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Five classified staff members honored for excellence

April 24, 2014 By Greg Bump

Robert Schlotthauer

Robert Schlotthauer, mortician in the School of Medicine and Public Health Body Donor Program at UW–Madison, works in the Bardeen Medical Laboratories Building. Schlotthauer is one of the recipients of a 2014 Classified Employee Recognition Award.


Five members of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s classified staff have been named recipients of the 2014 Classified Employee Recognition Awards.

Mark Walters, director of classified human resources, says the evaluation committee’s task for selecting five recipients among a pool of more than 60 nominees was difficult.

“The number of nominations really speaks to the volume of wonderful employees we have on campus,” Walters says.

The recipients will be honored by Chancellor Rebecca Blank at a reception on Thursday, May 15 at Olin House.

These are this year’s winners:

Sue Martin-Zernicke, university services program associate, Department of Chemistry

Sue Martin-Zernicke

Sue Martin-Zernicke

In his nomination, Lloyd Smith, professor of chemistry and director of the Genome Center of Wisconsin, says that Martin-Zernicke’s job responsibilities include coordinating faculty recruiting visits, teaching assistant assignments, graduate recruiting events and organizing the diversity action plan meeting. But, Smith adds that she goes well beyond her core job responsibilities.

“Sue deliberately works to ensure that the department is not just running smoothly, but that many facets of the chemistry department, both large and small, and the faculty, staff and students are successful in their careers and personal lives,” Smith says.

Dennis Reece, Martin-Zernicke’s supervisor, says she takes on additional responsibilities “with enthusiasm and works well under pressure.”

“Sue goes beyond the pale when it comes to reliability, dedication, professionalism, and knowledge to get the job done,” he adds.

Martin-Zernicke says she was honored when she read the nomination by her colleagues, faculty and graduate students.

“Their kind words mean I am doing my job well … a goal I’ve always set for myself,” she says. “My position affords me the opportunity to work with amazing graduate students, brilliant and dedicated faculty and supportive peers and supervisors. I consider them friends as well as co-workers and I can truthfully say that I love my job.”

Ray Michels, cheesemaker, the Center for Dairy Research

Ray Michels

Ray Michels

John Jaeggi, a research at the Center for Dairy Research who submitted the nomination, says that Michels is the center’s resident butter-making expert, and has worked hard to obtain Pasteurizer Operator Certification, extensive safety and sanitation training, and most recently a Wisconsin cheesemaker’s license.

“Ray is vital in running numerous pieces of equipment necessary to manufacture a wide array of cheeses,” Jaeggi says. “This skill set is unique – there is no one in the cheese industry with experience in the operation of the wide variety of equipment used to make processed and natural cheeses.”

Michels has been working in Babcock Hall since 1977, first for the dairy plant, and now for the Center for Dairy Research. He says his coworkers are like a family away from home.

“Getting the award to me is kind of a reflection of the people you work with,” Michels says. “If they were not hard workers and didn’t care it would be hard for me to do the same.”

Michels says he gets the satisfaction just from seeing a job well done.

“It’s like any job you do, big or small, or any project you work on, when you finish and step back and see what you have accomplished, and it worked out the way you wanted it to, that in itself makes you feel good,” he says.

Robert Schlotthauer, mortician, School of Medicine and Public Health

Robert Schlotthauer

Robert Schlotthauer

The ability to help families in their time of need following a loved one’s death is the most satisfying part of his job, Schlotthauer says.

“Many individuals across the state of Wisconsin have chosen to donate their body to science after death in order to benefit the training of various medical professionals including doctors, nurses, physician assistants and physical therapists,” Schlotthauer says. “Knowing that the tasks I perform in my position are helping to further the medical education of future physicians and other medical professionals is very rewarding.”

Dr. Karen Krabbenhoft, director of the Body Donor Program, says Schlotthauer has contributed many illustrations to the anatomy course books that have been used by students for decades. He has also built strong ties with other institutions for which he provides material for anatomy and health-related courses, and has represented UW–Madison well across the state by providing consolation to grieving families.

“We have received abundant communication in the form of letters, phone calls and email messages from families around the state expressing their appreciation for Bob’s high standards and caring attitude,” she says.

Schlotthauer, who has worked for the Body Donation Program for the last 34 years, called receiving the award “the highest level of recognition I have received in my career and it is truly an honor.”

“This recognition by my colleagues is so meaningful because it tells me that they appreciate the dedication I have to this position and the students we serve,” Schlotthauer says.

Elizabeth Tuschen, program assistant supervisor, School of Medicine and Public Health

Elizabeth Tuschen

Elizabeth Tuschen

Tuschen says she finds it rewarding to work for an institution that challenges employees to put their best efforts forward.

“I’m so appreciative of the university for creating this award category and to the Classified Employee Recognition Award selection committee for recognizing my work and the efforts of other classified staff,” Tuschen says.

Christine Seibert, associate dean for medical education and Tuschen’s supervisor for more than a decade, says the best example of her outstanding work performance occurred when the academic staff member who was leading the school’s accreditation left just a month before the project’s completion.

“Without hesitation, Elizabeth stepped up to the plate and learned this complicated process from scratch, commandeering a team of staff to complete what was easily months of work in less than four weeks,” Seibert writes. “She remained positive during a very stressful time, never complained and actually seemed to thrive and excel as the deadline got closer.”

Tuschen says she finds most satisfying the vibrant and dynamic work environment that comes from working with people from all levels of their careers, from students to long-standing faculty members.

“The dedication and creativity in my department is truly unparalleled and has shaped the way I approach my work,” she says.

Harry Webne-Behrman, training officer, Office of Human Resource Development

Harry Webne-Behrman

Harry Webne-Behrman

Bob Lavigna, assistant vice chancellor for human resources, says Webne-Behrman has played a leadership role in the Office of Human Resources efforts to engage the campus community, particularly in heading up the collaboration and engagement strategy for the HR Design project.

“Under Harry’s strategic leadership, this engagement strategy has been at the core of our efforts to communicate about, and discuss, the new HR system,” Lavigna says. “This collaborative process enabled us to ultimately obtain endorsements of our plan from all campus stakeholders, including senior leadership and our shared governance bodies.”

For Webne-Behrman, it feels good to know that his colleagues feel positively about his work. Working with “colleagues who bring a great deal of intelligence, creativity, and dedication to addressing critical workplace and professional development needs across this campus” makes his job most satisfying.

“I enjoy teaching the skills needed so we may all collaborate effectively in this work, and I also appreciate having the opportunity to facilitate meaningful conversations regarding some of the key policy issues we face as a campus,” Webne-Behrman says. “But the most satisfying element is that I get to work with wonderful colleagues in ongoing learning communities, various projects (large and small), and in teaching situations that continue to energize me and improve my skills.”