Mary Alice O’Brien, director of integrated administrative computing services and acting manager of business support and application services, says that she has always appreciated the Pillar of Rensselaer Award, and what it stands for as a staff member. A Rensselaer employee for 36 years, O’Brien is the recipient of the 2015 Pillar of Rensselaer Award.
The award was presented to O’Brien at the 43rd annual Service Recognition & Retirement Dinner held Aug. 28 at the Hilton Garden Inn. The Pillar Award, the highest honor Rensselaer gives to a staff member, is presented annually to a staff member who understands the Institute’s mission and history, has been a role model for other employees, has shown concern for students and their welfare, has added to the human dimension of the school, and who has played an active role in his or her home community. (See additional story, page 7).
Several days after the event, O’Brien said that she believes that this is a wonderful award for staff and feels truly honored to be a recipient. “I believe in the quote that follows my signature—‘The secret to success…Make others successful!’ The staff of Rensselaer are the epitome of this quote. They are true pillars who work tirelessly and unselfishly day in and day out to maintain successful operations and promote successful experiences for students. In addition, President Jackson and her cabinet continue to provide direction and vision to ensure Rensselaer’s prominence as a world-class technological university. For me, the award is especially significant because nominations come from campus peers. Until winning the award, I didn’t realize what a humbling experience and true privilege it really is.”
O’Brien was cited for her demonstrated understanding of Rensselaer mission and history, and was praised as a role model and mentor for other employees and students, according to Provost Prabhat Hajela, who also shared at the dinner some quotes from several of the nominations received for O’Brien.
One nominator said, “this person possesses the experience and understanding of the Institute’s mission from the prospective of a student, parent, employee, and volunteer.” Another nominator said that O’Brien’s “vision, focus, and determination to develop systems and processes that best serve the Institute’s faculty, staff, and students is admirable, impressive, and demonstrates understanding of Rensselaer mission and history.”
In noting her impact in serving as a role model for other employees, one nominator said, “There are so many words to describe this person: Dedicated, compassionate, inspiring, patient, and hardworking are only a few.”
Another nominator noted that “this person leads by being among the finest examples of a true professional in higher education. She has served as an extraordinary role model to senior professionals, as well as an inspiration to staff at the beginning of their careers. She continually goes above and beyond to further the reputation of Rensselaer.”
O’Brien was also recognized for her demonstrated concern for students and their welfare, adding to the human dimension of Rensselaer, and her engagement in community service. “This person’s skills do not end with her office work. She projects a warm, cheerful attitude to alumni and alumnae, and has been instrumental in performing volunteer work at Commencement and service to Rensselaer’s Credit Union Board, as well as her church and surrounding community.”
The Pillar of Rensselaer Award was established in 1993 through the support of Carl Westerdahl, former dean of students and director of alumni relations. The annual award consists of a gift of $2,500 and a sterling silver pin by Tiffany & Co. The winner’s name also is inscribed on the base of a Tiffany crystal award that is permanently displayed in the President’s Suite in the Troy Building.