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Perkins Award Winners Announced

Yearly nod to distinguished staff service

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It’s a lot of work to keep and update the academic records of hundreds of medical students. Or to manage biochemistry research laboratories (especially when they’re under major renovation). Or to juggle a marketing campaign, a new software installation, and summer term administration. Three staffers have received one of the annual John S. Perkins Distinguished Service Awards for these efforts.

The winners—School of Medicine registrar Ellen DiFiore, MED biochemistry laboratory manager Celeste Rich, and Metropolitan College assistant finance director Zhuyuan Zhang—will each receive a plaque and $500 at a ceremony May 1.

The Perkins award is BU’s yearly recognition of often-unsung but essential workers at the University. Selected by the Faculty Council from nominations by professors, the awards are financed with an endowment from their namesake, the late John Perkins, a BU trustee, faculty member, and administrator, who endowed the awards.

All three of this year’s recipients were honored “for their professionalism, attention to detail, and their personal commitment to the University,” says Peter Szende, a School of Hospitality Administration associate professor and chair of the Perkins selection committee.

“It is gratifying to know that what you do is valued by the faculty, staff, and students,” says DiFiore, a 23-year BU employee and registrar since 2001. One professor called her “a rare saint and magician” who uses humor and tenacity to manage the herculean job of registering MED students and arranging leaves of absence and scheduling or enrollment changes for them throughout their education. Another prof, who has worked at two other medical schools, lauded DiFiore as the best registrar of the three institutions.

Rich, who manages two labs and also serves on MED’s laboratory safety committee, says the best part of her job “is all the wonderful people I work with in the biochemistry department and the medical school.” As a scientist, she “has the ability to identify, design, and execute key, scientifically relevant experiments,” a colleague reported. “She has the talent to make even the most technically challenging experiments and laboratory procedures look simple.” When the labs were renovated recently, Rich worked many late nights to ensure that essential equipment was up and running, one nominator said, adding, “Probably no other member of the department had the ability or skill to get this done.” Rich has also been at the University for 23 years.

Zhang (MET’04) has worked at MET since 1998. Dean Jay Halfond praised her efforts to implement BUworks, the University’s massive software upgrade, during MET’s busiest season last summer, when the college was immersed in a marketing campaign and its summer term. In addition, Zhang launched a partnership with a Chinese university that has brought 20 full-time undergraduates to MET in the last two years through the college’s international study program.

All of which leads Zhang to say that “working for MET is never boring.”

In a job requiring deft multitasking, the joy comes, she says, “when I can discover or develop new ways of improving efficiencies and the quality of the work I produce.”

The John S. Perkins Distinguished Service Awards will be bestowed at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 1, at 5 p.m. in the Trustee Ballroom, One Silber Way.

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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