Widgets Magazine

Three Stanford staff members honored as Amy J. Blue Award recipients

Last Tuesday, three Stanford staff members were honored as recipients of the 2018 Amy J. Blue Awards: Sheila Dolezal, director of finance and administration in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN); Christina Ablaza, program manager of the Creative Writing Program; and Rafael Velazquez, a food service worker in Residential and Dining Enterprises’ (R&DE) Stanford Dining division.

The distinction, which recognizes Stanford staff members who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to their work and support for their colleagues, was established in 1991 in memory of associate Vice President for administrative services and facilities Amy J. Blue. Blue passed away after battling brain cancer in 1988, a month before her 45th birthday.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne joined campus community members in celebrating the three recipients at the Tuesday ceremony.

“The celebration of the Amy Blue awards is a very special occasion in our community because it honors the extraordinary commitment and contributions of the staff of Stanford,” Tessier-Lavigne said in his address. “Our staff are central to the mission of the University, central to the success of our institution as a whole, and this award gives us the opportunity to recognize their exceptional contributions to the life of our University.”

In her acceptance speech, Dolezal expressed her appreciation for the role of the staff at Stanford, echoing Tessier-Lavigne.

“Stanford is a place where people matter, where educating students, advancing knowledge and caring for students has always been our culture,” Dolezal said. “There are so many people at Stanford that I admire and that I’m privileged to work with.”

Dolezal has worked at Stanford for the past 28 years. She currently manages the financial and administrative affairs of over 120 people for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, where she has worked for 18 years. Despite her lack of formal medical training, Dolezal said she was compelled to work at Stanford after being impressed by how the hospital had cared for her younger sister, who underwent several orthopedic surgeries, and her mother, who had diabetes.

“I have always wanted to be part of a mission and vision to advance a woman’s place in society, and health care is a foundational element of this vision,” she said.

The colleagues who nominated Dolezal for the Amy J. Blue award lauded her for “find[ing] the time to genuinely listen to and care for the myriad of people who seek her out” and always “easing tensions and bringing everyone into the fold.” According to Stanford News, they also said her in-depth knowledge was vital to the functioning of her department.

As program manager of the Creative Writing Program, Ablaza, like Dolezal, was praised by her colleagues as a guide and mentor to her entire program.

“Creative writing is one of the biggest minors on campus,” noted one lecturer who nominated Ablaza. “Christina’s organization and fierce advocacy for our program is the reason … we have such a strong community in our program of camaraderie and supportiveness.”

In addition to managing the undergraduate creative writing program, the Stegner Fellowship Program and the events program of colloquiums, readings and speakers, Ablaza also meets one-on-one with department faculty and students as a mentor.

“I am so fortunate to work in the Creative Writing Program supporting our wonderful faculty, students and authors and working with so many wonderful colleagues within our department and across campus,” Ablaza said in her address at the ceremony. “I believe that art and literature matter so I am proud to contribute to their teaching and production.”

As a chef at Branner Dining Hall, Velazquez is popular among students for his “small gestures of friendliness” and his efforts to get to know them.

“Rafael has memorized every single athlete’s egg order— every single one,” read one student’s nomination letter.

Velazquez, who came to the United States in 1985, learned to cook at several restaurants in Redwood City, including Denny’s. He joined Stanford Dining’s team in 1999, when CEO and Executive Chef of Student Organized Services Nick Peters gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his cooking abilities and hired him as chef for sorority Delta Delta Delta (TriDelt).

Velazquez taught himself English by reading newspapers and magazines and watching TV during his restaurant days, and studied English through R&DE’s Stepping Stones to Success education program and the Habla Tutoring Program.

“There is always something new to learn,” Velazquez said. “It’s the same in the kitchen.”

Beyond his skill and warmth in the kitchen, Velazquez has also been praised by students for his “ability to connect with everyone he interacts with,” and recognized by his peers as an engaging trainer and highly skilled co-worker.

All three award recipients expressed their gratitude for receiving the Amy J. Blue Award during the ceremony.

“Receiving this award is not only an honor, but truly the highlight of my professional life,” Dolezal said to the crowd. “I am humbled, I am grateful, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.”


Contact Melissa Santos at melissasantos ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Melissa Santos

Melissa Santos, Deputy Desk Editor for the Daily's campus life beat, is a freshman from Los Angeles majoring in comparative literature. When she’s not procrastinating by cleaning (you know, so she feels at least somewhat productive), you can find her online shopping, sticking washi tape EVERYWHERE, or reading short stories instead of her actual assigned readings. Contact her at melissasantos ‘at’ stanford.edu.