Binder Prize Honors Staff Who Help Others

May 8, 2014

First-year student in your first real pickle? Not to worry. Deanna Huggins is on the job.

An administrative assistant in the Facilities and Maintenance Department and the recipient of this year’s Mary G. Binder Prize, Huggins has been a friendly, familiar face to Mudders for nearly a decade. For housing issues, missing ID cards and more, Huggins and her fellow F&M staff are there, ready to spring into action.

“The support staff are all here to help the students,” says Huggins of the department, which also addresses a multitude of faculty and staff needs. Huggins came on board in 2007, soon earning a reputation among students as a trusted mentor and valuable campus resource. In addition to everyday jobs like reissuing keys and helping secure storage space, Huggins offers something less quantifiable but more important: moral support.

“If a student calls in or comes to the front counter, I know they have a lot on their plate,” says Huggins. “We are all here for the same purpose: to make sure that a student’s experience here—for all four years—is safe and all that it should be.”

A mother of two college-age students, Huggins allows that her desire to help may spring at times from a maternal place. She’s especially empathetic to parents who may be physically distant from their homesick students.

The Binder Prize was established in 1997 by a gift from Professor Sam Tanenbaum and his wife, Carol, to express gratitude to the College’s support staff. Professor Tanenbaum wrote, “[My mother-in-law] was a person who believed that the greatest virtue in life is to help others.” Those worthy of the Binder Prize embody this virtue, in addition to being effective and dedicated employees of the College.

A fellow staff member, who nominated Huggins, commented, “I find it hard to imagine a person at Harvey Mudd College who is friendlier, more helpful or easier to work with. She’s one of those people whose positive attitude and spirit of service make the College a great place to work.”

But Huggins is modest about the recognition.

“This award means so much,” says Huggins. “From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful.”

The prize includes a $750 award and a commemorative certificate. Huggins’ name will also be added to the Mary G. Binder Prize plaque in the foyer of Galileo Hall. She will be honored at the College’s annual year-end celebration on Monday, May 19.

Huggins credits strong, collaborative relationships with fellow F&M staff for keeping the department nimble in the face of challenges. She also notes what a “privilege and honor” it is to work among a talented faculty and student body, citing the Harvey Mudd community as integral to her success.

“It really is a shared award,” says Huggins.