Five staff members honored at annual awards ceremony

October 31, 2023

Saint Michael’s held its annual Staff Awards Ceremony on October 25 during the Fall Harvest Mixer in the Roy Room of Dion. The five members from the Saint Michael’s community that were recognized this year were Todd Johnstone-Wright, Ella Shortsleeves-Becker, Jamie Slater, Shannon Bollhardt and Chris Kenny.

(Photo by Caitlin Lei)

Todd Johnstone-Wright receives Edmundite Founders’ Seed-Planter Award

Todd Johnstone-Wright, who is the Director of the Undergraduate Professional Endorsement Program, received the Edmundite Founders’ Seed-Planter Award, which was presented by Eben Widlund, Director of Adventure Sports Center. This award is given to a staff member 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. 

Johnstone-Wright was not able to attend the ceremony, but Widlund spoke in his absence that, “It is a privilege to present this year’s Edmundite Founders’ Seed-Planter Award to Todd Johnstone-Wright, founder of the Wilderness Program/Adventure Sports Center, as well as the Founder and Director of the Undergraduate Professional Endorsement Program. I have known Todd for over 25 years and worked directly alongside him for 15 years. When asked, I often joke that the ability to work with Todd, or in his absence, was one of my most significant job qualifications. Whether he was ‘firing a sabot round’ or trying to tell someone they struggled to determine the location of their posterior utilizing their own superior appendicular appendages, Todd has often been described as, let’s just call it gruff.   

However, in his 25 plus years at the college, Todd has always been laser focused on the needs and outcomes of students, and especially those with whom he has shared so many hours on a rope, bike, on skis or in kayaks. During his time here, sport was just the vehicle to help students experience leadership, develop judgement and decision making, and mature.    

In August I received a text from two former instructors— Jessica Novoson and Leah Jeffries— both 2007 alumni that were together for a friend’s wedding. In reflecting on their shared time at St. Mike’s, both had come to realize that Todd was one of the best, if not the best teacher they had ever had. Their shared realization of the impact he had on their lives— half their lifetimes ago— illustrates Todd’s ability to ‘plant seeds that flourish’.”  

Ella Shortsleeves-Becker receives Unsung Hero Award

Ella Shortsleeves-Becker, Custodian, received an Unsung Hero Award, which was presented by Shannon Bollhardt, Head Coach for Women’s Basketball. This award is given to a staff member who 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. 

Bollhardt said during the ceremony, “I am honored to present Ella with the Unsung Hero award! When I found out she was the recipient I jumped at the opportunity to speak about her— and what made it even easier was the 12 nominations she received from folks in the Athletics Department! Ella has been a dedicated member of the Saint Michael’s community for decades. She has made Athletics her ‘home’ and has gone above and beyond for the folks who use this space. She proudly wears her Saint Michael’s Athletics T-shirts, is warm and welcoming with both staff and student-athletes and is easily one of the most liked people here. She often does more than what her job requires to ensure that our student-athletes have what they need to be successful and does so with a smile. I can go on for days about Ella and what she means to me, personally, but wanted to share what others have said about her and her impact on us over in Ross and Tarrant!”

Ella Shortsleeves-Becker with Shannon Bollhardt (Photo by Caitlin Lei)

Fantastic person and hard worker! Ella has been nothing but a pleasure to work with every day! She problem-solves, shows initiative and is purple to the core. We are a cleaner and certainly better place for having her on staff. “Seriously Ells,” she is the best.”  

 “Ella goes above and beyond what is expected of her. She works hard to make our spaces at Saint Michael’s clean and welcoming. As a coworker, she fosters the community that we take pride in. She is always saying ‘hello’ and checking in to see how you are doing or how your week is going.”  

“Ella has been a valued and cherished member of the Purple Knight family for a long time. We know she’s an important member of the custodial staff and plays a critical role for other areas of campus, but we love to claim her as one of us in Athletics! But it’s not just the five-star work she does (or the sheer volume of that work!) in support of our students and staff, it’s the WAY she does it — without fanfare, with no complaint, with a friendly smile and a sweet greeting for every student and staff member she crosses paths with every day. Her focus is never self-serving— it’s always on what would be best for our students and the care and safety of our buildings.” 

“Ella is the sweetest person I know and she is the MVP of the Athletics department. Her work ethic is unmatched. The care she gives to everyone is one of the many things that sets her apart. She is always willing to listen and chat with you. Just getting the chance to speak with her makes your day better.” 

Bollhardt continued, “Ella is one of those people who makes Saint Michael’s special. She is a difference-maker, with every caring interaction with members of our community and the pride she takes in doing her job well. Though she’s petite in stature, she will leave big shoes to fill when she retires in December though her impact will always leave a mark.” 

Jamie Slater receives Unsung Hero Award

A second Unsung Hero Award was given to Jamie Slater, Circulation Evening Supervisor in the library, and was presented by Anthony Bassignani, Associate Director of Circulation Services/Research and Instruction Librarian.   

Bassignani said during the ceremony that, “It is an absolute honor to present one of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards to my colleague and dear friend Jamie Slater, the Circulation Evening Supervisor of Durick Library.   

For the past four years Jamie has been the main reason why students can access the library after 4 p.m., keeping the building open but also building connections with our student employees and library patrons alike. Despite working until midnight five nights a week, she is the first person to volunteer for projects or to represent the library at campus events. Since 2020, Jamie is also the chief display creator, having put together displays on both social justice issues such as AAPI Inclusion, Juneteenth, and Women’s History Month, as well as fun exhibits like this August’s interactive Barbie collaboration with Peter Harrigan.” 

Jamie Slater with Anthony Bassignani (Photo by Caitlin Lei)

Bassignani share what some nominators wrote: 

“Jamie’s quiet presence belies her big impact within the library. She keeps the evening hours so seamlessly smooth, reassures students who are panicking about late assignments, and is constantly attending to the exhibits that she changes so often to reflect the pulse of our community.”  

“She’s not someone that seeks recognition for the work she’s doing, and she’s not someone who’s showing off her name. However, we in the library recognize how much she’s always contributing to others and how kind and attentive she is.”  

“She is warm, funny, welcoming and cares about all of the students here, and supports them in the evenings when many staff members have gone home for the day.” 

Bassignani also shared Laura Crain’s words who is the Director of Library Information and Services. Crain said, “The library receives high marks from students…and Jamie Slater is one of the Unsung Heroes at Saint Michael’s who makes the campus a brighter and more inclusive place to study and work.”  

Bassignani closed with, “I constantly get the opportunity to see the impact Jamie has on our campus, and I am happy that others can now put a face to all the work that happens when we go home for the day.” 

 Shannon Bollhardt receives Buff Lindau Leadership Award

Shannon Bollhardt received the Buff Lindau Leadership Award, which was presented by Lauren Read, Website Content Strategist. This award is given to a staff member 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. 

Read said during the ceremony that, “Shannon is one of the reasons things happen on this campus. She has led the charge on Community Service Day for multiple years,

Shannon Bollhardt with Lauren Read (Photo by Caitlin Lei)

including the last two years where she helped to revitalize an event that was damaged severely by COVID-19. Additionally, she continues to push for community building events for staff and faculty, although this may be in pursuit of the mysterious ‘open bar.’ Throughout the years she has provided leadership to her students as well as the numerous employees fortunate enough to serve on committees or working groups with her. She is a major reason for our large student-athlete presence at the annual Burlington Pride Parade. She is a co-advisor to Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and helps to get her players involved in the community throughout the off-season.  

Shannon has also been a driving force behind the success of UpLIFT. During the 2022-23 more than 25 percent of the student body participated in an UpLIFT event and most of them attended multiple events. This program’s success is due largely to Shannon’s dedicated leadership within that group. Though not appointed to a leadership role within that group, she saw the need for leadership and graciously stepped into that void.  

Throughout her 11 years as the College’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Shannon has exemplified teamwork, professionalism, integrity, reflective practice, communication skills, and self-awareness while working to promote diversity – the definition of how Saint Michael’s defines ethical leadership for our student leaders.  

For her work on the basketball court with our student athletes, advising the student leaders off the court, and her collaborative and community-focused roles on the Staff Welfare Committee, UpLIFT and many more committees, we are proud to present the Buff Lindau Leadership Award to Shannon Bollhardt.” 

Chris Kenny receives Fr. Maurice Ouellet Service Award

Chris Kenny, Director of Athletics, received the Fr. Maurice Ouellet Service Award, which was presented by Kara Lowe, Director of Athletic Internal Operations. This award is given to a staff member 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. 

Chris Kenny with Kara Lowe (Photo by Caitlin Lei)

During the ceremony Lowe said, “Chris Kenny epitomizes Saint Michael’s College, from carrying out our mission to his genuine love of this place. He is what Saint Michael’s College is all about. Chris is someone who, on a daily basis, goes above and beyond the ‘call of duty’ for all the members of our community. Honestly, I believe Chris bleeds purple and gold.  

Chris possesses the highest quality of character and is one of the nicest individuals I have ever met. He is understanding, appreciative and empathic. His ability to find the positive in every situation is astounding. Throughout his many years as a member of the Saint Michael’s College community, Chris has made a huge impact on this campus. One of his most notable contributions is his support and involvement with student-athlete initiatives. The establishment of the first national chapter of Hope Happens Here is a great example of his commitment to enhancing the experience of all Saint Michael’s students. This is just one of the many examples in which Chris has supported our student-athletes in making a difference on our campus and in the greater community.   

Those of us who know Chris Kenny know him to be a consummate professional with a deep well of experience, an endless supply of empathy, and a life-long dedication to the service of others. Through Chris’ unwavering commitment and hard-work, Saint Michael’s College is a stronger community, and through his commitment to humanity and humility, we all shine brighter with St. Mike’s pride. 

The selfless, positive, and compassionate ways in which Chris operates are some of the many reasons he is so deserving of this award. It is not uncommon to see the lights on in Chris’s office long after the end of the day. And no matter the time of day, he is quick with a smile and an invitation to listen to those who come into his office. Chris is someone who will be there for you, for us. We are forever grateful for the dedication and love that Chris so generously gives to Saint Michael’s College and are extremely pleased to honor him with this award.” 


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