Astute professionals with a superabundance of enthusiasm, talent and good cheer, they inspire their peers, astonish their bosses, and confound the notion that work, by its very nature, is drudgery.

They are the three winners of the 1997-98 Sam Houston State University Staff Excellence Awards, an honor reserved for the crème de la crème of the university's 608-member workforce.

The winners are, from right, Cathy Johnson, Sandy Baker, and Doris Ulrich. They gathered recently to receive congratulations from SHSU President Bobby K. Marks, and Sandra Bays, left, who chaired the selection committee.

While their credentials are quite impeccable, their esteem, in the eyes of those who work with them daily, borders on divine.

Take Ulrich, for instance, the coordinator of business operations for SHSU's College of Criminal Justice. She is known by those who count on her as the "financial conscience" of the criminal justice center and as a woman who "consistently performs above expectations."

"When presented with a problem, challenge or project, Doris' inevitable response is a positive and energetic, 'we'll do it!'," wrote one of her colleagues to the awards committee.

In addition to 15 years of outstanding service to the college, Ulrich was praised for her unique "ability to develop consensus among individuals representing diverse views."

She is admired for her "firm gentleness and sense of humor" and for her ability to "bring out the best" in the people she encounters. Among those, are student employees whom she has served as a "surrogate parent, mentor, advisor and friend."

That same nurturing quality was echoed in the nomination of Baker, secretary for SHSU's Department of Public Communications for the last four years.

Baker's extraordinary devotion to students and their mutual respect for her was the subject of an April 15 story in the university's student newspaper, The Houstonian. Several students even campaigned for her nomination for the Staff Excellence Award.

Baker's co-workers alluded to this special relationship in their submissions to the awards committee.

"She fills the role of second mother to most students who know they can depend and rely on her," wrote one fan. "She offers help, encouragement - often a good shove in the right direction - and most of all, she gives them her attention, concern and genuine love."

Baker commands "a certain savvy and gentleness that makes her both cunning and personable," another admirer wrote. "Blending a Yoda/Fonzie-esque demeanor, she exudes consoling wisdom and confidence."

On top of all of these endearing qualities, she was hailed as a resourceful and diligent worker with an affinity for managing multiple tasks with ease. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the institution, amiable personality and "roll-up-the-sleeves" work ethic have made her an indispensable part of the communications department for the last four years.

Industry and good humor also go hand-in-hand at the SHSU Registrar's Office, thanks in part to the example set by secretary Nora Catharine (Cathy) Johnson, the third excellence award winner and an eight-year SHSU employee.

"It is not enough to say that Mrs. Johnson is an energetic and enthusiastic worker who continuously demonstrates a high degree of loyalty and trustworthiness to her work and her colleagues," her supervisor wrote. "One of her greatest assets," he continued, "is her smile, her friendliness, compassion and a 'good-humor' attitude in her relationship with staff members, students and university employees."

Hailed for her ability to adapt to ever-changing job demands with nary a hint of frustration, Johnson's unflappable composure in the face of work-a-day perturbations have earned her the respect of her co-workers.

As one of her associates wrote: "She puts up with all of our requests for her time without batting an eye, never shows any irritation at being interrupted, and always has time for a kind word or two."

As well as patient and diligent, Johnson is known as resourceful problem-solver with an extraordinary penchant for details. Co-workers lobbying for her selection noted her "uncanny ability to find answers to nettlesome difficulties."

In addition to this year's SHSU honor, Johnson's professionalism earned her a Staff Excellence Award this spring from the Southeast Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

As her counterparts, Ulrich and Baker, Johnson was cited for her exceptional work with SHSU students. "She helps students to realize that they are the 'life blood' of our university," wrote one of her nominators, "and commits to meet their needs."

The three winners of the 1997-98 SHSU Staff Excellence Award will be introduced by President Marks at the university's annual staff meeting in August. Each will be presented a plaque and a check for $1000.


Media Contact: Phillip Rollfing

May 29, 1997