Mary Shank and Rob Kairis are the 2021 Staff Excellence Award Recipients

The 2021 Staff Excellence Awards celebrated shining examples of dedication to students and the campus community during a year eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 30, nominees gathered at the Conference Center for a small ceremony, also broadcast live on the Teams platform.

“You have worked diligently to ensure our campus has not only survived – but thrived – during a global pandemic,” said Denise A. Seachrist, Ph.D., dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State University at Stark. “We eagerly look forward to a fall 2021 semester in which students will be, once again, traversing our campus…and our staff – who so often quietly support this institution’s success behind the scenes – will get to interact with students and see the lives we impact every day.” 

Seachrist said she was honored to announce this year’s Staff Excellence Award recipients: Rob Kairis, administrator of the year; and Mary Shank, staff member of the year.

“Rob and Mary have gone above and beyond during the global pandemic to ensure they could do everything within their power to help locally,” Seachrist said. “And both share a common characteristic: putting the needs of others before their own.”

Kairis, director of the Library, was nominated for the award by his entire library staff. In their nomination of Kairis, they wrote: “Rob always has the staff’s best interest at heart, while still providing excellent service to the campus community. He is a team player and would never ask any staff member to do something that he would not do himself.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kairis quickly pivoted from offering in-person to remote services to ensure the safety of faculty, staff and students, while guaranteeing the great academic work of the campus continued. That’s not to mention this innovator even took it upon himself to print face shields and mask extenders with the library’s 3-D printer to provide extra PPE for the entire campus community.

Shank, a clerical specialist in the Academic Success Center, was described as the type of support person who makes the jobs of others easier. Her work and dedication go above and beyond her classification.

Said one nominator, “She is ready and willing to help students and other staff members in any way she can – she’s even willing to change her schedule. Especially during the pandemic, Mary offered to shift her daily schedule to cover various hours during the day, depending on the needs of students. Rather than saying no, she prioritizes students first – without question.”

Shank was described as a kind, friendly and welcoming face for struggling students – who, oftentimes, are experiencing anxiety and uncertainty when she sees them. Shank helps calm their fears – and relays the message: Kent State Stark is here to help you succeed.

This year’s Staff Excellence Selection Committee was led by 2020 Staff Excellence Award winners Darcy McBride and Mike Shipe and included: Jessica Anderson, Lyndy Beckley, Paul Bagavandoss, Shaan Fowler, Theresa Huber, Jayne Moneysmith, Thomas Norton-Smith and Jay Sloan.

POSTED: Thursday, May 6, 2021 08:40 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 02:55 PM
Melissa Griffy Seeton