The University of Richmond takes great pride in all of its employees, and that pride never shines brighter than every year on the day of the Employee Recognition Ceremony. Dozens of staff members walk across the stage in celebration of their years of service. For many, that’s five years. For some, that’s 15 years. And for just a few, that’s 35 years of service to the University of Richmond.

But each year, there are four individuals who particularly stand out. These are people that have been nominated by colleagues to receive one of the four Outstanding Service Awards. And even more importantly, these individuals have been carefully selected by chosen committees amidst dozens of other worthy nominations. The 2015 Outstanding Service Award recipients were Teresa Cross, Lisa Bayard, Michael Torquato, and LaRee Sugg.

One of them immediately makes students feel comfortable as the first person they meet when they enter Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). One of them worked six days a week to cover for a colleague out on FMLA. One of them spent two weeks using a backhoe to rip asphalt apart for a student project. And one of them mobilized the university crisis crew when tragedy struck on May 9, 2014.

The recipient of the Clerical Outstanding Service Award was Teresa Cross. As the primary contact for anyone seeking service from CAPS, Teresa immediately creates a warm and compassionate environment where distressed students can feel comfortable. As her supervisor, Pete LeViness, describes, “She does an amazing job remembering each student’s name and details of their lives that they chose to share with her while waiting for their appointments…Many students appreciated her care so much that they continue to come back and visit her as alums just to say hi, or to say thank you.”

Next, Lisa Bayard received the Dining Services Outstanding Service Award. Not only did Lisa fill in for her supervisor while she was out on FMLA leave, but she excelled. She conducted surveys to better serve Tyler’s Grill customers, she created new and delicious specials, and she advocated to keep nearby computers for her staff, many of whom don’t have access to a computer at home. Lisa made it her mission to provide basic computer skills training for the Tyler’s Team. And according to Blake Widdowson, “Two years ago, the majority of our hourly staff could not use e-mail, could not type a word document, and could not access Banner to complete open enrollment. Now I can say that everyone has some computer skills.”

Michael Torquato earned the Service/Maintenance Outstanding Service Award. Dedicated to both students and the greater University, Michael could be seen cutting asphalt for the Parking Lot project, finding fresh cut tree branches for holiday decorations, or even making grass grow! Michael’s supervisor, Aaron Abbott, describes Michael’s dedication to the Westhampton Centennial Celebration, “Michael started preparing two months in advance. Under the large oak trees in front of North Court, he amended the soil with compost and seeded with fescue. Every ornamental bed was cleaned and trimmed to make sure the appearance of all the plants and shrubs around North Court were outstanding. Flowers were planted the week before the event and the grass had grown in under the large oak trees for the first time in many years.” 

And finally, the Administrative Outstanding Service Award went to LaRee Sugg. LaRee served as one of the main points of contact when staff members, Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis, were tragically killed in a hot air balloon accident in May 2014. As colleagues describe, “LaRee led the department through the delicate series of memorials for Natalie and Ginny, she helped organize travel to Buffalo and Philadelphia for university members to support the Lewis and Doyle families, and she continued to honor Natalie and Ginny as she assisted the chaplaincy in organizing the on-campus memorials in September 2014. She did the thing that a great teammate does – she picked us up when we were at our very lowest.”

The University community is lucky to have these four outstanding individuals, in addition to so many others who are committed to making the University of Richmond a premiere place to study and work.