During Appalachian State University’s opening meeting for faculty and staff for the 2016 fall semester, four staff members were recognized with awards for their exemplary service, commitment, collegiality and leadership to the university community.
The 2016 Staff Excellence Awards were presented to Livelle Leon Rodriguez, Barry Sauls, Lori Townsend and Tom Van Gilder. They were chosen by a review committee from a pool of 59 nominations.
The Staff Excellence Awards are presented annually to up to four members of Appalachian’s staff for outstanding service to the university and the state of North Carolina. Speaking on behalf of the selection committee, Director of Human Resources Mark Bachmeier said, “It is incredibly challenging to select only four from among the many deserving nominees.”
Livelle Leon Rodriguez
An accounting technician in University Advancement, Leon Rodriquez has worked at Appalachian for nine years. Lauded in her nomination for her professional contributions to her department as well as her compassion, she was described as someone who always makes time to help others, no matter how busy she might be. “She is the kind of caring person that we should all strive to be,” read one testimonial in her nomination.
Sauls, director of Parking and Traffic since 1998, was described as a relationship builder who continually strives to improve the customer service of his division and “goes above and beyond the call of duty to help students, staff and faculty in times of need.” In addition to his dedication to his fellow staff, he was also praised in his nomination for his service to the broader community. He was described as the embodiment of the motto shared by both the state of North Carolina and the university: “to be rather than to seem.”
Lori Townsend ’01 ’07
Townsend, senior associate director in Student Financial Aid, has worked at Appalachian for 14 years. She was described in her nomination as a dedicated employee and creative problem solver who “constantly works to set aside long-held assumptions and think differently regarding our processes and services for students.”
Her leadership in implementing two highly successful initiatives, one to improve process and timely completion of financial aid processes for incoming new students and one focusing on early completion of financial aid packages for returning students, resulted in an increase in the number of students completing financial aid applications, which led to more aid being awarded earlier. This improvement has made critical differences in the lives of the 70 percent of Appalachian students who rely on some form of financial aid.
Townsend is a graduate of Appalachian. She earned a bachelor’s in management in 2001 and a master’s in higher education in 2007.
Tom Van Gilder ’92 ’98
Van Gilder, who is serving as interim director of Learning Technology Services, has worked at Appalachian for 17 years. He was praised for his collaborative leadership style, sense of humor and practical and fun approach to project management.
Recognized for his leadership in the campus transition to Google services, his nomination called out his creative style of implementing the project, which included a “Masters of the Univers-ity” rollout. He was also lauded for his efforts to support a friend and community member who suffered a serious injury from an accident. His nominators said, “Tom has taught us all lessons in friendship, determination, perseverance and leadership.”
He is a graduate of Appalachian. He earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 1992 and a master’s in instructional technology in 1998.
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.