1997 - Chris Griffith
Griffith has been named this year's recipient of Stanford's staff honor,
the Amy J. Blue Award, for her dedication to her job as director of
Four recipients of the seventh annual "Amy" awards
are Ronald Davies, department administrator in the Department of Drama;
Faye Gage-Burnett, receptionist in the Undergraduate Advising Center;
Patricia Michon, benefits counselor in Total Compensation; and Susan
Sebbard, fellowship administrator in the Humanities Center.
The winners will be honored on May 27 from 4 to
6 p.m. in the Amy J. Blue Garden at 855-857 Serra St.
The five staffers were selected from more than
65 nominees by a group of previous award recipients and five other staff
and faculty members, says committee chair Susan Schofield, academic
secretary to the university. "Every year we're looking for the same
criteria," she says. These include dedication to accomplishment, commitment
to people and enthusiasm. The last quality, Schofield says, is not a
deciding factor in choosing winners who may excel in other ways.
"Amy Blue was no wallflower and it's a little
bit in memory of her that we have that," she says. Blue, for whom the
memorial award was established, was associate vice president for administrative
services and facilities when she died in 1988 of brain cancer. She was
Stanford's highest-ranking female administrator at the time.
Griffith, who has worked at Stanford since 1980,
was nominated by a group of graduate resident assistants. "They say
she is a wonderful support," Schofield says. "A lot of it is behind
Griffith oversees a staff of six employees who
work to make Stanford a home for thousands of graduate students, many
of whom come from abroad and live on campus for years, often with their
"We try to identify how we can best serve students
in a tremendously diverse population," says Griffith sitting in front
of a sandstone fireplace in her redwood-paneled office in Escondido
Unlike undergraduates, who often identify themselves
according to where they live, graduate students tie themselves to their
departments. Lack of a built-in social structure for graduates can lead
to isolation, something that Griffith's office tries to counter. "We
struggle to let students know we're a resource," she says. "We build
community one person at a time."
Starting out as office manager in 1980, Griffith
became program director for single graduate students in 1985, assistant
director of graduate residences in 1988 and director in 1992. Her office
is responsible for helping new students settle into the Crothers halls,
Rains and Escondido Village. Griffith deals with issues ranging from
representing the needs of graduates to the university, to roommate concerns
and even personal issues.
It is Griffith's ability to work as a voice for
compromise and change that prompted her nomination.
"On numerous occasions, she has helped me put
together last-minute neighborhood programs that required urgent attention
(for example, neighborhood safety issues during an outbreak of bike
and car thefts)," a Rains graduate resident assistant wrote in a testimonial.
"She has also created several opportunities for graduate students to
be heard by senior-level administrators and trustees, who are often
more aware of undergraduate issues than they are of graduate issues.
As [graduate resident assistants], we don't get paid a lot, and we don't
get free housing. But what we do get is Chris."
Davies first joined Stanford in 1976 as a graduate student. He earned
his doctorate in drama and humanities in 1986, went on to lecture undergraduates
and became department administrator in 1988. His colleagues describe
him as a renaissance man and the lifeblood of the Drama Department.
"Since we are a small department, Ron wears many hats simultaneously,
and works extraordinary hours to achieve university and department goals,"
writes a nominator. "Without his ongoing contribution, we would be so
much less than what we have become."
As administrator of a performing arts program,
Davies manages performing spaces, budget demands and a department that
often functions past midnight. He assists in preparing dissertations,
books and journal articles by department members. Leaning on his academic
training, Davies also acts as an informal adviser to students. However,
his colleagues say that his most valued skills lie in computing. "He
is the computer guru of the department," a colleague writes, "giving
advice to production personnel using computers for scenic and stage
design, and students creating and fabricating slides, as well as being
responsible for the repair and maintenance of our computing equipment."
first came to work at Stanford in 1984 and has been receptionist at
the Undergraduate Advising Center since 1993. Her colleagues say that
her friendly, helpful manner often make visitors think that she is responsible
for all the service units on the first floor of Sweet Hall. "She has
a highly developed skill at handling the enormous load at our front
desk and at keeping the tempest that can occur there from becoming a
maelstrom," a nominator writes. "She skillfully handles the kinds of
people problems that arise often at the front desk, from irate parents
to upset students; from demanding advisers to frustrated advisees. We
all see her as a role model."
has worked as a benefits counselor for Total Compensation since 1993.
Unlike some nominees who receive coordinated support from their departments,
Michon's name was put forward individually by several people. All wrote
to support someone they say is ready to take their side when dealing
with insurance bureaucracies. One nominator, a longtime faculty member,
wrote that Michon "is someone who realizes we are all on the same team"
and that she is one of "those who typify the Stanford spirit of community
and an engaging willingness to listen and assist. She is on the front
line taking the first blows day in and day out."
has been the fellowship administrator at the Humanities Center for the
past 12 years. She is responsible for annually supervising four independent
competitions for fellowships that attract hundreds of applications.
When one competition attracted a 70 percent increase in applications,
Sebbard quickly found additional screeners and later helped set up a
new screener database. Her colleagues say that Sebbard also translates
letters of recommendation in French, Spanish and Russian that accompany
the applications. "Susan is the anchor person of our staff," a nominator
writes. "In her position she has become an emblem of what makes Stanford
a world-class university."
The winner of the Amy J. Blue Award receives a
$1,000 prize to support the costs of professional development. The Amy
recipients receive a crystal award and remain eligible for future "Amy
J. Blue Awards." The endowment supporting this award was established
by a group of people who knew and worked with Blue, with contributions
from her family, friends and colleagues.
Schofield says that Stanford does not have many
opportunities university-wide to recognize employees. "There hasn't
been much interest in staff and this is a gap I think we filled," she
says. "This isn't our real job," she says about the group who review
the nominations. "But it's the most enjoyable thing we do all year."