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Five Employees Receive Presidential Awards

Employees honored for distinctive contributions like creating beauty

The 2012 Presidential Award winners gathered with President Brodhead after the award luncheon. From left: Cynthia P. Chavious, Julia A. Woodson, President Richard H. Brodhead, Susan L. Bonifield, Jonathan Giles and Paul D. Jones. Photo by University Phot
The 2012 Presidential Award winners gathered with President Brodhead after the award luncheon. From left: Cynthia P. Chavious, Julia A. Woodson, President Richard H. Brodhead, Susan L. Bonifield, Jonathan Giles and Paul D. Jones. Photo by University Photography.

President Richard H. Brodhead on Thursday honored five staff members from Duke University and Duke University Health System with the Presidential Award for outstanding service in 2012.

A Presidential Award is one of the highest honors given to Duke staff and faculty. It recognizes employees from five work categories who have made distinctive contributions to the university or health system in the past year. 

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During an awards luncheon Thursday at the Washington Duke Inn, Brodhead congratulated the winners for the excellent skills and humanity they bring to their jobs. As each person was called to the podium, he provided a short synopsis of how the employee had improved a process, saved money or created a culture of caring and beauty at Duke. 

 "The people honored today have one trait in common," Brodhead said. "They bring imagination to their work, thinking of better ways to get things done and reinventing the process of work along the way. It is through the excellent service and devotion of people like these that Duke becomes the great place it is."

In addition to the five Presidential Award winners, Brodhead recognized 16 Meritorious Service Award winners. Presidential Award winners receive a Presidential Award Medallion and check for $1,000. Meritorious Award winners receive a plaque and $100. 

Here are the winners:


Paul D. Jones, Senior Curator, Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Twenty-nine years ago, Paul Jones saw potential in the woodland around a newly formed retention pond on the north side of Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Since he started work at the Gardens in 1984, he has transformed that area into the 15-acre William Louis Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. The area now includes the Durham-Toyama Sister Cities Japanese Tea Pavilion, the oft-photographed red bridge, and the stylized beach and boulder area where children often sit to feed the exotic ducks and geese. He has traveled to China 10 times to gather new seeds and plants for the Asiatic Arboretum's collection. 

"Paul is known among his peers around the world as an accomplished botanist and collector, and his eye for design has resulted in the Arboretum becoming one of the most beautiful garden spaces anywhere," said William M. LeFevre, executive director at the Gardens. 


Jonathan L. Giles, Vice President for Development, Organization for Tropical Studies

The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) is a non-profit consortium of almost 60 universities and research institutions in the U.S., Latin America and Australia dedicated to providing leadership in education, research and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics.  Since 1976, the headquarters of OTS have been at Duke University. 

In his 24 years as a fundraiser for OTS, Jonathan Giles has helped bring in nearly $25 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and almost as much in grants and gifts from individuals and private foundations to help fund courses in tropical biology and the organization's three research stations in Costa Rica. In the words of Elizabeth Losos, president and CEO of OTS, he is "an ace fundraiser."

"Jonathan continues to get excited about new foundation opportunities, new donors, and the opportunity to visit the tropical research stations and programs that he has helped create," Losos said. "His unflagging efforts and loyalty to the institution unquestionably play a large role in OTS's success."

Executive Leadership

Susan L. Bonifield, Associate Dean, Finance and Administration, Pratt School of Engineering

Two years after Susan Bonifield moved from the School of Medicine to become dean of finance for Pratt School of Engineering, the economic downturn made budgeting a monumental challenge. But it didn't faze her.

"It has been during the economic challenges of the downturn that Susan's skills have truly shined," said nominator Tom Katsouleas, Pratt's dean. "Susan successfully closed the $1 million plus gap created by reduced endowment returns by increasing efficiency and creatively restructuring."

While handling Pratt's finances, Bonifield has also offered her leadership to administrative initiatives that benefit the whole university. These include implementing Buy@Duke, reclassifying jobs for research administrators, creating new budgeting tools for the university, and reforming the university's master's tuition system.

"Susan tackles the most difficult issues with humor and a remarkable ability to engender a positive problem-solving attitude," Katsouleas said. "She is a key reason the School has been able to grow explosively and rise in national prominence over the past five years."

Julia Woodson
Clinical Professional/Non-managerial

Julia Woodson, Management Engineer, DUHS Performance Services

Because of the government's role in healthcare, all hospitals in Duke University Health System must send regular reports to government agencies on a variety of core measure performance goals, from heart attack outcomes to pneumonia treatment. When Julia Woodson joined the DUHS Performance Services team in 2009 and began compiling those reports, she quickly discovered ways to automate the reports. Soon, she was spearheading a project to design a database and process to improve the timeliness and accuracy of submissions.

"Most folks cannot appreciate the attention to detail and organization required to manage this process," said nominator Jennifer Rose, senior director of DUHS Performance Services. Because the data is publicly available and tied to government reimbursements for healthcare, accuracy and timeliness are vital. "Thanks to Julia's changes, the amount of time spent performing error corrections has decreased two-fold," Rose said.  

Cynthia Chavoius
Clerical/Office Support

Cynthia P. Chavious, Administrative Assistant, Duke Translational Research Institute

Cynthia Chavious made moving an entire department seem almost effortless for members of the Duke Translational Research Institute.

In addition to coordinating move preparations in the weeks before the transition, Chavious worked onsite late into the night to oversee the actual move, and turned up early the next morning to answer any questions about the new space.  

"Thanks to Cynthia, our move last summer from Hock Plaza to the Durham Centre was experienced by our group as an adventure," said nominator Victoria Christian, chief operating officer for the institute. "The burdens and minutia of design, logistics and safety were handled entirely by Cynthia in her interaction with Facilities." 

Christian said the move is one small example of Chavious' generosity and can-do attitude. "Cynthia cheerfully fills in all the gaps for a large group of fast-moving, hard-driving people whose mission is to transform the very system we are part of," Christian said. "She has a tireless commitment to Duke's mission."