Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente recently presented the final two Chancellor’s Heart and Soul Staff Appreciation Awards of the year—and the “heart” in the awards was on full display when one recipient received a surprise marriage proposal shortly after receiving her award.
Randy Clark, area maintenance supervisor in the Office of Housing and Residential Experience, and Ally Armstead, education coordinator in the Department of Psychology and Human Development, are the latest to receive the university-wide staff recognition for their contributions to Vanderbilt.
Established in 2017, the Chancellor’s Heart and Soul Award recognizes staff who go above and beyond what is assigned or expected in their role and embody the spirit, mission and values of the Vanderbilt community in all that they do. Nominations are submitted by supervisors, managers or colleagues for current university staff.
The Heart and Soul honorees were awarded a $1,500 cash prize, a certificate of recognition and an engraved, custom-made wooden box and pen set created by local artist Brenda Stein and carved from historic wood repurposed from Alumni Hall.
Wente surprised Clark with the award on Nov. 19 during a visit to the Office of Housing and Residential Experience’s monthly staff meeting. More than 40 staff members from OHARE, the Office of Greek Life, Facilities and Plant Operations were present for the award.
“Randy, you are always going above and beyond your job description to support others and make an impact. Many people are inspired by what you do for Greek Life, our campus, our students and the Vanderbilt community,” Wente said. “You are a key liaison among houses on Greek Row, Plant Operations and Campus Planning, as well as a mentor to many of your fellow staff. Across the board you inspire others to take pride in our community spaces.”
The colleagues who nominated Clark for the award highlighted his work ethic, calming demeanor, strategic vision, care for others and commitment to excellence.
“It’s not just about the tasks that Randy completes—because clearly that list is very long—it is also about the way in which he does his job,” said one nominator. “He takes pride in his work and shows deep care and concern for the people and spaces that surround him.”
Wente surprised Armstead with the Heart and Soul Award on Dec. 6 during the Department of Psychology and Human Development’s holiday party. More than 60 faculty and staff from the department, along with Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development Camilla P. Benbow, were present when Armstead received the award.
“So many people are inspired by your positive impact on the department, the community and Vanderbilt at large,” Wente told Armstead. “You are a champion of inclusion within the department, encouraging a thoughtful approach to diversity among students and colleagues. You have also been instrumental in helping Peabody students navigate their academic and personal goals, and your office is a safe haven for many students.”
Nominators noted Armstead’s attention to detail, problem-solving abilities, good humor, professionalism, joyful attitude and passion, along with her impact on the department’s efforts to foster greater inclusion.
“I credit Ally with enabling the faculty to talk more about race and diversity, increasing our department’s diversity training, and increasing our attentiveness to the ways in which we discuss race and gender in the classroom,” noted one colleague in a nomination letter. “Because this work is ongoing, I’m not even sure Ally realizes the extent to which she has pushed us in positive ways.”
Another surprise followed for Armstead during the holiday party. Moments after Wente presented the Heart and Soul Award, Armstead’s girlfriend Jai surprised her with a marriage proposal, which she accepted.
Learn more about the Chancellor’s Heart and Soul Staff Appreciation Award at vanderbilt.edu/chancellor.