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Deborah Williams Honored by Chancellor

Deborah Williams Honored by Chancellor


Deborah Williams, a secretary I in the Communication Studies Department and a SUNY Cortland employee for the past 30 years, has been honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Staff.

Williams will receive the prestigious award during the 2010 Undergraduate Commencement on Saturday, May 22, in the Park Center.

She becomes the second SUNY Cortland recipient of the award, created by SUNY in 2009 and presented in recognition of outstanding job performance in their present position, flexibility and creativity on campus, and demonstration of exemplary customer service.

The Chancellor’s Award process begins at each of the 64 SUNY campuses with nominations submitted by the respective presidents. The SUNY Committee on Awards then reviews the nominations and makes its recommendations.

“Deborah Williams is deeply committed to SUNY Cortland,” said the College’s President Erik J. Bitterbaum. “Precisely because she cares about the SUNY Cortland community, everything she does is of the highest caliber.”

“I am humbled and honored to be chosen as this year’s recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service,” Williams said. “The years seem to pass quickly when each day brings something new and challenging. Working in an academic office affords me the opportunity to work with many wonderful students, faculty and staff.”

Williams joined the College in 1977 as a temporary stenographer in the Affirmative Action Office. She soon became permanent and was transferred to College Activities. She served in the Financial Aid Office from 1981-82 and the Music Department from 1982-93. In 1989, she was promoted to secretary I and, in 1993, moved to the Communication Studies Department.

“‘Exemplary’ is the most common word echoed among her fellow colleagues when describing the manner in which Deborah Williams has executed her duties and responsibilities in her service to SUNY Cortland,” observed Distinguished Service Professor Samuel L. Kelley, who nominated her for the award.

Beyond the basics of her job, Williams is knowledgeable in college procedures, curriculum, advising and graduation requirements, Kelley asserted. She is noted for her dependability in providing support and assistance to all department levels, including the chair, full- and part-time faculty, students and alumni.

“Her professionalism, outstanding organizational skills, attention to detail and strong interpersonal skills positively impact the department and campus,” said Kelley. “She is generous in her time with students.”

Williams provides extensive support to department-affiliated student organizations, including the Dragon Chronicle, WSUC-FM, Debate Team, Speak Magazine and CSTV.

“Several alumni currently serve as part-time faculty members in communication studies, each one advising one of the student organizations,” Kelley noted. “They rely on Deborah’s knowledge in providing history and continuity for the organizations and to keep information flowing to student leaders and group members. Deborah was also an invaluable asset to the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir for tours to England and Germany. She volunteered to keep records of donations and sent out ‘thank you’ notices.”

“She was never my boss, but rather a mentor who not only taught me about work ethics and self motivation, but also how to be kind to every person that set foot through the door or called on the telephone,” commented one graduate and former Work Study student.

“Students, they are the reason we are here,” Williams said. “I enjoy working with them and their organizations and it is exciting to watch the students mature into young professionals and to follow their career paths. I am blessed by the friendships made, and I hope that my interactions with them have had a positive impact on them.”

Williams came highly recommended among her Civil Service Employees Association co-workers, Kelley said. In one instance, she helped a fellow employee, who had little prior training or background working in academia, adapt to a new job created by a retirement. She has volunteered her time to the college community with the Christmas Family Gift Drive for Migrant Education Outreach Program, and in key CSEA roles.

A resident of Cortland, N.Y., Williams has two children, Michele Wendel and Mark Yacavone, and four grandchildren. Michele is a kindergarten teacher's aide at Cassavant Elementary School in McLean, N.Y., and Mark is the assistant manager/outside sales representative for Kellogg’s Auto Supply in Dryden, N.Y.