One staffer quickly scores exams, another is credited with keeping the School of Medicine’s urology department running efficiently, and the third helps biomedical engineers solve problems. These are the winners of this year’s John S. Perkins Distinguished Service Awards, bestowed annually on BU nonfaculty members in recognition of their dedication to the University.
The 2017 awards go to Lo-Su King, Digital Learning & Innovation manager of scanning services, Matthew Barber, College of Engineering biomedical engineering department director, and Karen Clements, School of Medicine urology department administrative manager. Each will receive a plaque and $500 at a ceremony tonight, Wednesday, May 3, at the Metcalf Trustee Ballroom.
Ever take a scantron test or give your opinion about a class? King is the woman who processed your answers. She is responsible for scantron-based exam scoring and course evaluation. She joined BU 17 years ago, and since then has been providing scanning services to various departments and schools within BU as well as to external clients such as Harvard University and Lesley University.
One professor who has worked with King for more than two decades describes her as “extraordinarily well-organized and efficient” and says she almost always returns scored exams quickly, while another goes even further, describing her as an “unsung hero.”
“She processes students’ exams within a day, ensuring that I can get them their grades back in a timely manner,” the professor wrote. “This reduces their stress, and gives them time to work through any issues they may have had on the exam (either on their own or with me) before we start covering new material. Having taught at two other universities, I can tell you that this is well above and beyond what is typical of scantron processing. It is Lo-Su’s dedication to her job that makes this possible.”
King says she was deeply moved after learning she was one of this year’s Perkins honorees. It was a “complete shock” to her, she says, but it wasn’t to her coworkers—nine members of her department wrote a letter nominating her for the award, although the selection committee requires only three. For her part, she appreciates her colleagues, saying the best part of her job is “the friendly working environment and the people I’ve worked and am associated with.” King also taught Mandarin Chinese at Lexington Chinese School in Belmont, Mass., for more than 20 years.
“You can’t have a university without its staff. The people who write letters in support of those nominated for the Perkins acknowledge this in very clear ways. Without the staff, the University would not be able to thrive.” –Kathe Darr
MED’s urology department residents affectionately refer to Clements as “Mom.” “That’s basically what she was,” one former resident wrote in a nominating letter. “She reminded us, first gently and then more forcefully, to get our stuff done. She streamlined things as much as she possibly could for us, but didn’t baby us. And she was the only one who always called us ‘doctor.’”
And it isn’t just the residents who credit Clements with keeping the department running efficiently. Administrators and doctors also have kind words to say. They describe her as “the right hand of the chairman,” “the invaluable program coordinator,” “the repository of so many facts and items,” “a multitasker beyond belief,” and “the glue that has held the department together since the early ’80s.”
Clements has been at BU since 1974. “I started as a medical secretary/medical assistant and through the years added various responsibilities, and that variety truly keeps things in perspective,” she says. When she learned she had been selected for a Perkins award, her first reaction was surprise, but even more, she was “truly humbled that others thought of me enough to make the nomination,” she says. “I’m still trying to process the whole thing. To see former students, residents, and faculty reach their goals in life makes it all worthwhile.”
BU’s biomedical engineering department is a powerhouse. In the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings, the department placed ninth among graduate programs, and annual grant funding was approximately $27.5 million during the last fiscal year. Many in the department credit Barber for helping achieve those results. “His efforts have been essential in propelling the biomedical engineering department to where it is today, and I fully expect him to continue to be a key contributor to the success of the department going forward,” wrote one nominator.
In a joint letter, junior faculty members described the pivotal role Barber played in helping them set up their laboratories, hire staff and students, navigate grant submissions, and manage their start-up and grant accounts. But most important, they wrote, “Matt has performed these duties with good humor, treating us each with a calm respect, even during our worst freak-out moments. Matt’s door is always open, and he’s always ready to answer questions and educate us about university operations and procedures. We couldn’t do what we do without him.”
Barber, who describes his primary responsibility as problem solving, says he most enjoys his “interactions with the faculty, staff, and students to try to solve their problems. What I like most about my job is the people.”
In addition to his Perkins honor, Barber will receive another award in the not too distant future for his longtime service to the University—he came to BU in 1994 after retiring from a career in the US Navy. “I’ve got my Tiffany bowl [for 10 years of service] and I’m shootin’ for that mantle clock, but I guess the 25-year service perk has changed and I’ll get my choice of items,” he says, his sense of humor shining through. “I think I’ll go for the clock though.”
Perkins selection committee cochair Kathe Darr, a School of Theology professor of the Hebrew Bible, says that the awards represent a special honor, because they focus on BU staff members, who play a critical role in keeping the University operating. “You can’t have a university without its staff,” she says. “The people who write letters in support of those nominated for the Perkins acknowledge this in very clear ways. Without the staff, the University would not be able to thrive.”