for the award. They said that as both students and now as alumni, Retherford’s constant support has been a hallmark of their experience with NIU. They said they owe a lot of thanks to her for everything she did to help them become successful teachers, from helping gain critical recital attendance to assisting with student teaching placements, and helping throughout mandatory state tests and the Illinois teacher certification process.

“To this day, we are proud to maintain a close relationship with her as we are now on the other side of her placing student teachers with us,” they wrote.

That dedication and her friendly nature mean that Retherford is considered a go-to person and friend for professional and personal guidance. Her job duties require Retherford to wear many hats in the School of Music, from supporting faculty and administration to providing assistance to all music majors in a variety of ways. A typical week will find Retherford juggling tasks such as processing scholarships for incoming and current international and domestic students, maintaining and updating databases, assisting alumni and current students by processing licensure entitlements and posting opportunities for job searches and employment. And she can even be found representing the School of Music at regional and state conferences.

Doherty said that due to her dedication and warm nature, Retherford is seen as the face and heart of the NIU School of Music to many. She regularly volunteers to represent the School of Music beyond campus, perhaps most notably in her volunteer work as a Fine Arts liaison with the Rockford Public Schools.

“With all that Lynn is tasked with accomplishing, she always seems to maintain an open door policy and as a result, she is a source of information for students and faculty alike,” said Doherty.

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