Everyone knows their name

Go into any office or department, and everyone knows who they are.

Take Flora Chan. The special proctor for BGLTQ and financial aid and admissions officer stands out for her calming presence, generous spirit, and for welcoming students to be themselves.

Then there’s Leo Gomez. As director for active learning in electrical engineering at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, he overperforms in creating student learning modules with his positive attitude and commitment to education.

Meghan Kerr exceeds expectations with her meticulous work involving research data. In addition, the records manager and archivist at Countway Library has earned a reputation for helping faculty and staff crack complex policies and survey records to reduce storage costs.  

The three were among the 65 recognized for their contributions at this year’s Harvard Heroes, a program that honors high-performing staff members from across campus. The honorees are nominated by their peers for their leadership, teamwork, and willingness to go the extra mile to make the University better.

Interim President Alan Garber hosted the awards ceremony on Thursday at Sanders Theatre, which was packed with Harvard employees, who clapped and cheered every time as each of the 65 names was announced.

“Today we celebrate you and we recognize all of the outstanding ways you make the University better,” said Garber. “You are heroes because you never forget the greater significance of your work. You are heroes because your to-do lists are also how-to-do lists: How can I keep learning and growing? How can I be welcoming, helpful, and supportive? How can I aim for excellence and enable excellence in others? Your commitment to asking these kinds of questions helps steer the University through challenge and through change. With attention, care, and skill you keep Harvard moving forward, and for that we are all grateful.”

Among other staff members recognized were Norma Rodriguez, communications center supervisor with the Harvard Police Department, for going above and beyond to help students in crisis, as well as dining services worker Adilson Lopes; campus driver Jack Benson; building maintenance worker Manny Aguiar; and four other campus services employees.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences nominated 14 employees; the Harvard Medical School, seven; and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, four. Workers from the Office of the President and Provost, the Harvard Library, Alumni Affairs and Development, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University Information Technology, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Human Resources, Financial Administration, and the Harvard Public Affairs and Communications were among the honorees.

A special award was given to Sasha, the Harvard University Police Department’s community engagement dog. The black Labrador retriever made a special appearance during the ceremony, and her presence almost brought down the house.

In a prerecorded video shown during the ceremony, honorees described how they view their work. Their answers ranged from “rewarding” to “unpredictable” to “exciting” to “busy, really busy.” They were also asked what they liked best about their jobs. Some talked about the challenging nature of their work and their sense of accomplishment, but for most it came down to one thing: the people.

“I couldn’t do it without my fantastic office community,” said Chan, in an interview at a reception after the ceremonies. “I’m just really honored. I really love this place. I live on campus with my wife and 32 first-year students. That’s my night job and my day job is working in admissions and financial aid. We feel part of the Harvard community.”

Gomez agreed.

“There’s just so many people that are deserving of a recognition like this,” he said. “There are thousands and thousands of people that support Harvard and try to do their best, day in and day out, but it’s nice to be recognized for your efforts.”

Another honoree, Kendra Barber, assistant dean for faculty affairs for arts and humanities, said her favorite part of work is the whole thing.

“The job is interesting, the people are nice, and it’s fun!” said Barber in one of the videos shown during the ceremony. “Even on the busiest, hardest day, it’s still fun.”

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