CLEMSON – Staff members from the College of Science’s five departments gathered on May 24 at Clemson Outdoor Lab’s Kresge Hall for the college’s first annual Staff Appreciation Luncheon.

Dean Mark Leising welcomed staff from the departments of biological sciences, chemistry, genetics and biochemistry, mathematical sciences, and physics and astronomy. He distributed seven awards to recognize those who go above and beyond to serve the needs of the College of Science, which is still in its inaugural year.

Charles Allen, a systems programmer and developer for the department of mathematical sciences, and Sharon Smith, administrative coordinator for the department of chemistry, were awarded 20-year service awards. Both were acknowledged not only for their years of service to the university but for their ability to maintain high standards within their departments despite numerous obstacles.

Karl Dieter, professor and chair of the department of chemistry, said, “Sharon’s careful, thoughtful and imaginative leadership of the chemistry department staff has created a good overall morale and work ethic that translates into outstanding support for the faculty they serve.” Dieter went on to highlight Smith’s confidence in performing administrative duties for the department as being the key for its smooth operation.

Rita McConnell and April Haynes were presented with 30-year service awards. McConnell serves the department of biological sciences as an accountant and fiscal analyst, while Haynes is an office manager for the department of mathematical sciences.

Physics and astronomy administrative assistant Debra Helvie received the prestigious Hattie B. Wagener Award, whose namesake was an administrative support staff member at Clemson University for many years. This award was created in her name to acknowledge one enthusiastic, devoted employee every year.

“I’m thankful to everyone who nominated me,” said Helvie, an administrative assistant for the department of physics and astronomy. “I know there were many other deserving staff. I’m still in shock, overwhelmed and humbled.” Helvie has worked at Clemson for almost 30 years, answering phone calls, training staff members, reserving exam rooms for students, and scheduling visits to the Clemson Planetarium, among many other duties.

Rhonda Reigers Powell, who serves as the assistant manager of the Clemson Light Imaging Facility, snagged this year’s award for College of Science Exceptional Team Member.

Rhonda Reigers Powell, who serves as the assistant manager of the Clemson Light Imaging Facility, snagged this year’s award for College of Science Exceptional Team Member.
Image Credit: Jim Melvin / Clemson University

Terry Tritt, chair of the department of physics and astronomy, said, “Debbie is the first person that one meets when they enter the department office. For many, this is their first impression of our department. There is no one I would rather have in that position than Debbie. She is always pleasant and always has a smile on her face … Debbie is the positive beacon in our department that we can all count on.”

Rhonda Reigers Powell, who serves as the assistant manager of the Clemson Light Imaging Facility, snagged this year’s award for College of Science Exceptional Team Member. Powell performs many duties for the Light Imaging Facility, such as directing budgets, calibrating imaging systems, and mentoring undergraduate student interns. Powell is a graduate of Clemson University, having earned her Bachelor of Science in biological sciences in 2001, followed by a Master of Science in microbiology in 2009. She also assists as a staff senator for the College of Science.

“I’m so excited to be recognized as an exceptional team member for the College of Science,” Powell said. “I love my job! I get to work with students, faculty and staff members, and it is rewarding to see that my expertise in microscopy can really have an impact on the success of so many research projects taking place on campus.”

The Outstanding Staff Member Award was presented to David Reynolds, accountant for the departments of mathematical sciences and physics and astronomy. Reynolds was recognized because of his expertise for balancing and organizing budgets, which was instrumental during Clemson’s college reorganization that established the College of Science. Department chairs Chris Cox and Tritt emphasized Reynolds’ always-cheerful personality and his ability to translate complex budget data into terms that a layperson can understand.

Among the awards, Dean Leising also praised the Shared Service Personnel of the college, those staff members who doubled their workload to serve two colleges at one time during the college reorganization. These staff members include Joy Boatwright and Jennifer Ray, who head the human resources department of the college; and Teela Roche, who is the IT consultant for the dean’s office. Also working in the dean’s office is Michelle Duncan, who was acknowledged for her research support efforts in managing the many grants within the College of Science; and Kathy Russ, administrative coordinator for the dean. Public information director Jim Melvin was commended for his work in communications.