They do everything from serving guests in the Harvard Faculty Club with grace to caring for a colony of 200 marmosets used in research. They help ensure that at-risk high school students follow through on their college goals, and they turn an office courtyard into a vibrant garden of medicinal herbs. They oversee vital resources like major gifts that provide financial aid for hundreds of Harvard College students each year, and they also watch over that most coveted asset, parking.
They are the 64 unsung staffers from across the University who were named the “2014 Harvard Heroes” for their special expertise, leadership, and dedication to keeping Harvard humming. President Drew Faust, along with senior leaders from various Schools and departments, led a raucous celebration of these exemplary employees and their accomplishments at Sanders Theatre Thursday afternoon. Faust called it one of her favorite days of the year.
“Thank you, Harvard Heroes, for your unflagging support of the University’s mission of teaching and research. Our success depends on your creativity and commitment,” Faust told the audience packed with families, friends, co-workers, and members of the Harvard community. “You manage complex projects, help others navigate big changes, and add a human touch to the day-to-day workings of the University. But your diligent work is just the start. Your nominators say you are the ones who are quick to offer help, the ones who never shy away from challenges, the ones who inspire others, and the ones who keep things running smoothly with a smile.”
Marilyn Hausammann, Harvard’s vice president for human resources, introduced the festivities by noting that the honorees — each nominated by colleagues and peers — were truly an elite group, representing just half of 1 percent of the University staff. Broad criteria for selection include promoting teamwork, embodying Harvard’s mission and values, supporting sustainability, and contributing in innovative ways.
Some of the heroes are campus legends, like Jack P. Reardon ’60, who in the last 50 years has been everything from a freshman proctor and senior tutor at Kirkland House to director of Harvard College admissions and athletics, advisor to University presidents and the Board of Overseers, and who will retire next month as executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association. Others, like Mariana Lincoln Quinn, have been here just a short while. Quinn, who started as a temp in 2007, was singled out for her “meticulous care” of more than 200 pianos across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, tracking their tuning, repairs, and pitch levels as part of Harvard’s Piano Technical Services.
“My job is incredibly rewarding when an artist expresses satisfaction, sometimes elation, as a result of my work on a piano. I also have a magnificent team and a wonderful boss [Robert Doyle],” said Quinn.
“Everyone involved throughout the process … really went all-out to make us feel personally recognized and part of something special,” said Ashley Snowdon, senior coordinator for alumni relations at Harvard Graduate School of Education, whose work on the Strategic Data Project at the Center for Educational Policy Research identified the “summer melt” phenomenon among some high school seniors who get into college but then fail to enroll. “I feel especially lucky because I loved getting to work on the project I was nominated for, so getting recognized for it in such a way was really above and beyond anything I could have imagined!”
Following a fun video tribute in which happy nominees were informed by colleagues that they had been chosen as heroes while being surprised with cake, balloons, and flowers, the honorees were treated to a reception in Annenberg Hall.
“Being named a Harvard Hero is a tremendous honor, and it speaks just as much to the terrific group of dedicated colleagues whom I partner with every day as it does to any individual contribution,” said Jonathan Beasley, assistant director of communications at Harvard Divinity School.
David Havelick, a program manager in epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health who successfully promoted sustainability on campus, such as bicycling to work and instituting greener dining practices, said being recognized onstage by Faust was “so meaningful and validating” and “felt like a dream.”
“Perhaps even more touching was knowing that the people I work with every day and my fellow green team friends had taken the time out of their day to write such beautiful words about me and my impact, especially since they are all people who inspire me,” he said. “Sometimes we get lost in our day-to-day work lives and forget that we’re doing something important and meaningful. The Harvard Heroes celebration helped to remind me that we’re a pretty impressive team of staff here at Harvard!”