Financial Support Specialist
Enjoying a Life Well Spent
Financial Support Specialist, Nancy Wallingford, Receives the 2011 COLSA Staff Achievement Award for Professionalism
When the College of Life Sciences (COLSA) Dean, Jon Wraith, plodded into Financial Support Specialist, Nancy Wallingford’s, office, leaned over her desk, and whispered tersely, “I need to talk with you privately. A parent has called the Provost’s Office,” one thought flashed through her mind: Why on Earth would someone have reported her?
“I could feel the red going up,” Wallingford says raising her hands to her cheeks, “but, I kept the smile on my face, saying ‘sure.’” And, that – right there – is a prime example of why she was recently presented with the 2011 COLSA Staff Achievement Award for Professionalism.
Fortunately, within an instant, that smile turned from hopeful to fully authentic. Wallingford describes the unfolding of her realization of what was happening during scene that ensued, saying with an incredulous laugh, “Then he turned sideways and I don’t know how was hiding all those people behind his back! There was Tina, Shanna, Laurrie Anne, and Tanya.” When asked what was going on, they all shouted, “Congratulations!” Wallingford shakes her head and says, “I just started crying. I was so happy . . . and shocked!”
But Wallingford shouldn’t have been shocked. In her more than two decades of service at UNH, Wallingford has carved out a following of appreciative employees who just can’t fathom getting their jobs done without her assistance. “I know people care about what I do for them,” she says, “but I’ve never seen their appreciation in writing before.” It’s an experience we should all have to understand exactly how we are appreciated for what we do. And now Wallingford has a full drawer’s worth of letters in which faculty and professional staff elaborate on just how important her work – and her presence – has been over the years. As an example, Associate Professor of Zoology Jessica Bolker says, “Nancy has always been a key person for me, facilitating both my research and teaching; every time the Business Service Center (BSC) is reshuffled and/or she earns a promotion, I hold my breath until I know I’ll still be able to rely on her to deal with my financial paperwork, whether it’s about reimbursement, course supplies, a software upgrade, or figuring out how to pay for salamander embryos for the developmental biology class.”
This May marks Wallingford’s 25th year of working for UNH. She spent her first twelve years at the Controller’s office and then transitioned to the BSC 13 years ago. “I love working for COLSA,” she says, adding thoughtfully, “This is really true.” Wallingford has developed strong working relationships and friendships among her immediate coworkers, the rest of the staff, and faculty across the college. In fact, she and her colleague Tammy McGlone, senior grant accounting specialist, have been working side-by-side for almost a quarter century. When Wallingford was still at the Controller’s office, McGlone left to become one of the pioneers in the BSC. “Then I joined her and said, ‘See we’re back together again!’” says Wallingford. Of McGlone, and the rest of the team with whom Wallingford seamlessly collaborates, she says, “We’re like a family. Everybody really cares about one another. We’re that shoulder, that ear, or whatever somebody needs.”
Wallingford spent her childhood growing up in Durham as the youngest of five children in her family. “I loved growing up here,” she says about her old stomping grounds to which she knew she would one day return to work. “It felt like a small town. Everybody knew us. It was safe.” Wallingford’s father was the police lieutenant in Durham. It was an experience that made her well known to everyone about which she says, “I’d be walking down the street and whenever anyone saw me they’d be on the horn to dad asking, ‘Do you know your daughter is walking down the street?’”
She’s made UNH an important part of her personal life in attending events at the University with her family. Wallingford has been bringing her daughter, Morgan, to the women’s gymnastics meets ever since she was little and would say, “Mama, that’s going to be me someday.” Today, 15-year-old Morgan is a high-level gymnast, one of only three at her club in Dover, and a regular participant in the UNH summer gymnastics camp. “Her coach said if she keeps up her practice, her dream of competing with the UNH team will come true,” says Wallingford who supports that dream.
Morgan, who works with a branch of the Special Olympics at Dover High School called Unified Wellness, has shown an early interest in, and remarkable patience working with, the special needs population. While Wallingford wants to offer her daughter a plethora of choices, she would truly love for her to study Occupational Therapy at UNH, providing that she’s still interested in doing so within a couple of years. That opportunity would bode well for both of them. “We’re really close,” says Wallingford, “She’s my only kid. I don’t want her going away just yet.”
Furthermore, Wallingford knows what a wonderful place UNH is to spend your days. “There are always good things that happen here. Things that give you a laugh and something to remember,” she says. “The staff I work with and the group of faculty I have make me want to come to work every day. I’m really sincere in saying that.” And the feeling is mutual. Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, Larry Harris, says, “I am very much impressed with how well Nancy handles the diverse accounts and she always does it with a positive attitude and a sense of humor. She is an exceptional person and an asset to our college.”
With her excellent communication skills, desire to be helpful, and friendly demeanor, Wallingford excels at completing her task of maintaining payroll and managing accounts. Professor of Biological Sciences David Berlinsky says, “Nancy goes well out of her way to solve problems, whether it’s tracking down information about a purchase for which I lost a receipt, finding per diem information for some obscure location, or booking flights for a conference.” In addition, Research Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NREN) David Burdick shares an example of his appreciation of Wallingford, saying, “Just last week, I had to get an internal PO number for a critical component for an outreach installation . . . when I called Nancy, I had no idea how it would work. Nancy came through with flying colors. She set up and gave me a number, then tracked down her contact at EOS and ‘made it so.’”
With laughter and kindness in her eyes, Wallingford jokes about the people she supports, asking, “How would they survive without me?” But, there’s truth in the inference. Not only does Wallingford make everyone’s job easier, she makes it more pleasant just by being herself. Professor of Applied Animal Science at the Thompson School Drew Conroy says, “An additional example is how effective Nancy was in dealing with student fees and payments to a tour company with which Patty Bedker had made contact to coordinate our travel plans in Ireland. The tour company specifically mentioned Nancy by name when we were in Ireland, saying how they wish everyone was as easy to work with as Nancy.” Professor of Animal Science Patty Bedker, who has observed Wallingford at work since their offices are in proximity, concurs, “She is always willing to perform the task or problem assigned to her, while always displaying positive and professional behavior.”
Indeed, there may be one big collective sigh of relief when the faculty, and all the others, Wallingford works so hard to support learn that she’s here for the long-term. “I don’t know if I’m ever going to retire,” says Wallingford, “I really like it here.” In one sentence, Professor of Zoology Hunt Howell captures the totality of Wallingford’s professional and personal contribution to the institution by saying, “It is not an overstatement that she is an excellent ambassador for the University.”
- Victoria Forester Courtland