For the past 19 years, Keats Ellis has been a fixture at the UNC Pembroke bookstore.
Known for his outgoing personality, Ellis is popular with students, faculty and staff. And he makes it a point to remember everyone’s name.
“He never hesitates when asked to accept responsibilities and is always willing to stay late or coming in early if needed,” said Robert Canida, a longtime co-worker.
“Keats is committed to the university values, mission and vision.”
Ellis’ proven customer service skills, combined with his dedication and team spirit led him being named 2016 Employee of the Year. Ellis was among those recognized during the annual Staff Awards Ceremony.
“It is quite an honor to know that your peers think that you’re worthy of such a great honor,” Ellis said. “It is truly humbling. It goes to show you that hard work, determination and focus to the job and mission of the university does have its rewards.”
A Bladenboro native, Ellis, graduated from UNCP in 1996. He was hired at the bookstore two years later, working his way up to assistant manager and eventually interim director in 2015. Earlier this month he accepted a new position in the Financial Aid office.
Karen Swiney, who hired Ellis, said he has developed over the years into a valued employee who is dependable.
“Not only has he done his share for the bookstore, but he shares his talent of piano playing for various departments for various fundraising events on campus,” Swiney said. “He has developed great customer service skills and has a passion for serving students.”
Earlier this year, employees nominated their peers in six categories – accountability, communication, collaboration, innovation, integrity and service. The categories reflect the core values the university adopted shortly after Robin Gary Cummings became chancellor in 2015.
Awards were given to two employees (staff and non-teaching faculty) per category. All winners were presented a plaque. The winners are:
Accountability: Robert Gaddy, technology support technician with IT Support Services; and Nancy Crouch, associate vice chancellor for Technology Resources and Chief Information Officer
Collaboration: Kelley Koch, Human Resources specialist and Charla Suggs, assistant director of Counseling and Psychological Services
Communication: Leanie Lewis, administrative support associate with Housing and Residence Life and McDuffie Cummings Jr., chief of Police and Public Safety
Innovation: Dalton Hoffer, assistant director for Student Engagement and Gary Warren, Print Services supervisor
Integrity: Janetta Cheek, program assistant in The Graduate School and Amanda Spayd, director of Advancement Services
Service: Gary Locklear, Building Environmental technician, and Adam Hardin, assistant director of Development, Athletics and Constituent Support
Changing Lives Through Education – Dr. Nicolette Campos, director of the Accessibility Resource Center.
Also during the ceremony, it was announced that Dr. Robert Canida was UNC Pembroke’s nominee for the Erskine Bowles Award for Staff Service. Canida’s name will be submitted along with nominees from the other institutions in the UNC system.
Canida serves as director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“This is a special opportunity to recognize staff who go above and beyond and exceed expectations,” Chancellor Cummings said. “Each and every UNCP employee is deserving of praise for the work you do every day, often behind the scenes and under the radar, not just to keep this university running but to achieve excellence.
“No matter your role on campus and no matter your job title, you are supporting a life-changing educational experience,” Cummings said.
“Your work is benefiting our students, their families, their communities and our great state. Thank you for the work you do every day to make UNCP a place of hope, a place of opportunity and a place of promise.”