Three Professionals Selected for Service Awards


SUNY Cortland will honor the outstanding performances of three professional staff members with the institution’s highest level of recognition, the 2012-13 Excellence in Professional Service Awards.

These non-faculty employees join 34 others recognized since the award was first presented in 2003. The trio will be honored formally at the Faculty and Professional Staff Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, May 8, in the Corey Union Function Room.

The new honorees are:

• John Suarez, service-learning coordinator, Institute for Civic Engagement, for Excellence in Service to Students;

• Mark DePaull, assistant chief of police, University Police, for Excellence in Institutional Service; and,

• Dawn Van Hall, the digital-imaging specialist, Memorial Library, and co-coordinator of Native American Studies, for Excellence in Innovation within Profession.

Any professional who has completed at least two years of service at SUNY Cortland is eligible for these awards. Nominated by their colleagues, the honorees stand out as role models within their area of responsibility, profession or department. They have demonstrated characteristics such as leadership, organization, problem-solving or decision-making skills that serve as examples of professionalism of the highest caliber.

Over and over again, the three employees have displayed a penchant for “going the extra mile” in order to serve students and the College. They have shown creativity in designing and implementing effective programs and services.

John Suarez

Suarez, a former English Department lecturer who has served as a professional staff member since 2007, each semester teaches an English composition course with a service-learning component that he designed some years ago.

He met the award criteria by demonstrating leadership in the development and enhancement of programs and services that respond to student needs.

John Suarez

“There is no one at SUNY Cortland with a bigger heart than (Suarez’s) when it comes to serving our students,” a colleague wrote about Suarez in the nomination form for Excellence in Student Service.

The unusually formatted classes are intended to motivate students’ interest in writing by providing them with real-world subjects. Because Suarez could not find materials suited to the way in which he teaches service-learning English composition, he created his own manual, which he is working now to publish.

Suarez devotes many hours outside the classroom holding tutorials for students to help improve their writing skills, the colleague wrote.

Suarez’s outreach to youth doesn’t end on the college campus. He and his wife have hosted about a dozen exchange students over the years.

“His relationship with these young people is so profound that they return to Cortland again and again,” the nominator wrote. “One of his exchange students from China enrolled at SUNY Cortland for the fall semester last year, and another of his students, a German doctoral candidate, visited Cortland in the spring of last year and made a number of presentations on campus pertaining to civic engagement in Germany.”

Mark DePaull

DePaull, who has served his department for 22 years, was appointed assistant chief in 2006.

He has earned this accolade by being a role model within his area of responsibility, profession and department.

“He consistently gets positive comments from all areas of campus: ‘Great job!’ ‘Good person to work with!’ and always gets high performance evaluations,” his nominator wrote. “He is well respected within the department and throughout the campus community.”

Mark DePaull
 Mark DePaull

Acknowledged for successfully managing all aspects of the department’s state accreditation process, DePaull also volunteered with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Accreditation Program to review other programs on its behalf. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice presented him with its John Kimball Award for his leadership.

DePaull launched the department’s bicycle-patrol program as the first policing agency in Cortland County to embrace this community policing initiative.

DePaull developed and implemented Incident Action Plans (IAPs) for major campus events, including the annual Cortaca Jug football game, New York Jets Training Camp, Spring Fling and graduation. The IAPs follow the National Incident Management System’s systematic approach to preventing, protecting from, responding to, recovering from, mitigating or managing emergencies as they arise.

He also initiated the Sexual Assault Awareness and Programming Committee.

One nominator listed DePaull’s strengths in the areas of problem solving and decision-making. The person noted DePaull’s outstanding performance in maintaining public safety at major campus events and his involvement on many campus committees and with professional service organizations. In support of the College’s goals, DePaulll leads many campus-safety-training programs and is active with student recruitment and orientation programs.

The SUNY Police Chiefs Association twice awarded him a certificate of honor for excellence in the profession of law enforcement. The SUNY Cortland Emergency Squad named him an honorary member.

Dawn Van Hall

Honorees must demonstrate creativity in the development or application of ideas of concepts within a professional operation. Van Hall demonstrates innovation within a profession for her approximately two decades designing a creative program in film production.

“With very little money, Dawn has put an impressive film collection together, stored at the library,” wrote one of several nominators. “Her leadership is exemplary, as the students will benefit from her film collection long after Dawn retires.”

Dawn Van Hall
Dawn Van Hall 

A long-time member of the College’s Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies (CGIS), Van Hall organizes and presents a Native American History Month film series in November on behalf of the center. Over the years, the digital-film acquisitions have formed the basis of a very complete collection representing the diverse lives of American Indians as well as Canadian First Peoples and Maori people.

The annual screenings, often accompanied by discussions with visiting filmmakers or cultural presenters, are awaited eagerly by a loyal following of students, staff and visitors.

“I don’t know (Van Hall’s) secret ingenuity of pulling together an impressive program and asking for only nominal support from CGIS,” the nominator wrote. “I can only imagine that she is well-known for her efforts, and that filmmakers happily comply with her request and give us an opportunity to ask about the making of the film, the cultural settings, etc.” 

The Professional Service Awards Committee is considering candidates for next year’s awards. For more information, visit the website or contact committee chair Colleen DeGouff at 607-753-2313.