We’re honored

Longtime NYU Tandon employees are celebrated for their service

Thorsen and the Dean

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Chair and Vice President Emeritus Rich Thorsen, who was honored for his 55th year at the school, with Dean Jelena Kovačević

Each year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Chief Evaluation Office collects data on employee tenure, and the most recent figures revealed that salaried workers remained in a job for slightly over four years.

It’s clear that to remain in — and visibly enjoy — a post for decades is undeniably a reason for celebration. And that’s exactly what happened on May 9 at the NYU Tandon 2019 Annual Service Awards, overseen by the Office of Human Resources.

One much-applauded honoree was Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Chair and Vice President Emeritus Richard Thorsen, who was marking his 55th year at the school. Widely acknowledged as the unofficial keeper of NYU Tandon history, he good-naturedly watched as a decades-old clip was shown: In the early 1980s Thorsen had hosted 30 episodes of a short news program called The Scientific Minute, and now, on the large screen in the Pfizer auditorium, looking composed, trustworthy, and markedly younger, Thorsen was encouraging a lay audience to get excited about space exploration. (Other episodes, available in the school archives, touched upon computer chess, mummies, and heart surgery, among other topics.)

The series, arranged by a well-connected trustee, was an effective advertising vehicle for the school; it was also a low-cost one, according to Thorsen, who informed the awards-ceremony audience that he had memorized each of the scripts by heart, since the school had not wanted to invest in an expensive teleprompter.

Another member of the faculty celebrating a milestone year was Industry Professor Jose Ulerio, a linchpin of the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering for 40 years. Accepting the service award in his stead was Department Chair Magued Iskander, who explained that Ulerio was giving an exam, inadvertently scheduled for the same time as the ceremony; his students, Iskander, said, had been his priority for four decades, and not even the chance to be feted at a gala affair would cause him to give them less than his full attention.

Among other longtime employees honored were Associate Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering Elena Prassas (35 years) and Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Administrative Assistant Carmen Villafane (30 years.) Several additional employees were honored for their service at five-year intervals. (See sidebar.)

Besides awards for years of service, recognition was given for distinguished performance in the following areas:    

  • Outstanding Customer Service: Raquel Thompson
  • Inspiration through Leadership: Amy Xu
  • Dedication to Invention, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship: Jessie Guy-Ryan
Dean and Kathleen Hamilton
Dean Jelena Kovačević and Director of Marketing and Communication Kathleen Hamilton, who received a surprise award for her dedication to NYU Tandon

The event ended with a special, surprise award, given to Director of Marketing and Communication Kathleen Hamilton for her dedication to the School. “My duties involve making sure the wider world knows about the important research being conducted by our wonderful faculty members and students,” Hamilton said. “It’s an honor to get this award but an even greater honor to spread the word about an institution as noteworthy as Tandon.”

Director of Human Resources Nina Nguyen sees the awards ceremony as something of a family gathering. “When I arrived here in Brooklyn, I was told by so many people, ‘Welcome to the Tandon family,’” she said. “I quickly started to see what everyone meant. This is, in fact, an impressively cohesive and close-knit workplace, and it’s been a pleasure to oversee an occasion like this.”

HR group photo
Dean Jelena Kovačević with the NYU Tandon Human Resources team