Staff awards honor RIT employee service

Staff members recognized or exemplary service, commitment and involvement

RIT honored employees on Wednesday, Oct. 3, with the annual Presidential Awards for Outstanding Staff ceremony in Ingle Auditorium. Honoring employees who participate in outstanding service and dedication to the university, these awards were given based on outstanding contributions to RIT. These awardees exhibit a high degree of personal ethics and integrity while consistently demonstrating a strong commitment to student success.

The Rising Star Award recognizes a staff member that gives high-quality service, has demonstrated a willingness to collaborate with colleges and university constituents and embodies the RIT spirit by showing imagination, creativity and innovation. This year’s recipient is Stephanie Mackowski, public safety officer. She is a certified New York state police instructor and has trained numerous officers in her department. According to one nominator, “Stephanie doesn’t do anything half-baked. When outreaching to assist students in need, she makes a lasting impression on them.” Another nominator said, “Stephanie Mackowski is a rare gem. She doesn’t excel at RIT because of awards and recognition; she excels because she cares about people, service and safety before herself. She is a terrific role model and the epitome of superior community service.”

Excellence Award winners are:

Eli Abrams, senior custodian, Facilities Management Services. According to those who nominated him, Abrams is “a shining star that lights up every room that he enters.” Always smiling and encouraging, Abrams “approaches each day with a desire for excellence and never overlooks an opportunity to lend a helping hand.” According to another nominator, one of his strongest qualities is his “ability and eagerness to communicate with everyone.”

A positive and proud member of the Facilities Management Services family, Abrams stepped into a leadership role when his supervisor went out on disability. While his workload dramatically increased, according to nominators, Abrams never complained and has provided “stability in an everchanging work environment” for those working under his leadership.

Neurodiverse Hiring Initiative Team: Laurie Ackles and Janine Rowe. One nomination stated Ackles and Rowe have made “a significant impact on the students they serve” through their involvement with this initiative. Nominators expressed that the two women’s work “exemplifies the fact that students on the autism spectrum at RIT, when supported appropriately, can make meaningful contributions not only to the university, but to the world.”

Ackles and Rowe’s work is described as “establishing best practices in an area that other universities have barely even begun thinking about.” According to nominators, Ackles and Rowe are doing the “work of the future” for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships Front Desk Staff: Matthew Reynell and Lori Rios. One nominator from the office stated, “I’ve worked in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships for 26 years. I don’t believe I am qualified to work at our front desk and certainly would not be able to perform in such an absolutely amazing, professional manner every single day as Matthew Reynell and Lori Rios do.” The nominator also said, “Matt and Lori are very good at seeing the biggest issue and making sure to connect students with the resources they need, even if those needs aren’t related to financial aid and scholarships.”

With Reynell and Rios at the front desk, nominators believe “all students who enter the office are provided with the same excellent customer service experience.”

Neveen Botros, career custodian, Facilities Management Services. Botros has been described by nominators as an individual that is “always eager to help her co-workers, the students and their parents, and the faculty and staff.” One nominator said, “Neveen really cares about the students, and they respect and care about her. In Nathanial Rochester Hall where she cleans, the students have given her gifts and decorated bulletin boards on their floor in her honor to express how much they appreciate her.” Botros is a “consummate professional, courteous and always does the highest quality work with a warm smile and kind demeanor,” according to nominators.

The Dancy Duffus Award for Outstanding Citizenship recognizes staff members who demonstrate creativity and innovation, imagination and integrity that embodies the RIT spirit. This year’s recipient is Kerry Hughes, the project and event manager, Division of Academic Affairs.

One nominator said: “one can learn so much from Kerry, not just about complex spreadsheets and project management, but about how she approaches her work as an opportunity to serve, a place where she finds meaning and gratitude. Her effectiveness, her humble and generous attitude and her loyalty to RIT are always obvious without her ever talking about it.” Nominators went on to say, “her energy is endless and her commitment to continuous improvement is unshakable.”

During the ceremony, RIT President David Munson announced the creation of a new award— the Albert J. Simone Legacy Award, which recognizes the service of RIT President Emeritus Albert Simone and the 25th anniversary of Staff Council, which Simone is credited with starting.

The award will be given annually to an RIT staff member with at least 25 years of service who has performed meritoriously over their entire RIT career; has had a lasting impact on RIT by improving or creating a process, procedure or service that has become standard across the university; and has been a catalyst for positive change within the university.

“I am grateful—as we should all be—for Al’s foresight and for our staff’s dedication to RIT’s shared governance,” said Munson. “Staff Council is part of Al Simone’s legacy to RIT. For 25 years, Staff Council has been a conduit between staff and administrators, sharing insights and offering guidance on any number of university concerns. Just as RIT has changed the landscape of Henrietta and, indeed, of higher education, Staff Council has changed the landscape of shared governance at RIT.”

For more information on the awards, go to the RIT Staff Council website at

Laurie Ackles and Janine Rowe
Lori Rios and Matthew Reynell
Neveen Botros and Kerry Hughes