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'People' Awards Featured at NIEHS Ceremony

At the annual NIEHS awards ceremony, institute director Dr. Kenneth Olden surprised several employees with new "grass roots" awards unique to NIEHS — Unsung Hero Awards for people whose contributions may have previously been overlooked, and Peer Awards, in which people are nominated by fellow employees.

The Unsung Hero Awards are for behind-the-scenes contributions that might fall between the cracks of traditional awards. For example, Dr. John Penta received his award for his income-producing commitment to technology transfer work at NIEHS and as a frequent volunteer lecturer on cancer detection and a popular pianist at lunchtimes and institute events.

Dr. Gary Boorman won his award for bringing issues of potential public concern to the institute's research agenda. Dr. John Pritchard's was not only for scientific leadership but also for his 5-year chairmanship of an intramural committee on promotions that developed fair, but rigorous, standards.

Ruth McFarland, who provides free notary services, gets award from NIEHS director Dr. Kenneth Olden.

Lab and branch chiefs nominate employees for Hero awards, which are purely honorary.

The Peer Awards, given for assistance to others, include $600 and awardees are nominated by fellow employees, not supervisors. For example, Ruth McFarland, a notary public, has for many years provided that service free-of-charge to fellow employees. Richard Sloane won for his promotion of recycling at NIEHS and at other facilities in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Beth Anderson won not only for activities improving the institute but also for fostering collaborations with the state of North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. Valeria Shropshire won for helping contract and regular employees throughout the institute.

Olden said the award winners are "nice to have on our team and contribute more than just the work they perform on the job." He said he hopes the awards promote team efforts and show that the institute values interpersonal relationships.

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