Janet Hunter Prizes Honor Two Knox Staff Members for Service

October 18, 2012

by Rana Tahir '13Tianna Cervantez and Barbara Stevenson

As the 2012 Janet C. Hunter prizes were announced, Knox College staff members Tianna Cervantez and Barbara Stevenson were in for a surprise: hearing their own names.

A closely kept secret, the Janet C. Hunter prizes for outstanding accomplishments and service to Knox College are announced at the Opening Convocation ceremony that formally starts every Knox academic year. One prize is awarded to a member of the salaried staff and another to a member of the hourly staff.

Prizes are awarded after a nomination and selection process.

At the end of an academic year, Knox staff, faculty, and students are invited to submit nominations. Members of the Knox community are asked to explain in each nomination why they believe a particular employee deserves the prize, how he or she interacts with members of the Knox community, and how his or her contributions make Knox a better place to live, work, and learn.

The five-member selection committee reads through the nominations and decides on the recipients.

"It's a big deal on campus, I think, for anyone who knew Janet Hunter, knew how many hours she put in and how much she loved the college," said Knox Director of Maintenance Pat Pendergast, who is chairman of the selection committee and a past recipient of the award.

Tianna Cervantez -- Director of Multicultural Student Advisement Tianna Cervantez and family

At Opening Convocation, Cervantez looked around as Knox College President Teresa Amott described the recipient of the award for a salaried staff member.

"I wanted to go back and listen harder to what Teresa had said. I was hearing what she said, but it wasn't processing." Cervantez recalled. (Photo at right: Tianna Cervantez with her family.)

"I say to students when they come in that I'm here to help with what's going on outside the classroom so that you can concentrate on what's going on in the classroom," Cervantez said of her job.

"In my case, I love working with students. It's important for me to know that they feel comfortable here, that they feel like while they're here they can make a difference."

A Galesburg native, Cervantez graduated from Knox in 2006 as an anthropology-sociology major. She went on to receive a master's degree from the University of Chicago in social service administration.

"I just think that I loved my experience (at Knox) when I was a student, and the faculty and staff that I interacted with as a student changed the way that I looked at myself, changed the way I saw the world," Cervantez said of her decision to work at Knox. "Knox impacted what I felt I could do and what I eventually did, and that was a big push for my decision to come here."

As a former student and now a staff member, Cervantez says she is humbled by the hard-working people around her -- including the other 2012 Janet Hunter award recipient, Barbara Stevenson.

"Every time I see her on campus, when I was a student and now, she always has a smile on her face, always says hi," Cervantez said. "She goes above and beyond."

Barbara Stevenson -- CustodianBarbara Stevenson with family

Stevenson had just clocked out on the morning of Opening Convocation, and was about to head home when she was asked to attend the ceremony.

"I was suspicious right before Convocation because I go home at 11, and I was kind of asked to go," Stevenson said. (Photo at right: Barbara Stevenson with her family.)

After 20 years as a stay-at-home mom, Stevenson started working at Knox College in 1994 when her brother, who was already working at Knox, called to let her know of a job opening.

"He just really loved the whole Knox community and thought I would -- and I did," Stevenson said.

Stevenson says she is grateful for the prize.

"I guess it means that, you know, sometimes you think that no one notices what you do, and it turns out they do," she said. "I really love the people I work for, and it makes you feel good to leave them with a nice clean area. And it makes you feel good that they appreciate it."