University celebrates staff's part in history, announces art tribute during summer festival

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 1:04pm

The MStaff200 Bicentennial Celebration Event, kicked off early Tuesday morning with tents, activities and recognitions of University of Michigan staff and faculty, past and present. Hundreds gathered on the Diag and Ingalls Mall for the event, which marked the second day of the Summer Festival after Monday's Bicentennial Colloquium.

Several speakers took to the steps of Hatcher Graduate Library to address the crowd.


Gary Krenz, executive director of the University's Bicentennial, opened the event and acknowledged the essential work of faculty.  

"We have a really vibrant, fun set of activities ahead of us today, all developed by staff, in recognition of staff contributions over the University's 200 years," he said. "To make that complex entity (that is U of M) function requires partnership with a lot of people who are operating at the very highest level, and that, of course, is our dedicated University of Michigan staff."

Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for Human Resources, worked to create the MStaff200 event. She thanked the over 600 volunteers, faculty and staff who committed to facilitating activities throughout the day.

"I hope you will feel a sense of pride and excitement and enthusiasm, and return to your jobs later today or tomorrow with understanding who makes blue 'go,' who makes an incredible difference with your ideas, your innovation, and the work that you do every day," she said.

Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, spoke to faculty and staff and announced a new award to be launched in October.

"It's important that we celebrate your effort, skills, innovation and excellence in a very visible and impactful way, which is why we felt it was important to bolster our University-wide employee recognition awards," he said.

Hegarty said Thomas reached out to the Voices of the Staff, an employee engagement program at the University, to create a rewards and recognition task force with members from the campus and Michigan Medine. They researched what other universities do and they surveyed more than 600 staff at the University. They advised Hegarty and ultimately decided on the creation of a new award.

"I'm thrilled to tell you we will be launching this award this October," Hegarty said. "It's called the University of Michigan Community Service and Excellence Staff Awards. It celebrates individual staff members who accel, it celebrates teams who do great work, it celebrates supervisors who truly make a difference in the workplace and, perhaps most importantly, this new award puts an emphasis on the work that you do that aligns with the values of this University."

Multiple awards will be given out every year.

Marschall Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs, acknowledged faculty who works in the health system.

"Staff who are in the health system perform an incredibly important function," he said. "Our principal mission is to provide healthcare to patients, provide preventive healthcare to patients, and then build upon that with providing education and research that will help improve patient care. I have to tell you that this would be impossible without the many thousands that work in the health system — about 25,000 total."

Runge said it is the passion of the employees that makes a difference for patients and their overall health. Runge said he cannot think of a more honorable role to play in a place like the University.

University President Mark Schlissel then spoke about the contributions and commitment of the University's faculty.

"Another experience I had when I first arrived (at the University) is staff would come up to me and tell me their own Michigan story and how excited and proud they were to work at the University," he said. "There's a connection to Michigan that I just have not experienced at other great universities."


Schlissel asked staff on the Diag to raise their hands if they had been at the University for less than 10 years, then between 10 and 20, 20 and 30, 30 and 40 and more than 40 years. He thanked everyone for their commitments.

"That's what's absolutely amazing to me," he said. "We have a staff of dedicated, hardworking, loyal, committed staff that believe in the mission of the University and believe in one another. They come to Michigan and they spend their professional lives here."

Schlissel then announced a new Bicentennial Public Art Staff Tribute that will be installed later in the year.

He said no single celebration of the University would be complete without honoring its two centuries of staff excellence. The tribute will be installed between the C.C. Little Science Building and the Dana Samuel Trask Building. The title of the piece is "Arriving Home" and was created by Dennis Oppenheim, a U.S. artist and Guggenheim fellow.

"We wanted to commemorate the amazing work of the past but also recognize our future goals for Michigan's third century rely on the dedication and intellect and creativity of our talented staff," he said. "We knew this recognition had to be as enduring as the long-standing commitment to our staff. It had to be permanent because staff excellence at the University of Michigan doesn't end with our bicentennial year. It had to be public as all of your work is each and every day all around the University. It had to be inspiring because your work brings so much hope to our students, to our patients, to our friends and to our community."


Schlissel emphasized the connection between the public contributions of the staff and the public art.

The piece was purchased, in part, by Jack Janveja, who has worked at the University for 54 years.

"Jack said he gave us this gift because it's important to have art on campus, because like our staff it heightens the University of Michigan experience, and he holds a deep love for the U of M,” Schlissel said. "U of M staff will be forever honored with a new, permanent, public art installation on campus. Now our staff will always feel a special link to our campus's public art."