Written by: Susannah Pehrson
The well-attended Margin of Excellence Awards Ceremony in the Carlson Theatre on Thursday was not only a token of appreciation for the six faculty and staff employees who were given the prestigious award, it was also a testament to the very high standards of all BCC employees. Mike Humphries, president of the BCC Foundation which organizes the annual recognition program awarding each honoree $1,000, said in his introductory speech that the awards are testimonies to how BCC helps students to become exceptional. “We are proud of our students and the teachers here at BCC,” said Jean Floten, president of BCC. She continued saying that the award is for “…those who every day go that extra mile…to make BCC the best community college in the state, the nation and the galaxy.” The honorees of 2008 are Jennifer Laveglia, math instructor at the Science Division, Ruth Mazzoni, accounting instructor at the Business Division, Ray Pfortner, photography instructor at Continuing Education, Gabrielle Bennett, program manager/ASG advisor for student programs, Ed Smith, information technology specialist at Computing Services and Xinhang Hu, circulation manager at the Library Media Center. In total, 22 faculty and staff members were nominated by approximately 60 co-workers or students, said Susan Kingsbury, at the BCC Foundation. Each honoree was presented with a short video featuring comments from their students and fellow co-workers, giving all attending the ceremony a personal feeling for, and a deeper recognition of, the individual and his or her commitment. Jennifer Laveglia and Ruth Mazzoni were awarded the full-time faculty award. Laveglia shared how as a child she loved standing at the board with a piece of chalk in her hand and how she as a six-year-old girl used to pick math books as a reward instead of coloring books. Laveglia has been at BCC for 14 years and has, among many other achievements, coordinated and helped the BCC math team place among the top 10 schools nationally during more than a decade. Laveglia told how as a student she recognized the need for female role models in the mathematic field, making that her career of choice. Mazzoni spoke of how she got hooked teaching during her first semester as a teacher and how she still loves it. “We’ve come a long way during these 40 years,” said Mazzoni, and she recalled how her students then learned to type on Stanton typewriters to the beat of marching music. Among the many things she’s accomplished, Mazzoni has also served as program chair during five years for the Paraprofessional Accounting program, during which time the enrollment doubled. Ray Pfortner was awarded the part-time faculty award. He acknowledged the honor of being the first one ever from BCC Art Zones to receive the award and said he was overwhelmed. Pfortner has been working in photography for over 30 years and has been at BCC continuing education for six years. He was quoted by a student to be “…a tremendous, hidden treasure to BCC.” Gabrielle Bennett and Ed Smith received the classified employee award. Bennett, who came to BCC three years ago, has been instrumental in developing student leadership training and the peer mentor program. She is known to have a hand in most everything that involves student programs and ASG. “I’m amazed how one person could do all she does,” said Nora Lance, associate director for Student Programs. Katie Wilson, program coordinator in Student Programs, spoke for the students when she said a lot of students want to be like her. Smith entered the stage while a song written for him played out loud and to cheers from many in the theatre. Described as a superhero working tirelessly on fixing all problems related to Blackboard Vista, the technology that makes online education for about 5,000 students possible, he was given a crown and a sash on which was written “Mr. Vista.” Smith many times starts working at 3 am, “because that’s when you can take down the system,” he said. Xinhang Hu was awarded the administrative exempt award. Hu, who has been working in the BCC library for 14 years, organized and made possible the move of 50,000 books and thousands of periodicals during the remodeling of the library. Not only was it moved just one time, the collection had to be moved five times before it is now back in the library. Hu confessed she thought of herself more as marginal than excellent, having kept a low profile during all years at BCC, but was proud to have given the students a great library and learning center. The award ceremony also featured BCC’s own price-winning jazz choir “Celebration!” which according to Humphries has “adopted” the BCC Foundation, performing at all their events to the joy of everyone attending.