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BU Staffers Will Be Celebrated Tonight for Their Dedication

This year’s John S. Perkins Award winners

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  • The Perkins Awards are bestowed annually on three BU staffers in recognition of their dedication and hard work
  • This year’s winners are Mirtha Cabello, Michael Ciarlante, and Mary Murphy-Phillips
  • Each will receive a plaque and $500 at a ceremony today at the Metcalf Trustee Ballroom

Commencement’s pomp and circumstance happens every year thanks largely to the behind-the-scenes wizardry of 39-year BU veteran Michael Ciarlante, director of Events & Conferences. For his decades of service, the University is honoring him with one of this year’s John S. Perkins Distinguished Service Awards, which recognize often-unsung University nonfaculty staffers for their dedication to BU.

Ciarlante (COM’79, MET’83) compares receiving news of his Perkins Award to what “someone winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes” must feel like. “I was a little speechless, ” he says, “but quite honored.”

The other 2018 Perkins awardees are College of Arts & Sciences physics department graduate program coordinator Mirtha Cabello (MET’91) and School of Public Health director of graduate student life Mary Murphy-Phillips (MET’03). The three winners will receive a plaque and $500 at a ceremony today, May 1, at the Metcalf Trustee Ballroom.

Selected by the Faculty Council from nominations submitted by professors, the awards are financed by an endowment from their namesake, the late John S. Perkins, a BU trustee, faculty member, and administrator.

In a letter nominating Cabello for the Perkins award, a physics professor wrote, “Faculty come and go. Department chairs rotate. Mirtha Cabello is one of the few essential people who make it possible for us…to function and flourish.” A current PhD physics candidate echoed the faculty member’s assessment: “[She] manages to turn the potentially disagreeable chore of reporting to the office administrator into a genuine, joyous interaction.”

Cabello sees it as her job to guide students, both academically and personally, “beginning the moment they apply to Boston University through their ultimate milestone of earning their PhD in physics,” she says. “My best reward is when the students’ efforts culminate with a PhD degree, and I witness this at the hooding ceremony every year. It is fun to know that they go on to fulfilling professional careers.” Her relationship with graduate students doesn’t end when they leave BU, either. Faculty members say Cabello’s personal connections to former students help the department reach out to them for alumni networking opportunities down the line.

A BU employee since 1985, Cabello says she couldn’t believe it when she was told she was one of the Perkins awardees. “I feel as though I was placed on a pedestal,” she says. “Physicists are the most noble human beings I’ve encountered, and they are exceptionally appreciative of everything I do for them. I know it is my job to be at their service, but faculty and students are always ready to recognize my work and that brings a lot of joy to my everyday life.”

Those faculty who nominated Ciarlante for the honor used adjectives like “professional,” “steady,” “reliable,” and “consistently successful,” to describe the New Jersey native. Ciarlante and his office are responsible for planning approximately 480 events a year, including Matriculation, meetings, department functions, and the granddaddy of them all, Commencement. He says the latter takes almost a whole year of planning, and the only day he’s truly not thinking about it “is the day immediately after.”

“Michael does his job with such enthusiasm, aplomb, and attention to detail that it is easy for any one of us to forget that he is serving an entire university population,” one dean wrote in a recommendation letter. “He is an outstanding example of an employee who represents Boston University well and makes all of us proud to be affiliated with it.”

Ciarlante received his award letter in an unusual way. Normally, the letters to each year’s winners are hand-delivered. But in this case, Ciarlante was summoned to the President’s office in the guise of attending an important meeting. In the midst of chatting, someone from the Faculty Council “stuck her head in and gave me the envelope,” he says with a laugh. One of the things he likes best about his job, he says, is that he never knows what he’s going to be doing day-to-day. “There’s such a variety. There might be something on the agenda, but then I have to shelf that for another breaking event. I like that there is no predictability. It keeps me fresh and wanting to come to work.”

Every year during orientation, Murphy-Phillips, who designed the school’s on-boarding program, welcomes more than 450 students to the School of Public Health. Recently, she has added sessions on diversity and inclusion and one specifically designed for international students. She also organizes hundreds of student events, including seminars, workshops, and social events and plans and manages the 2,000-plus guests at the SPH annual Convocation. Colleagues describe the 24-year BU employee as “collaborative, dependable, and quick to pitch in,” and say that she “has forged excellent relationships with facilities staff, faculty, parents, students, and administrators and is one of the most highly respected staff on the Medical Campus.”

Murphy-Phillips believes she has the best job at the University, largely because she works with people who are at the forefront of “trying to keep our kids safe and ensure each individual has equal access to resources.” She especially looks forward each year to Commencement, she says, because “there is no better feeling than seeing a student who struggled walk across that stage, receive their diploma, and then introduce me to their family as someone who helped them to get to that day.”

In a letter in support of Murphy-Phillips, one SPH faculty member offered this: “Mary routinely makes extraordinary contributions to Boston University, to our students, to our faculty, and to our staff. She provides this support with cheerfulness, professionalism, and grace.”

10 Comments
Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

10 Comments on BU Staffers Will Be Celebrated Tonight for Their Dedication

  • Mary Magauran on 05.01.2018 at 8:24 am

    Hooray for Mary Murphy-Phillips!

  • Barbara Green-Glaz on 05.01.2018 at 9:03 am

    Well deserved honor for Michael Ciarlante–Bravo!

    • Marci Amici on 05.01.2018 at 6:51 pm

      Congrats Mike ! Well deserved. You are wonderful, accomplished & a great person !

      • Marci Amici on 05.01.2018 at 6:56 pm

        Congratulations Mike ! A well deserved award for a great person.

  • Marlee McDonald-Yepes on 05.01.2018 at 10:16 am

    I am so proud of my friend, Mirtha Cabello! You go girl!

  • Donna Howe . . . and Mary Phillips biggest fan club . . . The Howe Family on 05.01.2018 at 1:13 pm

    Congratulations to a hard, dedicated person! Well deserved

  • Kevin Black on 05.01.2018 at 4:41 pm

    hooray for Mirtha!

  • Jim Sullivan on 05.01.2018 at 6:43 pm

    Congratulations to my cousin Mary Murphy-Phillips. A well deserved honor.

  • Nelly Cabello on 05.02.2018 at 9:22 am

    Amazing!! Special congrats to my sweet aunty Mirtha!!!!

  • Loretta Jalal on 05.04.2018 at 6:11 am

    Congratulations Mirtha! This is a well deserved honor!

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