In the world of academia, the spotlight shines brightly on the esteemed faculty who advance knowledge and research, on the promising students and their achievements or misbehavior, on the presidential initiatives that chart the course for the university’s proud future.
But someone’s got to count the money, fix the computers, polish the marble, and order the bananas – 210 tons of them each year. The annual Harvard Heroes ceremony honors those unsung worker bees, the Central Administration staffers who keep the University buzzing with behind-the-scenes tasks.
“The greatness of an institution is ultimately written in the individual deeds
of the people who comprise that institution,” said President Lawrence H. Summers at the June 23 celebration in Sanders Theatre. “Without the functions of administrators who we celebrate today, complete chaos and unproductiveness would ensue within a short number of hours.”
In all, 148 of Central Administration’s approximately 3,500 workers were dubbed “Heroes,” either individually or in teams. With introductions as personal and lofty for custodians as for high-level managers, Summers and Provost Steven E. Hyman lauded the employees for their dedication, good humor, excellent customer service, creativity, calm in the face of chaos, and collaboration.
While all “Heroes,” who were chosen by their departments, excelled at their jobs this past year, a few were notable for their extraordinary or downright unusual achievements. Mark Corte, kitchen utility worker at Sebastian’s Café at the School of Public Health, received kudos for jumping into the trash to retrieve a customer’s wallet. Facilities Maintenance Operations truck driver James Knopp got the nod for his dedication to recycling Harvard’s unused furniture to local charities.
Members of Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) nabbed a team award for apprehending a knife-wielding man with minimum force. “It makes me feel really good, the way it ended,” said HUPD officer Kevin Healy following the ceremony. “We didn’t have to take someone’s life and we didn’t get hurt.”
Michael Moriconi, operations center supervisor for University Operations Services, was recognized for attending to urgent matters from chemical spills to clogged toilets. Waiting in line to have his photo snapped with Summers, he admitted that it was likely his response to a fire at Elmwood, Summers’ residence, that gave him “an edge.”
An unannounced honor went to Susan Shefte, director of special projects in the Office of the Vice President for Administration. Summers called Shefte, who coordinates the Harvard Heroes event, “the hero behind the heroes.”
At a spirited reception following the ceremony, Heroes joined family, friends, and co-workers in Annenberg Hall to celebrate their honors. With the crush of Commencement behind them and summer vacations ahead, employees relaxed and enjoyed international snacks from Crimson Catering while the Harvard Heroes All-Star Garage Band, composed of moonlighting Harvard employees, pumped out dance music.