Meet the Unsung Heroes of Campus
Get to know the much-adored faculty and staff members who make magic happen behind the scenes.
The Port asked the campus community to nominate faculty and staff members for recognition as unsung heroes of campus. While responses flooded in, nine heroic nominees rose to the top. These winners bleed green and gold, work hard under the radar to ensure smooth operations, and are loved by students and colleagues.
Josh Fegley, Department of Public Health and Health Education
When the College took to Instagram to find out from students who their campus heroes are, one name appeared more than any other: Assistant Professor Josh Fegley '04.
Fegley teaches a variety of courses in the Department of Public Health and Health Education and serves as the department’s advisement coordinator, a role in which he works with new students to develop courses of study and explore internship and career opportunities.
"Dr. Fegley’s positive attitude is both refreshing and encouraging," said a student on Instagram. "He genuinely cares about his students, and it is evident he loves what he does."
Every semester, Fegley teams up with Associate Professor Melody Boyd (sociology) to organize tours of Rochester neighborhoods with distinct health needs, bringing students along to several organizations that provide health, safety, educational, and social justice services and resources for those neighborhoods. Fegley intends for the trip to inspire students to identify ways they can support Rochester community initiatives.
"Dr. Fegley is one of those professors who motivates you to be the best person and student you can be," said a student on Instagram. He goes above and beyond for all his students, and you can tell he’s passionate about what he does."
Fegley's impact is felt outside of the classroom in more ways than one.
As a former member of the Enrollment Management and Student Affairs team, Fegley appreciates the opportunity to be involved as a facilitator for student leader trainings and as a presenter at Golden Eagle Orientation.
"Dr. Fegley is just a very caring human. I’ve never had him as a professor; I’ve only known him through orientation, but he has shaped my college career," said a student on Instagram. "He will go out of his way to help any student with any problem they may have, and he’s been someone I’ve confided in and continue to have jokes with! He’s just a really great, genuine guy."
Erick Hart, Office of Intercollegiate Athletics
Director of Athletics Erick Hart can often be found, even on the weekends, sporting his green and gold on campus — sometimes with his three young children in tow.
"He comes in on weekends and evenings to ensure smooth operations both with athletic events and campus and community events. I have even seen him on weekends with his hands filthy cleaning out an office for a new faculty person. He will even help people find furniture that they need," said Distinguished Service Professor Lauren Lieberman.
In addition to overseeing operations for the College's 23 NCAA Division III athletic teams and the success of student-athletes, Hart supports the Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies and Physical Education.
"He is very easy to work with day in and day out, as we share the Tuttle Athletic Complex and need to be sure everyone has access to the space they need to support our students and athletes," said Cathy Houston-Wilson, professor and chair of the department. "His collaborative approach to dealing with situations as they arise is appreciated."
"He works hard to ensure our adapted physical education programs run smoothly. He helps with accessibility, communication, and equipment. He has truly helped children and families through these efforts," said Lieberman.
The relationships and sense of community on campus are Hart's favorite aspects of his job.
"A few weeks ago, I traveled with my 10-year-old son to the football game at Western New England. One of the players had a presentation, so he couldn’t leave with the team. I waited for class to end, and he traveled with me. My son just peppered him with questions over the five-hour drive," said Hart. "I love that I am able to combine my family life and my work life. That’s what I love about Brockport."
Dawn Lee, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
"No fires. No explosions." According to Assistant Director of Environmental Health and Safety Elizabeth Gregory, that's what Dawn Lee '93 makes possible every day — literally and figuratively.
Lee has been part of the College community for more than half her life as a student, staff member, and faculty member. She currently holds a double-duty role in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as a chemical hygiene officer and instructor of the course NAS 273 Investigation in the Physical Sciences. In these capacities, she ensures chemicals on campus are properly stored and prepares future educators to teach elementary education.
"It is sometimes not easy to achieve changes that improve safety and chemical hygiene. There is quite a bit of work behind the scenes that goes into this important responsibility," said Markus Hoffmann, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
He also says many students are intimidated by the physical sciences, which Lee helps to mitigate. She's even been nominated numerous times for the Presidential Teaching Award.
"Dawn is constantly updating her course formats to include newer teaching methods. She cares about every student who walks into her classroom," said Gregory. "Her goal is to have every student learn the material, which is so important given that they are the ones who will be introducing our future generations to the sciences."
Lee's top three professional loves: "being submerged in a culture of learning," sharing her "passion for understanding how basic physics and chemistry concepts can explain so much of the phenomenon that we experience in our day-to-day lives," and "working with a diverse group of students that keep me motivated with their energy and enthusiasm, especially those that intend to move forward in the education field themselves."
Fran Menendez, BASC's The Square
If you don't recognize Fran Menendez from the register at The Square, you probably will next time you see her. Menendez can often be seen decked out from head to toe in festive clothing that matches the season or themed events in the quick-service food center. She has a true passion for her line of work.
After an interview, she even reminded the Port team to come back later for food specials that were part of a candy-themed event.
"Fran has been a respected cashier in The Square by the students for years. She makes personal connections with students in their first year and consciously remembers when they have exams, presentations, and papers due. She is always sure to ask them how each project went and checks in with them regularly. She goes out of her way to try and make others feel comfortable to help them feel that Brockport is a home away from home," said Brockport Auxiliary Service Corporation's Marketing Manager Kelly Plyter.
It's not uncommon for Menendez to strike up a quick conversation with customers when the line is light and to remember faces and names.
Menendez was hired on April Fools Day 17 years ago. "I always say I don’t know if the joke was on them or me," she said with a laugh. But it's no joke that Menendez has become a Brockport staple.
"Fran makes my day. I can always count on her to ask how I'm doing, ask what's new in my life, and stay in tune to what I might have going on based on the time of year — like mid-terms or finals. Her wishes for my success are just what I sometimes need to give me a little boost of motivation," said a student on Instagram.
Menendez says she loves the college age group and calls her customers "down-to-earth, sweet, and kind."
Her advice to incoming college students: "Get to know someone in food service so they’ll take care of you for four years."
Kelly Koss, BASC's Raj Madan Café
Born and raised in Brockport, Kelly Koss left the area to attend college at Alfred State. But home pulled her back. Like the signature drinks she whips up, Koss is a signature presence at Raj Madan Café in Drake Memorial Library.
"I didn’t expect to come back, but now I just love what I do. I love coming here every day and seeing the students. I’m a people person, and I like the challenge of making people happy every day," said Koss.
She stands out for more than her big blonde hair and big smile. Her shining personality brings back recurring customers.
"No matter what kind of day she is having, Kelly is willing to drop her own problems and talk to you about whatever is on your mind. The energy and personality she brings to the Raj Madan Café is irreplaceable," said Web Content Specialist Anthony Arnone. "I always look forward to our morning chat when I grab my coffee."
Associate Director of Marketing Janet Roy has built a friendship with Koss that stems from morning coffee runs:
"Kelly is always smiling, and she gets to know the students, faculty, and staff who come in to Raj Madan. With the traffic in the café each day, it’s a wonder how she and the staff keep everything clean and in great shape. She’s really a shining example of great customer service and skills that make Brockport run each day," said Roy.
Customers aren't the only admirers of Koss. The tight-knit café crew can be seen joking around, offering each other helping hands, and working as a team to operate seamlessly during peak business hours.
"She knows people’s names and always has a smile. She's a happy person," said Koss's coworker and friend, Darlene Sietmann. "I love coming to work, because I know she’s here."
Lisa Robusto-Mack, Brockport Downtown
Lisa Robusto-Mack '08/'13 is the facility and event manager for Brockport Downtown. But according to one of her colleagues, Technology Coordinator Kevin Montano, she "is Brockport Downtown."
"We are still new to the building, but the culture that has been created at this downtown campus is 100 percent a reflection of the effort that Lisa has focused on making it a wonderful place for our students to attend school, for faculty/staff to work, and for our guests to come and visit," said Montano.
Robusto-Mack is known by colleagues and students for improving processes, quick problem-solving, meticulous organization, and creating a positive environment for all who walk in and out the doors of Brockport Downtown.
A group of students recently wrote a letter to Robusto-Mack thanking her for discovering a way to offer them more affordable parking alternatives near the downtown space.
"She is always looking for new ways to enhance the student experience," said Montano.
Graduate student Emily Hayes, a student assistant at Brockport Downtown, had this to say about her supervisor:
"Lisa continuously brings a positive light into the workplace and creates a culture of inclusiveness that is unmatched," said Hayes. "Her attention to detail for even the smallest events or requests bring a level of care and expertise that is clearly seen by anyone who interacts with Lisa or participates in the events here at Brockport Downtown."
Mere days after giving birth to her newborn, Audrey, on Thanksgiving, Robusto-Mack told The Port:
"The campus community [is] a strong support system at Brockport Downtown and on the main campus, where we all rely on each other and our expertise to support the best academic environment possible for our students," said Robusto-Mack. "We are all in this together."
John Sapienza, Division of Advancement
John Sapienza '96/'99 has been described by colleagues as:
"no stranger to a lengthy project list."
"perhaps the most genuinely kind person I have ever had the good fortune to meet."
having "the strongest work ethic I have ever witnessed."
As director of finance and advancement services at the College, Sapienza oversees all of the financial operations, the alumni database, and gift entry and donor acknowledgement processes for the Division of Advancement. The first half of his title is a newer addition. Upon a colleague's unexpected retirement in late 2018, Sapienza accepted the challenge of tacking the world of finance onto his many existing responsibilities.
"John is diligent, considerate, calm, pays attention to detail, and is willing to share his expertise — all characteristics that help him serve as a professional problem-solver, ombudsman, and mentor. Whether it is a colleague asking about a project or a staff member wondering about a process, John pays attention. He listens to the message behind the words. He demonstrates appreciation for the questions and he helps the questioner become part of the solution," said Campaign Communications Specialist Barbara Power.
Sapienza is responsible for infamously arduous priorities, such as ensuring the College maintains compliance with "Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards" and the annual Brockport Foundation audit.
Sapienza supervises several Advancement employees, all of which repay him for his excellent management by making Rice Krispies Treats — his favorite — on special occasions.
"He is by far the best, most intelligent supervisor I have ever had. He has taken our department, which originally was just the two of us, and implemented improvements, along with increasing productivity tenfold," said Office Assistant III Melissa Furness. "I have also never met anyone with more integrity and kindness."
Despite serving as the go-to for a number of colleagues, receiving multiple nominations for outstanding service awards, and working his way from a coordinator of Advancement phonathon to one of the division's directors, Sapienza radiates humbleness.
"I really enjoy the people that I work with on a daily basis," he said. "I think they deserve to be recognized even more than I do."
JoAnn Sigler, Facilities and Planning
JoAnn Sigler says she loves her job as the administrative assistant to the Director of the Physical Plant and Energy Management Kevin Rice, because she gets to experience something different every day.
At times, that "something different" has been challenging.
"She has worked in many different offices and departments across campus and has faced more than her fair share of challenging circumstances, always with grace and a clear-eyed view of the college mission," said Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology Amy Guptill.
"Her unfailing grace under pressure was especially valuable when the Department of African and African-American Studies and its broader community was impacted by the illness and death of long-time faculty member Felix Okoye in 2016 and another crisis stemming from another faculty person’s health condition," added Guptill. "Whether interacting with faculty, students, other coworkers, or, subsequent to Dr. Okoye’s demise, grieving friends and family members, Ms. Sigler has always been unfailingly warm, present, and competent."
Sigler also acted quickly to help ease the fallout of a water-pipe break on campus years ago.
“JoAnn is never afraid to quickly change course and tackle new issues head-on,” said Rice. “She will jump in where needed most and work out how to get something done to the benefit of the college."
Despite taking on major challenges, Sigler considers one of the most rewarding aspects of her career observing what goes into campus beautification and space maintenance behind the scenes.
"Our staff works very hard to make our campus beautiful, safe, energy efficient, and sustainable," said Sigler.
According to Guptill, Sigler juggles her demanding administrative role, a busy home life, and her creative hobbies as an artisan — restoring furniture and crafting vintage-style home décor — with impressive success.
Diane Staub, BASC's Brockway Dining Hall
A student on Instagram calls Diane Staub, who operates the register in Brockway Dining Hall, "the GOAT (greatest of all time)."
Other students — both current and former — tend to agree.
"Even though I graduated almost four years ago, I still think about how Diane impacted my college experience. When I was stressed or having a bad day, heading to Brockway and chatting with Diane about life would cheer me up. She always went the extra mile to make people feel special, remember names, show off a warm and cheerful smile, and create a sense of community," said Tara Hill '16. "I still miss her!"
Diane says she wishes she had started working at Brockway much earlier, because she loves what she does.
"All of these students are great. Even my kids say they're grateful I'm working here, because they see how much these students impact me and the connections I have with them. I also work with great people. I love my work family," said Staub.
She senses that many students consider her a mom away from home. They even give her hugs, cards, and gifts on special occasions or before school breaks.
"Diane is always the first person to greet you and ask how you are doing. She takes pride in knowing most of the students’ names that come through Brockway," said a student on Instagram. "She is such an amazing person."
Should a colleague you know be featured in the next installment of "Meet the Unsung Heroes of Campus"? Nominate them by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.