Seven individuals were honored by the East Tennessee State University Staff Senate in the presentation of the 2019 Distinguished Staff Awards.

Outstanding staff are nominated by their peers for these awards, which include a $2,000 check provided by the ETSU Foundation and an engraved recognition memento from the Staff Senate. 

Awards are presented during the annual Staff Picnic to staff members whose performance of assigned tasks, positive attitude in working with others, commitment to the university community, and exercise of extraordinary courage deserve recognition and inspire other employees.

The 2019 winners were:

Sheryl Burnette, registrar, came to ETSU in 2008 after working at Pellissippi State Community College for 24 years.  Her knowledge and expertise are valued not only by colleagues across the campus, but also by peers from institutions and companies across the U.S.  Among her responsibilities as registrar are monitoring registration to make sure it is a smooth process for students, ensuring accuracy and security of academic records, overseeing the academic catalog publication process, coordinating commencement ceremonies and much more. 

Burnette is known as a “leader who never wants the spotlight” and makes sure her staff receives the recognition they deserve, according to her nomination.  “Sheryl, from day one, has been known and respected by her staff and peers for her hard work, dedication, being a team player, listening to new ideas, making improvements, and her heart,” her nominator wrote.  “The most noteworthy achievement that very few people know about Sheryl is that she can complete the work assignments of every single employee in the Office of the Registrar.  If an employee is out, the work must go on, and Sheryl performs the tasks so that they don’t miss a beat.  And she bakes the holiday cake featured on the December issue of Southern Living every year.”

Tony Banchs, director of the Office of Veterans Affairs, has been with ETSU since September 2016, when he retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army after 32 years of active duty.  Banchs and his staff assist veterans in making the transition to college and in receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.  He quickly set a goal of enrolling 1,000 military-affiliated students by 2025, and to date, nearly 700 attend ETSU.  Under his leadership, the office opened a new and renovated space for the Military-Affiliated Student Resource Center in the fall of 2018 to provide a special place for study and social activities for students who are military veterans or are the family members of veterans.  The office has also created five new scholarship opportunities to help veterans and their family members to achieve their educational goals.

“Tony has accomplished so much in such a short period of time,” his nominator wrote.  He “exemplifies the true spirit of an ETSU employee and makes everyone in his department an important part of the team.  He is a great mentor for our students and staff and always has a positive attitude.”

Since joining ETSU’s TRIO Programs office in 1997, Teresa Carver, an information research technician, has seen the university go from four to nine TRIO Programs, which are federal outreach and student services programs that provide assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  During that time, ETSU has received over $41 million in TRIO funding and served over 39,000 students, and according to her nominator, Carver has been instrumental in that expansion and success.  She is knowledgeable of the federal guidelines, regulations and legislation pertaining to the TRIO Programs; maintains the Upward Bound student databases and budgets; has chaperoned numerous local and overnight Upward Bound trips with 200-plus high school students; and more.

“Ms. Carver is respected by and empathetic to all of the TRIO participants and staff members,” her nominator wrote, and “is an excellent representative of ETSU TRIO Programs and of the university community.”

Tim Altonen, an electrical equipment technician in University Center Technical Services, is responsible for audio and visual set-ups of the D.P. Culp University Center, Brooks Gym, Mini-Dome, campus outdoor spaces and the recently acquired Millennium Center.  With up to 150 space reservations in a given week, Altonen’s days sometimes start at 5:30 a.m. or end at 1 a.m., but “Tim has no hesitation flexing his days to accommodate the specific needs of a facility user,” his nominator wrote.  “He takes pride in making sure that every event is successful, even if there are last-minute tech requests.  Electronic technician work can definitely come with challenges, but Tim always puts his best foot forward and goes full-force with diligence and with a smile.”

Ricky Holmes, painter lead worker in Plant Maintenance and Repairs, has worked at ETSU for over 38 years.  He is praised for being a knowledgeable and skilled painter and wood finisher, and his nominator says “he is like a brother to his coworkers in the Physical Plant.  Rick is always the first one with a reassuring attitude when a task may seem too difficult for us to handle, and most importantly, he has an uplifting spirit toward people when they may be having a bad day.”

Sherrie McNabb Hardin, a custodian in Custodial Services, serves the Quillen College of Medicine.  “Whether it is picking up rubbish, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping floors and cleaning bathrooms, or setting up events in the buildings on weekdays or weekends, she does it with great pride and effectiveness,” her nominator wrote, adding that Hardin arrives at 4 a.m. each day, including during extreme weather situations, when she works to ensure the safety of students and employees upon their arrival.  “She is an outstanding employee, person and friend to all.  Medical students consider her as their ‘second mom.’  She takes care of everyone.”

The 2019 Career Award was presented to Dr. Carla Warner, director of Adult, Commuter and Transfer Services (ACTS).  In her 33 years at ETSU, Warner has worked to provide adult and transfer students with programs and services to help them be successful.  She created the Adult Advantage Cohort, various student recruitment programs, the residential Transfer Living Community and the Transfer Advisory Council, and has overseen the Re-entry Student Scholarship and ETSU Completion Incentive Award.  She continually gives adult students advice and helps connect them to resources both on and off campus. 

Warner’s work has impacted not only the students served by ACTS, but all populations of students, as well.  She implemented the BUCPATH visual guide to help students get the full college experience at ETSU and was instrumental in the creation of the Academic Alert and Undergraduate Student Success Specialist programs to help at-risk students.  She also led the ETSU Votes initiative that resulted in ETSU being designated a Voter Friendly Institution.

In addition, Warner has served the campus as a member of the ETSU Staff Senate and the Commission for Women.

“In her career at ETSU, Carla has shaped the lives of students, faculty and staff,” her nominator wrote.  “Her passion for higher education and her desire for student success is unsurpassed.”