A-3 of the Month: Nancy Kealey, Van Pelt College House

Photo by Dwight Luckey

The A-3 Assembly's A-3 of the Month for November 1995 is Nancy Kealey, who received a veritable houseful of nominations, forwarded by Van Pelt College House's Faculty Master Alan Filreis, who is also professor of English and undergraduate chair of the department.

For Ms. Kealey, who was on the eve of retirement when the nomination was made, the award capped a 24-year career in which she was a receptionist first in High Rise North, then in Van Pelt College House where she has served for the past six years.

Members of Van Pelt House also celebrated her retirement with a farewell party in December.

Some comments from the nomination Dr. Filreis sent to the A-3 Assembly's selection committee:

"Nancy ('Nan') Kealey has served as the main daytime Desk Worker at Van Pelt College House for many years. She has been the mainstay--the point of administrative and personal consistency--through the terms of three Faculty Masters. She routinely--daily--goes out of her way to help the student and faculty residents of this House with various matters directly and often not-so-directly related to her responsibilities. In the chaos (engendered by mail delivery, maintenance, and security problems) Nan finds a way, instantly upon her arrival in the morning, of creating order, calm. She creates a sense of home for Van Pelt. She has helped define it. She embodies the ideal, too rare at Penn, of day-to- day, in-the-details-of-living cooperation between staff and students. As you see from the student testimony quoted and paraphrased below, Nancy is an utterly central and important part of the social life and spirit of this 180-person Academic Program in Residence.

"And now Nan is retiring. She has had minor but persistent heart trouble, we understand; and in any case her physician has suggested that she leave the job that she has loved--at the end of this term.

"The entire House--students, staff, colleagues on the Housekeeping and Security staff, former residents, six former Faculty in Residence, and others--will be honoring Nan Kealey at a reception/get-together on December 14.

"Asked to recall some of the ways in which Nancy Kealey has helped them, students wrote of her extraordinary--often modest but effective-- efforts to help them and to make Van Pelt a better place. (Below I quote and refer to just a few of the several dozens of statements I have received.) They all speak of the 'extra work' she does. A senior, in the House for four years, wrote:

" 'Nan is a great person. I have worked with her when I was a residential living employee, and the amount of "extra" work she does for the house is incredible. She makes sure that the packages are sorted correctly, and she keeps after physical plant to fix problems in the house since she knows them very well by now. Overall, she has contributed to the well being of the house and its residents immensely.'

"And they write about how Nan greets them in the morning--not the best time of day for students:

" 'I'm always one of the first few people to leave Van Pelt in the mornings. While I'm walking out half-asleep, she always greets me with a warm hello. It's a nice way to start out the day.'

"And this:

" 'I have been a resident of Van Pelt Manor House for three years now. This is my fourth year at Van Pelt and the one constant which has remained all this time is Nan Kealey, the receptionist that works at the front desk. Each day as I make my way to outside, Nan is there with a smile. It is nice to know that someone is there who genuinely cares about the well-being of those around her. I recommend that Nan receive the Employee Recognition Award. It would be nice to see her smile for something she truly deserves.'

"Crucially, the students tell dozens of stories about ways in which Nan knows--and acts upon--what the students need emotionally at any moment. In the story partly quoted below, you see that Nan understood just what this Engineering junior needed:

" 'Last week my mother express mailed my passport to me. When it got here and they removed the receipt, my name was completely illegible. Nan could have ignored it, but she instead spent the morning calling various post offices, and found me before noon to pick up the package.'

"Another comment by a student resident should serve as a model for other staff members at Penn--it doesn't take much to help someone and make an impact:

" 'One time, I tried to use the vending machine, but it ate my money and didn't spit anything out. Good ol' Nan said, "Come here, hon, and I'll write your name down. You'll get your money back." I was so touched by the kindness and sincerity of her words.'

"Nan knows that she is, in some sense, a parental or grand-parental stand-in. She doesn't push this point, but many of the students appreciate her in this way--some, such as the student whose comment is quoted just below, feel very strongly about this:

"She has been a mother figure. A beacon of discipline and a source of filial warmth. I've been at Van Pelt, now, for two years, and since arriving here, Nan has become a fixture in my life. She is compassionate, yet understands the need for swift and diligent adherence to procedure when it is necessary. Certainly, Van Pelt life would not be the same without her, yet she gives to it without any expectation of reward or of accolade. It is specifically for this reason that she should be awarded this honor. It is the ones who work, nay, care without being asked to that are really deserving. Of course I expect many have the qualifications to win this award. However, none, I believe, have become as integral and as indispensable a part of his/her community as Nan has.'

"Another student wrote similarly:

" 'In some ways she inspires me to be more optimistic. During mornings when everything just does not work, or when there are mid- terms, her smile alleviates my pressure. It is difficult for me to express, even I myself do not know how to explain. Her smile possesses some magic that brings me support and hope for the day. She makes me feel a lot like being at home.'

"Another student wrote:

" 'Even on the dreariest, cold, and wettest days I've experienced so far at Penn, as long as I see that sweet smile and get a warm "good morning" from Nan, I know my day won't be all that bad. She just has a way of making everyone feel special. I kind of think of her as my grandma and I feel of all the people I've encountered on campus this year, Nan is the most deserving of this award. '

"Nan has also, for some, encouraged them to do better academic work. One alumnus of the University wrote:

" 'She is an amazing woman! She encouraged me to hit the books and not others.'

"All the students speak of how masterfully Nan handles administrative procedures. They are perhaps more grateful for this than for anything else. One students wrote:

" 'Nan's the best. I came here freshman year, with my mom and a car full of stuff, two weeks before move-in. I was playing for the soccer team and the coach told me, move in, no problem. I got here and Nan's like, what are you talking about? I told her the story and without her I probably would still be in limbo since she straightened everything out by telling me where to go and what to do.'

"Another student wrote simply: 'Nan is one of the people at Penn who has a heart of gold.'

"And another student expresses succinctly what we--the student, staff, faculty residents of Van Pelt College House--want to convey by way of this nomination:

" 'I know she deserves this award if at least as a small token for all her years of loyalty to the House.' "

Nominating A-3 Staff

The A-3 Assembly is on the lookout for A-3 employees who fit the following description: dependable...results-oriented... team player...excellent worker...and high achiever. If you know someone who fits the description, please contact the A-3 Assembly Employee Recognition Committee for a nomination form:

Betty Thomas,
A-3 Employee Recognition
Committee Chair
212 Franklin Building/6270.
Ext. 8-7233.

Nominations can also be sent via the A-3 Web site (http://www.sas.upenn.edu /~haldeman/rec4m.html)