2003: Carolyn Johnson, Darwinian Sciences Cluster

From the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Students in the University and the President of Student Government

May 16, 2003

For additional comments on the award, please contact Steve Klass, Bill Michel, Phil Venticinque, Jonathan Westring, and Enrique Gomez.

Carolyn has elegantly managed my registration and funding status, yet much of her work is “behind-the-scenes”. As a result, I am rarely concerned with my relationship with the university and graduate program. Instead, through her efforts, I have luxuriously focused my energy on my research and intellectual development.

The above comment was one of many tributes to Carolyn Schiller Johnson, the Administrative Director for Graduate Programs in the Darwinian Science Cluster and the first winner of the Marlene F. Richman Award for Excellence and Dedication in Service to Students. Marlene Richman served students with extraordinary commitment and caring during her career at the University that spanned four decades and included serving as Resident Master of Burton-Judson and 36 years as a CAPS career counselor.

As Steve Klass, Vice President and Dean of Students in the University, announced on the occasion of Marlene’s retirement in October 2002,

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 will exemplify 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 70 students submitted letters of nomination for 23 full-time staff members eligible to receive the award – faculty members and senior management 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, members of the University Dean of Students senior staff, and a divisional Dean of Students.

Students from the departments of Ecology & Evolution and Organismal Biology & Anatomy and from the Committee on Evolutional Biology wrote of Carolyn’s extraordinary warmth and exceptional ability to manage the bureaucratic demands of graduate student life. “You can come to her with any problem and she provided a compassionate ear and shoulder to lean on,” explains one nomination, and in the words of another: “I know I can step into her office at any time, with any question, and leave with a satisfying answer or direction. Whenever a CEB student (or even a faculty member) needs a well-thought and practical opinion about any aspect of our academic lives, it is quite common to hear the suggestion: ‘Ask Carolyn. She’ll know it.’”

“As an international student coming to U.S. for the first time,” writes another student, “I had difficulties following all the administrative procedures and rules. Carolyn helped me through things with patience and understanding. I still remember the little note she wrote for me, which listed things I needed to do step-by-step, and people I needed to contact one-by-one. She even spent a full-hour with me talking about the educational differences between U.S. and China, and the difficulties I may encounter. From that time, I've known Carolyn as a person I could turn to for trust and comfort.”

Carolyn’s accomplishments span far beyond the exceptional support she provides for the students in the Darwinian Science cluster. As one of the letters of nomination reminded the selection committee, “Carolyn is a true Renaissance woman. She teaches courses in humanities, continues to pursue her anthropological work at the Field Museum, and maintains her involvement in a continuing study of Balinese Gamelon puppetry. She is a highly intelligent and rare individual. She would be extremely difficult to replace and, speaking personally, my academic life would be much harder without her.”

The nominees for the first annual awarding of this honor included members of the Housing and Dining staff, several graduate student administrators from the Pritzker School of Medicine and from departments in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Biological Sciences, College Advisors, and members of the ORCSA, Library, Physical Education, Office of Minority Student Affairs, and CAPS staffs. Each nominee will receive a certificate and letter highlighting some of the comments included in students’ nominations. Carolyn Johnson will be honored at the annual picnic hosted by Steve Klass, Vice President and Dean of Students in the University. She received an award certificate, Marlene Richman's chocolate cake, and her name is inscribed on the Marlene F. Richman Award Plaque on display in the stairwell of the Reynolds Club. 

Students nominated the following full-time staff members for the award: Diana Almanza, Office of Minority Student Affairs; Joanne Berens, History; Alicia Czaplewski, South Asian Languages and Civilizations; Eugene Edwards, Pierce Dining Hall; Tyjuan Edwards, Regenstein Library; Kathleen A. Forde, College Advisor; Kathleen M. Fox; Classical Languages and Literature and Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World; Anne M. Gamboa, Committee on Social Thought; Andrea Hagen Gates, College Advisor; Norval Glover, Snell-Hitchcock; Diane J. Hall, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Physiology Cluster; Betty Hines, Max Palevsky Hall; Lori A. Hurvitz, Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities; Deborah Jackson, Max Palevsky Hall; Carolyn Johnson, Darwinian Science Cluster; Jennifer Kennedy, Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities; Elise LaRose, College Advisor; Annalee Letchinger, Career and Placement Services; Carol Logan, Pritzker School of Medicine; Estella Manns, Snell-Hitchcock; Margaret Sandford Norbeck, Divinity School; Mariana Perlinac, Pritzker School of Medicine; Marguerite Soria, Physical Education; Marjorie Wash, Psychology.