2012 Winner: Cynthia Cook-Conley

June 1, 2012 

Cynthia interacts with all of us in the Harris School with the rare grace and goodwill that accompanies someone with exceptional character. She exhibits this grace and goodwill to all with whom she interacts, day to day, month after month, year after year...

It gives us great pleasure to present the tenth annual Marlene F. Richman Award for Excellence and Dedication in Service to Students to Cynthia Cook-Conley, Faculty Assistant at the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies.

The Marlene F. Richman Award recognizes University of Chicago staff members who demonstrate the highest levels of dedication, care and compassion in the service of students. The winner of this award exemplifies the qualities demonstrated by Marlene F. Richman during her decades of untiring effort to guide students in the articulation and achievement of their dreams to be a true friend and leader to colleagues, and to promote students' happiness and well-being.

Over 100 students submitted letters of nomination for 41 staff members eligible to receive the award – faculty and senior management staff were specifically excluded so that the award would recognize University staff members who work directly with students outside the classroom. The selection committee included undergraduate and graduate students, staff members from Campus and Student Life and divisional Deans of Students. In this large field of nominees, Ms. Cook-Conley stood out from the rest and was the unanimous choice of the committee.

As evidenced by the heartfelt nominations students submitted, Cynthia has been and remains a major source of support for students at the Harris School. She is an exceptionally compassionate, professional, and dedicated member of our community, as you'll hear in the following comments from her nominating letters.

She cares about the students and their well-being and is one of the most compassionate individuals I have ever met. The truth is that Cynthia is a very dear friend and supporter to each of the students with whom she has crossed paths.

It is on top of her regular duties that Cynthia shows her extraordinary prioritization of her students. She always makes sure she takes the extra time to say hello when she sees us, ask us about our progress and lives, tell us how much she believes in us, and offer additional words of encouragement whenever needed. She always listens, shows us the utmost respect, and is profoundly generous with her time.

She encourages, inspires, and recognizes our accomplishments, which is priceless (cliché as it sounds).

Cynthia is simply a friendly face that we can all count on seeing each day. She is one of the most professional, positive people working at our school, and it is a pleasure to run into her in the hallways. She always has a smile on her face, and her energy uplifts each of us on a daily basis while we live in a world of stress and deadlines. She is unselfish with her time and dedication to our program.

Cynthia is completely committed to the students. She is very involved in our entire process. Provides great amounts of encouragement when needed. I have always felt immensely supported by her during the qualifying exam process when I was extremely nervous about passing them. Also, she provides good advice on how the PhD job application process and one can make good decisions based on the advice. She has vast amounts of experience and guides us well. She is ALWAYS willing to talk and help out.

Cynthia always seems to know when I lose my balance and need a steady hand and a kind word to remind me to stay focused and to be thankful for what I do have. This is a rare and inspiring quality in a family member, or a close friend, but to see such a quality and commitment in someone with whom you work, with whom so very many of us work, is truly awe-inspiring. I hope that I will always comport myself with the grace and focus, kindness and generosity of spirit that Cynthia has demonstrated for us all.

The Richman Award Committee is proud to honor Cynthia Cook-Conley today with the 2012 Marlene F. Richman Award. We are all very grateful to Cynthia for the incredible level of commitment and support she demonstrates every day in her work with students. The 24 nominations submitted on her behalf show the deep appreciation and respect she has garnered through her selfless work at the University.

Cynthia Cook-Conley will be honored at the Annual Campus and Student Life Picnic June 14 and at a Harris School celebration that will take place later this summer.

She will also receive an award certificate, an extra service payment, and her name inscribed on the Marlene F. Richman Award Plaque, which hangs in the stairwell of the Reynolds Club.

The other 40 nominees will receive a certificate and letter highlighting some of the comments included in the students' nominations.