The 2021 Tobin Award winners, from left, Mike Houle, Brenda Davis, and Travis Herzog.

Honoring employee excellence, President David Wippman announced the Beverly S. and Eugene M. Tobin Employee Award recipients and the Wertimer-Couper Award winner at the May 5 virtual Staff Assembly.

Tobin Awards went to Travis Herzog, a carpenter foreperson for Facilities Management in Maintenance and Operations; Brenda Davis, assistant director of Opportunity Programs, who received the honor in the Administrator category; and Transportation Coordinator Mike Houle, who was recognized in the Staff category.  Health Center Director Barb Fluty received the Wertimer-Couper Award.

“Our honorees have earned these awards by making significant improvements in the College; showing innovation, imagination, and creativity; taking significant interest in College activities; consistently exceeding expectations; and exemplifying dedication to our joint work here,” Wippman said.

In recognizing Herzog, Wippman quoted a nominator who called him “one of the hardest working staff members on the Hill and a very capable teacher who likes to solve problems. He will even bring home materials to research solutions and come to work the next day with answers that we need.”

At the same time, said the nominator, Herzog helps his staff by developing their skills and mentoring their development. “His consistency in performing tasks, his desire to empower others, and his commitment to ensuring things are done right have led him to be a model for others to follow,” Wippman quoted.

Awardee Brenda Davis was described “as someone who will do whatever it takes to make sure our students are cared for and supported, and that the College delivers on its promise, and even gets into the pool to ease the anxiety of new students nervous about Hamilton’s swimming requirement,” Wippman said.

“She remains supportive of students throughout their four years, attending their athletic events and other activities. Last year, when the search for a new director in the office was paused and a colleague had to take an extended leave, she took on her colleague’s responsibilities too and was able to successfully deliver an important summer program for our students, despite the pandemic,” Wippman said.

Houle was described as a person who has made the work of several offices substantially more manageable. He has also, according to one nominator, had a significant and positive impact on the experience of students. Quoting a nominator, Wippman said, “He always finds a way to help when someone asks for assistance — if he can’t do exactly what is being asked, he finds an alternative solution. His positive attitude and willingness to jump in, regardless of the circumstances, have made a noticeable impact on the happiness of others and reduced their levels of stress.

Another said, “I can’t think of a Hamilton employee who works so closely with our students and who has done more above and beyond in their work over the past year. Clearly, this person is driven to succeed, or to put it more literally, he succeeds because he drives.”

The Tobin Employee Awards were instituted in 2006 to annually recognize one representative from each of the College’s three non-faculty groups of employees: administrators, staff members, and (maintenance and operation) facilities management workers. Monetary awards are made each year from an employee-generated fund established in 2003 to honor Gene Tobin, Hamilton College’s 18th president, and his wife Beverly. The fund recognizes the couple’s 23 years of service to the Hamilton community.

Wertimer-Couper Award

Health Center Director Barb Fluty received the Wertimer-Couper Award, which “recognizes a member of the community who embodies the spirit of generosity, loyalty, and fidelity exemplified by Ellie Wertimer and Patsy Couper.”                            

Barb Fluty
Wertimer-Couper Award recipient Barb Fluty

Wippman read the citation, which included reflections from nominators:

“Hamilton College is defined by the care and devotion of its employees, especially people who go beyond the responsibilities of their job description to support and attend to our students. Even among the dozens and dozens of people who have been called on to actively manage COVID-19 on our campus, you stand out.

“One colleague suspects you’ve worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week, for more than a year. You’ve stayed on top of CDC, New York State Department of Health, and Oneida County Health Department guidance, news, and information and passed that information to the COVID-19 Task Force and Steering committees so that they can make well-informed decisions to keep our community as safe as possible.”

Wippman noted that Fluty has served on or consulted with numerous committees; managed the isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine process; worked with the testing center to create an efficient program; coordinated with the county and state to find ways to vaccinate our community; and emailed and spoken with countless students and parents to ease their concerns as our students began to test positive and others were placed into quarantine.

“And lest we forget, there was a health center to run,” Wippman said. “You have built a culture with a singular focus on the health needs and education of our students, often taking time to work through difficult physical and mental health scenarios and help students make healthier choices. Said one colleague, I often hope that my own children receive this level of commitment and professionalism at their college health centers.

“You once told a colleague that your definition of a bad day was ‘if someone thinks I don’t care.’ The colleague went on to say, ‘Barb always cares. She cares about doing the right thing and setting up the right policies. She cares that her staff [members] are supported and feel heard. She cares that the health center provides good professional care. Barb Fluty cares about people.’”

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