Harvard may attract its fair share of 4.0 students, but a 4.0 employee is harder to come by. That fact wasn’t lost on Nathan Fry, associate director of athletics, when he read the evaluations submitted by student athletes of James Frazier, director of strength and conditioning for Harvard’s 35 sports teams.

Every player on Harvard’s basketball teams had rated their experience with Frazier, who develops and oversees more than 1,000 athletes’ conditioning and strength training, a perfect 4.0. His score among the 110-member football team was an impressive 3.94.

“You don’t see that with our best coaches, and I bet you don’t see that with professors on campus,” Fry said of Frazier’s evaluations. “I thought, ‘Holy cow, this guy is doing something really special for our department.’ ”

But it wasn’t just the raw numbers that inspired Fry to nominate Frazier for Dean’s Distinction, a Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) award honoring outstanding employees. Frazier, a former football player at Brown University, “has really embraced the Ivy League philosophy of education through sport,” Fry said. “He’s an outstanding teacher and motivator.”

And like his fellow 2011 Dean’s Distinction honorees, Frazier’s passion for and dedication to his job can’t be quantified, even with the student surveys.

“Everything about the job’s rewarding,” Frazier said. “Every single day I get to interact with student athletes at one of the best universities on the planet.”

Frazier was one of 38 FAS employees honored at the second annual Dean’s Distinction awards ceremony and reception on Wednesday (March 2). Dean Michael D. Smith praised the recipients for their service, adding that he had personally read their nomination forms.

“You make it possible for Harvard to carry out its mission,” Smith said as the winners nibbled hors d’oeuvres and sipped drinks with their co-workers and families. “Under your care, and thanks to your skills, efforts, and innovations, FAS has thrived.”

In many ways, Harvard staff members are the “unsung heroes” of the University community, Smith said. “Thanks to you, our organization of extraordinary breadth functions day in and day out.”

Leslie Kirwan, dean for administration and finance, said employee appreciation events such as Dean’s Distinction are a crucial component of “leadership that gets it.” She told the crowd that she hoped the awards would inspire FAS employees to take the time to appreciate one another’s contributions.

“It’s such a simple thing to take a few minutes,” Kirwan said. “And yet it seems like it’s all too rare that we actually take the time to say, ‘Thank you.’ ”

Charles Marcus, professor of physics, was one of three faculty members who seized the opportunity to nominate Jessica Martin, a sponsored-programs portfolio manager in the Physics Department and one of the evening’s award recipients. It was the least he could do, Marcus said, to thank Martin for her help in securing his research team an $18 million grant that now funds the work of 10 professors on four continents.

“I wouldn’t have even applied for it without knowing she could become the financial manager for that grant,” said Marcus, who had worked with Martin in the past when she was his administrative assistant. “She works so well [with faculty] that it really feels to every extent like a partnership.”

And while Martin has the daunting task of managing funds for more than 20 professors, she sees her job as more than just a series of financial spreadsheets and federal guidelines. She takes the customer-service, team-oriented nature of her work seriously (and literally), even if that means convincing a bunch of research assistants to ditch the lab and take up Wiffle ball.

“I started a league here in the department, trying to get the lab members to go outside on sunny days,” Martin said. “When you form those relationships, people are more open when they come to you, more collaborative.”

Little things like that are what make the Dean’s Distinction recipients so impressive, Smith said.

“These things are not a part of their job descriptions,” he said. “They care so deeply about the people they’re working for, whether it’s students or faculty. It was greatly inspiring to read about the work they’re doing.”

The awardees were chosen from more than 140 nominations representing 23 FAS divisions and units. The nominees were a diverse bunch. Their years of service to Harvard ranged from one year to 31, and a quarter were members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW).

The recipients are:

Jeffrey Berg, Department of English
Barbara Bontempo, Department of Psychology
Robert Byrne, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Jay Carter, FAS Information Technology
Manuel Casillas, FAS Physical Resources
Ann-Marie Costa, Widener Library
Christina Davis, Houghton Library
Sarah Ann Delude, Center for European Studies
Charlene A. Deming, Department of Psychology
Edythe Ellin, Harvard Forest
James Frazier, Department of Athletics
Jeremy Gibson, Department of Athletics
Susan M. Gilroy, Widener Library
Dena Gregory, Office of Undergraduate Education
JoAnn DiSalvo Haas, Leverett House
Charles E. Hickey, Harvard College Observatory
Julia Hutchinson, FAS Human Resources
Evelyn M. Jimenez, FAS Registrar’s Office
Paul Kelley, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Larissa S. Kennedy, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History
Julie Knippa, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies
Susan Lee Laurence, Korea Institute
Margaret A. Mahoney, Division of Continuing Education
Jessica Martin, Department of Physics
Kevin McGowan, Instructional Media Services
Dawn Elliott Patton, Research Administration Services
Joseph D. Peidle, Department of Physics
Claire Reardon, FAS Center for Systems Biology
Maureen Rekrut, FAS Finance Office
Linda E. Ross, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Ali Saren, the Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Andrea Shen, Office for Faculty Affairs
Laura Gorman Thomas, Department of Sociology
Gregory Tucci, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Kristen K. Vagliardo, Semitic Museum
Kathryn Vidra, Harvard College Admissions and Financial Aid
Matilda West, Division of Continuing Education
Michelle Wong, Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology

Cutting the military’s energy tether