Six UNC Employees Win Massey Award for Service

Six employees have been selected by Chancellor James Moeser to be honored with 2005 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Awards, one of the most coveted distinctions bestowed by the University. Recipients are:

  • Paul Spencer Davis of Chapel Hill, maintenance mechanic, Facilities Services;
  • Boka Hadzija of Chapel Hill, professor, School of Pharmacy;
  • Sue Hester of Graham, University administrative manager, UNC Honors Program and James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence;
  • Shirley Ort of Chapel Hill, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid;
  • Betty Russell of Carrboro, housekeeper, Facilities Services; and
  • Eric Schopler of Chapel Hill, professor, founder and co-director, Division TEACCH, School of Medicine.

The chancellor, who selected this year’s recipients based on nominations submitted by the campus community, hosted a luncheon for the recipients at Hyde Hall on April 16. He. Each honoree received an award citation and a $6,000 stipend. Last year, the endowment’s growth enabled an increase in award recipients from four to six, and the monetary award also increased by $1,000.

Nominators provided the following descriptions of this year’s honorees:

Paul Spencer Davis , nominated by 27 former and present staff and students, is well-known for the extra effort he puts into preparing the Hinton James residence hall for fall occupancy and for its thorough maintenance throughout the school year. On top of that, he forges relationships with students and staff that enable him to provide personalized service that has made him an invaluable part of the community. For an employee who has allergies, for example, Davis makes sure the staff apartment is always stocked with replacement air filters. He’s been known to fix students’ flat bicycle tires, and when one student had a minor problem with her car, he not only helped her fix it but offered to conduct maintenance courses for her so she could learn to maintain it herself.

He is the “go to” guy at Hinton James. As one nominator wrote: “If we have an immediate problem, he has an immediate solution.” Another summed it up by writing, “He has helped make Hinton James the best it can be, and we are all proud he is a part of our team.”

In the more than 30 years that Boka Hadzija has been with the School of Pharmacy, she has garnered 27 awards for her excellence in teaching. She is a committed mentor to both graduate and undergraduate students – and is just as committed to their success outside of the classroom. In fact, one of her students was so grateful for the contribution that her teaching made to his own success that he endowed the Boka Hadzija Distinguished Professorship in the school.

Hadzija’s mentoring extends across the campus as well. Since the inception of the Health Sciences theme program 18 years ago, she has served as its faculty adviser. She works with the student coordinators to plan speakers and activities and regularly attends weekly meetings. Two years ago, the students asked if they could get course credit for their participation, and Hadzija worked to get this approved. As a result of her dedication, these students now enjoy lectures from guest speakers two times a week and attend group discussions for a third hour that counts as a lab, resulting in three hours of credit toward their degrees.

One nominator summed up Hadzija’s contributions to Carolina by writing, “It is rare to see someone serve in so many ways and have such broad-ranging impact throughout our University.”

“Ask in any corner of the campus,” one nominator wrote, “and you will find someone with a Sue Hester story to tell. Fellow staff know her as an administrator whose meticulous attention to detail and collegial approach to problem solving make the Honors Program hum along as if it were on autopilot. Faculty will describe her strong devotion to academic excellence, and students will speak about the friendly adviser who answers every question with a smile.

As part of her job, Hester comes into contact on a daily basis with every kind of member of the University community. And, it was written, she treats everyone equally: with dignity and respect and real concern.

One of Carolina’s elder statesmen nominated Sue Hester for a Massey Award by writing: “I knew Knox Massey for most of his professional career, and I know what he hoped his award would achieve. In Sue Hester’s work and service to this University, Knox’s dreams are richly fulfilled. … I am amazed at her capacity and her unselfishness. She is truly a dedicated servant of this University.”

As the faculty and staff newspaper, the Gazette, once characterized Shirley Ort in a photo caption, she is, indeed, the “Architect of the Covenant” – the Carolina Covenant. Of her nine nominations for the Massey Award, it was her sensitivity toward students’ financial challenges in seeking a Carolina education – and finding a way to substantially ease that burden – that garnered her the most praise.

One nominator summed up her contributions by writing: “In my 30 years of experience in higher education, I have never encountered a more effective leader in providing financial aid to students. Equally important, Shirley is recognized as a national leader and in this role exercises powerful influence over financial aid policies of the nation and the state.

“Through her commitment to students and experience with financial aid policies, Shirley has enabled thousands of students to realize their dream of a Carolina education. Considering the societal impact of these students, Shirley’s influence is astounding.”

The Carolina Covenant has brought the University national recognition, and it has been the catalyst for other campuses to initiate similar programs. As this concept spreads, the effect is that she is helping students all over the country obtain a higher education who otherwise might not have pursued this dream.

Old East residence hall has three floors, and from top to bottom the students lined up – 41 strong – to sign a petition nominating “their” housekeeper Betty Russell for a Massey Award. Proud of living in one of Carolina’s landmarks, they cited her care of the old building, including the hardwood floors and historic library, as especially worthy of praise. She “has put her full effort into making Old East a treasure … for the past seven years and has made living in Old East a great experience,” one of her nominators wrote.

“Betty’s impeccable maintenance of Old East is impressive, but her greatest gift to us has been more personal. Residents agree that Betty is a beautiful soul, whose kindness and interest in the lives of students are clear. … We have formed meaningful relationships with her and have sincerely enjoyed our time with her.”

For more than 40 years, Eric Schopler has been a leader, an innovator and a role model in the field of autism in North Carolina and around the world. He was a pioneer in the 1960s, demonstrating that autism was a disorder affecting families and not caused by families. As he developed the internationally-recognized TEACCH program, his work profoundly improved the lives of persons with autism and their families, influenced a generation of professionals and helped shape how society understood this disorder.

Due to the great success of the work he has done and the work of the TEACCH program, Carolina is considered to be among the best resources for autism research and treatment today, setting the standard for other institutions. As one nominator wrote of his contributions, “Eric Schopler’s lifetime work in autism diagnosis, treatment and research has touched the lives of literally tens of thousands of students, professionals and people with autism and their families around the world, making the name of UNC and the TEACCH autism program world-famous. I can think of few people at our University who have done so much for so many.”

The late C. Knox Massey ’25 of Durham created the Massey awards in 1980 to recognize “unusual, meritorious or superior contributions” by University employees. The award is supported by the Massey-Weatherspoon Fund, which was created by three generations of Massey and Weatherspoon families.

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