The Staff Excellence Awards presented annually to three Sam Houston State University employees are usually won by folks who call attention to themselves, not deliberately, but through quiet professionalism over a number of years.

The winners are the unsung heroes of the university who keep the paper work flowing and the physical plant functioning. Without dedicated workers like the following award winners, less work would get done and the quality of the school would likely suffer.

That's certainly the case with Charles McDowell, director of the Sam Houston Press, lauded by one nominator for providing timely, quality work in a friendly, efficient manner. He has ... "enough patience to loan some of it," was how one person described McDowell, known for accommodating often difficult requests with aplomb and a smile.

"He has the ability to assume a large amount of responsibility for work under his direction," one department head wrote. "He always appears to be relaxed and calm when he probably has a tremendous amount of pressure to produce under a very tight work schedule."

McDowell adroitly handles various aspects of printing, such as layout, press work and bindery work. One nominator said McDowell knows just how to pace his limited staff to get jobs done on time. His innovative cross-training program is another method McDowell uses to even his staff's work load.

Pat Sprott must be doing something right, too, if the number of nominations she received is any indicator. Sprott is a secretary in the Language, Literacy and Special Populations Department who obviously knows how to please, as the following testimonial from a nominator attests:

"I have known Pat Sprott for all the years I have worked at SHSU, but she only began working for me during the past three or four years," the admirer wrote. "I have long recognized her efficiency; but until I was in her department, I did not realize how easily she produced an inordinate amount of work in a dependable, punctual manner."

Another nominator went so far as to say the Language, Literacy and Special Populations Department probably wouldn't have survived changes in the department chair, had it not been for Sprott holding things together. Sprott provided vitally needed connectivity between former department chairs and their replacements.

Terms like, "consistency," "dependability," "promptness" and "hard working" are seen over and over again in the forms nominating Sprott. As the old saying goes, "Where there's smoke, there's fire," and Sprott is definitely smoking.

Caroline Balke is another hard-working secretary who has won the profound respect of her fellows. Balke, who works in the Managing and Marketing Department, doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word "procrastination." One admirer notes that Balke often completes within one hour, tasks she was given days to accomplish.

Balke is also known for her knowledge of university policies and procedures, "and this knowledge has saved me time and potential embarrassment on a number of occasions," a nominator wrote.

Other qualities ascribed to Balke include a positive attitude, responsiveness to short-notice requests from faculty and providing leadership and counseling to her student assistants.

Students aren't annoyances or second-class citizens to Balke. Each of the many nominations she got for the Staff Excellence Award mention the respectful manner in which she deals with students.

"Caroline's ability to work with such a wide range of personalities has always amazed me," wrote an associate professor, obviously impressed with her abilities. "She is the best!"

Naturally, every nominator feels the person he or she nominates for the award is the best, and choosing three outstanding workers from among so talented a staff is difficult in the extreme.

"It's very tough to determine the winners," said Carol Shaw, a secretary for the Academic Accounting Department who chaired this year's selection committee. "Judging from all the letters of nomination we received there must be hundreds of deserving employees."

McDowell, Sprott and Balke will each get an extra $1,000 in their paychecks at about the same time President Bobby K. Marks presents each with a plaque in August.


For more information, contact Paul Sturrock at 409-294-1837, or e-mail

May 7, 1996