A university center cashier and an electrician are the co-recipients of a new social justice employee award.
Wendy Norton, a cashier for Bon Appétit, and Ron Bowman, a journeyman electrician for Physical Plant – Facilities, are the 2009 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize winners. The award was created in memory of Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 who pursued social justice while a student at Wesleyan.
The awards were announced April 1 by interim awards coordinator Marina Melendez, associate dean/class dean of 2010. Eligible employees included custodians, dining staff, grounds crew, and building maintenance staff.
Norton is celebrating her 10th year working at Wesleyan, nine of which she has been a cashier. She’s worked in WesShop and Summerfields, and currently tends the second-floor Marketplace inside Usdan University Center.
“I love being a cashier because I get to spend all day meeting with wonderful students,” she says. “I love getting to know them and their smiles and kind remarks keep me going all day.”
According to one nomination letter, Norton “is a mother to these students when they are so far away from home. She knows them by name, she hugs them if they need a hug. She asks how their day is going, or how their classes are. She makes every student that enters the Usdan dining area feel important.”
Another letter cited Norton’s love for the university. “Aside from the cafeteria crowd, Wendy has spent countless hours working special events all while representing Wesleyan’s high level of taste. Wendy is a valuable employee who speaks highly about Wesleyan University.”
Bowman began his career at Wesleyan in January 2000 after working as an electrician for 25 years.
“I always try to build a rapport with the students by talking with them about where they are from, their family, and their experience as students at the university,” Bowman says. “I enjoy the opportunity to learn about the diversities that make the students at Wesleyan so interesting.”
A staff member applauded Bowman’s flexibility above and beyond his job description.
“I have seen him on many occasions switch gears to support the needs of others,” the nomination letter says. “I have known him to become teary-eyed when telling me a story about a student who was hurting or in trouble – especially since in his role, the level of help he could offer was limited. He wants our world to be a better place and works hard each day to make a difference wherever he finds himself.”
Bowman, who also serves as the pastor of Seedtime and Harvest Ministries in Bloomfield, Conn., always leaves a card behind in every student room he services. They read “I am blessed to have served you today. Have a blessed day.”
“I really enjoy serving others. I am very grateful to be recognized for the Morgenstern-Claren Award and hope that my presence on the Wesleyan campus will continue to be a positive impact on others,” he says.
Morgenstern-Clarren’s activism included securing benefits for Wesleyan custodial staff, participating in the United Student and Labor Action Committee, and contributing his leadership to the campus chapter of Amnesty International. Peter’s parents, Dr. Hadley Morgenstern-Clarren and the honorable Pat Morgenstern-Clarren of Shaker Heights, Ohio, are sponsoring this award that honors their son’s activism for the public good.
Nominations for the award required an essay from a faculty, staff or student that explains how the selected employee is one who has contributed to student success and life at Wesleyan.
The recipients will receive a $1,500 award.
“Because this is the first year, the committee decided to split the financial gift between the recipients,” Melendez, associate dean/class dean of 2010. “The committee felt that both Ron and Wendy are very worthy of this honor.”