Years of Commitment Rewarded

January 27, 2005, vol. 32, no. 2
By Marianne Meadahl



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Years of commitment to SFU and devotion to their work that goes beyond the call of duty are traits shared by staffers Hilary Jones and Debbie Owen, who are recipients of 2004 staff achievement awards.

Jones (left), the departmental assistant and student adviser in geography, and Owen, a lab technician in chemistry, will be honored at a lunch on Feb. 1.

The award is given to staff members who have made significant contributions in such areas as humanitarianism, lifetime achievement, personal achievement, athletics or artistic endeavours and work performance.

Jones landed a job as secretary in SFU's department of modern languages when the university opened in 1965, after coming to Canada from England. She left after seven years to raise a family, but missed the sense of accomplishment her work had given her. “Twelve years later I was lucky enough to be hired back into the same job,” she recalls, “and from then on, I knew that working at SFU was exactly what I wanted to do.”

That was 20 years ago. Jones went on to become secretary to the dean of arts before moving on to her current job in geography.

Three years ago, Jones took another leap and started a bachelor of general studies in the liberal and business studies program at Harbour Centre, a degree specially designed for those who hold down full-time jobs. She graduated last fall.

In recent years Jones acknowledges that with the job has come the struggle to cope with “the inefficiencies and injustices” of new technologies. “SFU has many employees who have grown up together, who share the same history and have a basic understanding of our common culture,” notes Jones. “It's the support of these people that has helped me adapt to change. Overall, it's the people I work with, who are friends as well as colleagues, who make it all worthwhile.”

Owen (right) started working at SFU in 1989. Her task was to help with lecture demonstrations and assist in the organic lab. Within the year she took on a new position of biochemistry technician in the department's undergraduate teaching lab.

Owen was soon after diagnosed with clinical depression. She credits understanding co-workers for helping her continue to work. She was encouraged to get involved in other ways and became the United Way representative for her department, then eventually, shop steward. During a period of financial cutbacks, and in response to student growth and space shortages, she was assigned the task of reorganizing lab space and equipment usage. Her efforts proved to facilitate the enrolment increases.

Owen's next challenge was to help set up computers in the labs for data acquisition and update the associated computer lab where students process data. “During this time of change I pushed the idea of using the web to get information to students, as this was and still is the real challenge,” says Owen, who is currently the department's webmaster.

“I am definitely a doer,” she adds. “I like to keep busy, and to be kept in the loop. It feels good to contribute to the workplace in a positive way, and to know that my being here every day makes a difference, no matter how small."

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