Pillars of Excellence Award

2020 Models of Excellence Program Honorees

Congratulations to this year's honorees! This year Penn's Models of Excellence Program honors 110 exceptional staff members who play key roles in Penn's successes every day. The 21st Models of Excellence Ceremony and Reception, scheduled for April 28, will not be held. In lieu of the Ceremony and Reception, we will mark the occasion by producing and distributing a commemorative video and keepsake publication to honor and recognize 2020 honorees.

Introduced in 2014, the Pillars of Excellence Award recognizes the strong foundation and important support our weekly-paid staff members provide to promote Penn’s success. These staff members are pillars of the institution.

Our pillars are responsible for overseeing activities that keep our environment safe and operational for Penn’s faculty, staff, and students. They provide administrative support to organizations and individuals on day-to-day activities. They also provide important infrastructure services, such as: maintaining facilities and outdoor spaces; overseeing our mail, our parking areas, and our safety; and providing housekeeping and dining services. These staff members support key internal and external constituencies every day. They create the foundation that helps keep the University operating successfully and smoothly, meeting the goals of the University’s mission and contributing to Penn’s prestige.

Standards of Excellence

These behaviors reflect the University’s standards for a Pillar of Excellence and are used by the Selection Committee to identify individuals who qualify for this award:

  • Provides superior sustained service
  • Supports a special project or situation in a notable way
  • Delivers exemplary service to customers
  • Displays exceptional responsiveness to key constituents/customers
  • Uses superior efficiency in responding to customers’ needs
  • Exhibits exemplary professional behavior when responding to customers’ needs/requests
  • Exhibits exceptional resourcefulness, innovation, or creativity to help customers with their problems/issues
  • Improves processes to save time or money through over-and-above service to key constituencies
  • Contributes to a positive, collaborative work environment


The Nomination Process

We’re looking for non-exempt, weekly-paid staff members who meet the above standards of excellence by doing their jobs so well on a daily basis that their impact is felt keenly by those working with them or in the environment they oversee. They model outstanding services and support to their constituents every day, during special situations, and/or under unique circumstances. Please consider nominating a deserving staff member or team; we welcome nominations from any level of the organization, including self-nominations.

The nomination process is detailed, and all its components must be completed before the nomination can be accepted.  

Each year, the Quick Start Guide to Submitting a Nomination provides all of the information you need to complete this process.  Steps include:

1. Reviewing the eligibility criteria.
2. Completing the Nomination Form which includes two reference letters and supervisor verification of eligibility.
3. Submitting the completed nomination through the online form before the deadline.

Questions? Call 215-898-1012 or contact us by email.

Selection and Notification

An annually rotating Models of Excellence Selection Committee reviews all nominations and selects the award winners. The committee is representative of the diversity of our institution, composed of Penn leaders from the Provost, Executive Vice President, and Vice President of Human Resources areas, previous Models of Excellence award winners, and other faculty and staff members from across campus.

Once staff members are chosen for Pillars of Excellence recognition are notified in January, and the information is publicized broadly to the Penn community. Honorees are acknowledged at the spring Models of Excellence Award Ceremony.

Awards, Ceremony, and Reception

Pillars of Excellence award winners receive $500.00 and a symbolic award. Extremely noteworthy contributions receive Honorable Mentions and are awarded $250.00 and a symbolic award.

The next award ceremony and reception for honorees will take place on April 28, 2020. All members of the campus community are invited; more information will be provided as the date approaches.

2019 Pillar of Excellence 


Lorenzo Jackson
Facilities and Real Estate Services

For providing exemplary environmental services to faculty, students, and staff in the School of Arts and Sciences, and his ongoing commitment to improve Penn's housekeeping program.

Honorable Mentions


Lapis David Cohen
Library Specialist in Resource Sharing
University Library

For implementing critical software enhancements to the Penn Libraries Interlibrary Loan borrowing request workflow. The improvements have increased the speed at which books and articles are located and have allowed Interlibrary Loan staff to spend more time on filling requests for material that is hard to find.


Jose Colon
Urban Park Gardener
Facilities and Real Estate Services

For his dedication to ensuring that the trees, flowers, and other landscaping that beautify our campus are healthy, vibrant, and inviting for students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Questions? Call 215-898-7729 or contact us by email.