Staff Awards during virtual assembly buoy spirits

This year's winners are Mary Masson, Sue Aubin, Mike McMahon, Kristyn Achilich and Kathy Butts

September 24, 2020
Staff report

smc shieldA virtual Staff Assembly Thursday morning was a chance to celebrate community achievements among Saint Michael’s employees with the annual Staff Awards, while first offering an update from leaders on the semester’s progress and the College’s fortunes during this usually challenging time.

Jacob Pelletier of Admission, Denise Tougas of Student Life and Tim Dusablon of Information Technology hosted and facilitated the 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. virtual assembly, welcoming well over 100 staff members who signed on before an opening prayer from Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86. President Lorraine Sterritt followed with updates and remarks, thanking the assembled for all they do. Lara Scott of the MOVE/Campus Ministry office along with Professor Trish Siplon of political science reported on the “SMC CAN” (CAN stands for Covid Action Network) initiative; Margaret Bass of the President’s Office reported on results of the 21-Day Challenge to raise awareness about diversity, racism and bias, followed by Dawn Ellinwood, offering specifics about the College’s “Bias Response Protocol.” Eben Widlund of the Adventure Sports Center talked about the Uplift program; Jeff Vincent of Student Life updated staff on conduct and discipline related to COVID-19; Chris Kenny, director of Athletics, described adjustments in his department with no fall sports this season; Kendra Smith of Human Resources reviewed relevant matters from her office, and a subcommittee gave an update on accessibility.

Staff Awards

Heidi St. Peter, assistant dean for advising and student development in Academic Affairs, virtually hosted the upbeat staff awards presentations during the online assembly. Following is a list of this year’s Staff Award winners, with honorary citations that were read during the announcements:

 The (Buff) Lindau Leadership Award

This award is given to a member of our staff who is seen as a relationship-builder and servant-leader; one who offers space for various perspectives and encourages collaborations. Named in honor of Buff Lindau, one of the first female leaders of the College who spent 40 years building and nurturing relationships to share the stories of our community, this recipient embodies the understanding that leadership is grounded in respectful relationships, honest communication, and hospitable inclusion.

Presenter Jacob Pelletier of Admission: It is a privilege to present this year’s Lindau Leadership Award to our director of the Bergeron Wellness Center, Mary Masson. Over a decade of service on campus as a nurse practitioner and eventually director of Bergeron Wellness, Mary’s priority has always been clear – meet the health and safely needs of the community and to educate us all in best practices and this past Spring was no different. One colleague commends, “While many faculty, staff, and students were home, Mary was on campus at the Bergeron Wellness Center planning strategies to handle COVID-19 on our campus. Her personal fears were set aside for the greater good of the community.”  Another colleague writes: “Along with Doug Babcock, Mary educated (her)self on the virus and its potential impact on the campus and community, collected data on what public health experts and others in the field were doing and recommending, shared this information with various stakeholders on campus, and helped to develop an action plan focusing on the ways in which to protect students, staff, faculty, and neighboring communities from the negative impact of COVID-19.  Mary’s quick and early decisions and directions allowed for communication to flow freely in a supportive, professional, and non-threatening way. As a result, tasks were completed efficiently and in a clear and orderly manner.”  And pandemic aside, these words from a student: “In a world of such uncertainty, Mary has always been a person of incredible hope and determination. Mary was hopeful that I would make progress in my recovery journey when I couldn’t see a promising future. Even when I couldn’t see it, she was determined to lead me on a path to a better life. She would always set aside time to talk to me during the week and even when SMC went virtual. Words could never describe the gratitude and love that I have for her.”

Mary Masson

In honor of her collaborative work, building relationships and connections across campus and constituencies and her clear leadership whether in an average semester or a global pandemic, we proudly present the 2020 Lindau Leadership Award to Mary Masson.

 The Unsung Hero Awards

This award is given to a member of our staff works diligently, wisely, efficiently, and humbly, not for recognition or praise, but because of integrity and purpose. This recipient is a team-player, a quiet leader, not often (if ever) seen in the spotlight, who profoundly makes our community stronger.

Presenter Danielle Schiestle of Admissions: It is a privilege to present one of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards to Sue Aubin, Administrative Guru in the Office of Admission. Sue has been part of our community for more than 40 years, always working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure our prospective students and families are introduced to St. Mike’s in a meaningful way. She has consistently been on the front lines, answering phone calls and greeting our newest students, understanding and articulating the mission of our College in her actions. Whether you see it on her face or hear it in her voice, her smile is reassuring; her words, are always thoughtful and informed, and her work ethic is extraordinary; she works diligently to manage multiple tasks, often in support of others’ work. One colleague writes: “Sue has constantly risen to the occasion as the admission process has changed over time. She not only supports all of our staff with their various needs, but also provides leadership to the student workers in the office. We would not be able to connect with as many families with as much dedication to their needs without Sue. An integral member of the Admission team, Sue has also been a friend and college mom to many SMC students over the years, extending our community beyond the office. A proud parent of an SMC alumna, the wisdom and perspective Sue offers to prospective parents is second-to-none. Dedicated, thoughtful, purposeful, kind – and did we mention she is also one heck of a baker – have you ever had her molasses cookies (which, incidentally, she calls ginger snaps!) – we are honored to present Sue Aubin with one of two 2020 Unsung Hero Awards.”

Presenter Jeff Vincent of Student Life: It is a privilege to present one of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards to Mike McMahon, of building trades. Throughout the more than 35 years Mike has served St. Michael’s, Mike has always been the guy who gets the job done. He used to lead a team of painters in facilities, and for many summers, taught many student employees the intricacies and detail needed for an efficient, flawless paint job.  Many colleagues have contracted with Mike to paint their personal homes. Indeed, his precision with painting and his work ethic is impeccable, but it is WHO Mike is that really makes him stand out.  Generous, kind, humble, a lover of Pink Floyd and classic 80’s rock. Mike takes pride in his painting, work he started as a young teenager. He takes pride in making spaces beautiful. A colleague writes: “Mike “The Machine” McMahon has dedicated his life to this institution…he works harder than any other person I have ever known, and not just at SMC. The day he retires it will take at least 3 people to do the same amount of work he does and they still won’t possess his institutional knowledge nor will they have this pride and attention to detail.” For his commitment to our campus community, his work ethic, kindness and humility, we proudly present Mike McMahon with the 2020 Unsung Hero Award.

The Edmundite Founders’ (Seed-Planter) Award

This award is given to a member of our staff who thinks creatively, outside-the-box, and very often ‘plants seeds’ that flourish. Named in honor of the small group of Edmundite founders who took a farmhouse and created a transformative, educational institution, this recipient thinks thoughtfully and critically, with equal parts intellect, heart, and faith, resulting in impact both big and small.


Kristyn Achilich ’05

Presenter Anthony Bassignani, Durick Library:It is a privilege to present the Edmundite Founders’ Award to a literal and metaphorical seed planter, Center for the Environment director, Kristyn Achilich ’05. Graduating from SMC, Kristyn always had a passion for the environment, and we can only imagine that it was her experience with mentors from the College that fostered her passion for working with students. People who know Kristyn speak in those terms: passion is a big one; but also determination, hard work, energy, intention. Writes one colleague: “She has re-imagined the role of the farm program at the College and integrated the Edmundite traditions of service, faith and connection to nature into the philosophy and vision for the Farm. She sees it as an opportunity to build students’ connections to the land and to each other; she has created programs that link students with the wider community of veterans, seniors and new Americans; she has enlightened our understanding of food insecurity both on campus and in the community; she has repeatedly solved problems and built improvements through thinking “”out-of-the-box”” which has resulted in an incredibly efficient and effective farm operation.

Kristyn’s overall commitment to educating the whole student prepares them for a meaningful life and livelihood. She plays a large role in how St. Michael’s delivers a multi-faceted learning experience built upon a strong academic foundation and hands-on experiences and she couples that with the Edmundite tradition to serve others and connect with nature.” She’s also one of the best on social media, rivaling only President Sterritt, in showcasing our students and campus community in the best light. Mar-Comm is grateful! Equal parts intellect, heart, and faith, resulting in impact both big and small, we proudly present Kristyn Achilich with the 2020 Edmundite Founds’ Award.

The (Fr. Maurice) Ouellet Service Award

This award is given to a member of our staff who is dedicated to service and committed to justice in the St. Mike’s community or broadly in the wider community. Named in honor of Maurice Ouellet, SSE,’48 the first director of the Student Resource Center, who fought for justice as he served in Selma, AL during the civil rights movement and closer to home when he returned to campus, this recipient is an example to others of action, dedication, humility, and authentic presence in service to our world.

Presenter Lara Scott: It is a privilege to present this year’s Ouellet Service Award to our director of Personal Counseling, Kathy Butts ’89.


Kathy Butts ’89

An alumna of St. Mike’s, Kathy returned almost 15 years ago as a counselor, becoming director when the counseling center merged with health services. Kathy is a clear embodiment of Fr. Ouellet’s vision and commitment to justice in her words and actions. Writes one colleague: “Kathy’s engagement in social justice education and inclusion is genuine, deep, intentional, and holistic. She is willing to step into the hard conversations, and she is always ready with an important question. Additionally, Kathy is keenly aware of the critical role of doing her own work and she works hard to ensure she is regularly learning and challenging herself to broaden perspective and think more deeply. In working with students, “Kathy has our students and campus at the forefront of her justice lens and she enters spaces with an incredibly valuable combination of compassion and directness. Kathy makes sure she is part of both the learning and action environments on and off-campus.” Another colleague mentions Kathy’s impact throughout campus: “As part of the first We All Belong cohort at St. Michael’s College, she continues to be an important voice and facilitator in our campus-wide discussions on anti-racism work and justice. Kathy is a collaborative leader and a change-maker.” What else do we know about Kathy through her actions? She’s taught herself to ride a motorcycle, she loves taking walks in nature – and sharing this with colleagues and friends, she’s always up for a pick-up game of basketball or floor hockey or anything that has her interacting and connecting with others on campus. The effort she puts in to learn and grow and care for herself is ultimately connected to how she desires to care for and be of service to others. With dedication and an action-oriented approach that is thoughtful, humble, and authentic, we proudly present the Ouellet Service Award to Kathy Butts.

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