The University announced the winners of the 2022 President’s Achievement Award (PAA), which honors staff members for their “commitment to excellence and exceptional performance.” The six University employee recipients, announced in early April, were Vincent Cuomo, Karla Ewalt, Julie Groeninger, Marty Krzywicki, Mary O’Connor, and Grace K. Penn ’99.
The Office of Communications also recognized 517 staff members, each of whom has worked for over 10 years at the University. Together, these employees totaled over 9,000 years of service to Princeton.
The Daily Princetonian sat down with the awardees to discuss their reflections on their service to the campus community.
Cuomo is the lead maintenance technician of the Elevator/Electric Shop and has worked at Princeton for over two decades. He learned about the award after being “tricked” into a meeting with his boss, the Vice President of Operations, KyuJung Whang. At first believing he was in trouble, Cuomo was surprised and honored when the meeting turned out to be about the award.
“I come to work every day, my job is to fix elevators, keep them on. It just becomes second nature to you,” he said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
“You really don't know if anybody appreciates it,” he said. “So when I heard that I was recognized because of that, it made me feel really good.”
Cuomo was nominated for the award on the grounds of his “technical ability, interpersonal skills, dedication, and professional drive,” according to the announcement. Within the Electric Shop, he is accessible and eager to mentor and advise his juniors.
Ewalt, a senior associate dean for Research at the Office of the Dean for Research, recalled feeling “absolutely speechless” upon receiving the award.
“There are so many incredible staff members at Princeton. I count myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to play a key role for research continuity during the last two years, especially,” she wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’
Ewalt co-founded Princeton Research Day, a program which celebrates the research of undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and more. She has also been integral to the continuation of research on campus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge she explained as stimulating and rooted in teamwork.
“I kept a long list of names of the people who contributed directly to research continuity so that I wouldn’t forget how many people came together selflessly in this time of need,” Ewalt wrote.
Groeninger, the director of the Office of Government Affairs (OGA), expressed a similar sentiment: one of the most gratifying parts of her job, she said, is working with the people around her.
“I am continually awed by the incredible research and scholarship done by our faculty members and the thoughtfulness of the campus leaders and students with whom I engage,” she told the ‘Prince.’
“I genuinely enjoy my job, find it interesting, and feel good about what I do each day. That’s pretty special,” she continued.
Having worked in the OGA for over a decade, Groeninger has played a pivotal role in initiatives like securing funding for the Roman Telescope mission, organizing an annual Fusion Advocacy Day, and working on immigration policy in support of DREAMers.
“Our international community has faced enormous and unreasonable obstacles in recent years,” she wrote. “There’s more work to be done, but I take great pride in working for a University that has made engaging in this battle a priority.”
O’Connor, the manager of the Office of the Chair, Arts Fellowships, and Special Projects, at the Lewis Center for the Arts (LCA), has been at Princeton for 15 years. The work she does, including running the Princeton Arts Fellows program and overseeing the Lewis Center student advisors, is truly important to her.
“It's not just a job ... the work that we do at the Lewis Center is so intertwined with our mission and goals, and so foundational to what we do,” she explained in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “Not just creating, and working art, but also, it's deeply meaningful to the way we look at the world.”
Penn, the Associate Director for International Affairs and Operations in the Office of the Provost, has been an integral part of campus for seven years. She was nominated for the award in her previous position as an Associate Director of Affiliated Groups and Princeton Prize in Race Relations, where she acted as a liaison to Princeton’s Black, Latinx, Asian and Asian American, and LGBTQ+ alumni groups. Penn has helped to rebuild many of those networks from scratch.
“Helping to strengthen the governance and processes of the affinity groups I worked with is something I think will have a lasting impact on the ways that alumni will connect with each other, and with Princeton, for generations to come,” Penn wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’
Her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion carries through in her work with the Princeton Prize in Race Relations and the Senior Practitioners Diversity Group. A member of the Class of 1999, Penn described feeling most gratified when her team’s “work has transformed someone’s connection with Princeton.”
She said she appreciates “knowing that this newfound connection will have a lasting impact on Princeton, and Princeton’s ability to impact the world.”
Krzywicki is a detective and University police officer for the Department of Public Safety, and has been in service for over 26 years. The University announcement commended him for being “empathetic and supportive of victims as they work through the details of a case.”
Krzywicki was not able to provide comment by the time of publication.
The awardees will receive $2,500, as well as a framed certificate. Their names will be engraved on a plaque in the Office of Human Resources.
Izzy Jacobson is a news staff writer and features contributor for the 'Prince.' She can be reached at email@example.com.