After nearly 30 years, Jill Edwards still is awed by the faculty, students and staff she serves at Washington University in St. Louis.
“What I love about my job is that I get to interact with so many people — students and faculty from every school, staff from across the CFU (Central Fiscal Unit),” said Edwards, senior project manager for university accreditation in the Office of the Provost. “The more people I meet, the more my appreciation deepens for this place and its people. My mind is constantly blown by their dedication and accomplishments.”
The same can be said of Edwards, winner of this year’s Gloria W. White Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes a nonacademic staff member for exceptional effort that has bettered the university.
“Jill is a dedicated, task-oriented, kind, talented and fun colleague who leads from the head as well as the heart — and sometimes from the stomach,” said Pamela S. Lokken, vice chancellor for government and community relations, alluding to Edwards’ prowess and generosity as a baker. “She possesses qualities all of us can and should emulate.”
Gerhild Williams, who worked closely with Edwards during Williams’ tenure as vice provost and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, praised Edwards’ organizational and management skills, knowledge of the university’s administrative structures and innate understanding of how to best support her colleagues.
“From her work with students, staff and faculty during the many years she and I managed the Undergraduate Council, to the Faculty Senate, to university accreditation, to presidential debates, to outreach to WashU’s extended family of service members, Jill has been part of, initiated much and led any number of challenging tasks to successful conclusions,” said Williams, the Barbara Schaps Thomas and David M. Thomas Professor in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences.
Edwards joined the university in 1993 as an administrative assistant in what was then Alumni & Development. Quickly recognized for her can-do attitude and positive energy, Edwards was invited to work with Williams and Richard Roloff, former executive vice chancellor.
“It was a unique role because I was exposed to both the academic side of the university and the CFU too,” Edwards said.
Today, Edwards helps the university maintain its accreditation status with the Higher Learning Commission, which assesses and evaluates WashU’s academic programs, student services, governance and administration and ensures federally defined responsibilities are met. She also has stepped up over the years to stage high-profile events. When Brookings Hall served as mission control for Steve Fossett’s failed effort to travel around the globe in a balloon, Edwards helped provide essentials for the crew, such as home-cooked meals. And when Washington University hosted the 2016 presidential debate, Edwards tracked down Steve Givens, retired associate vice chancellor and chair of the Presidential Debate Steering Committee, to ask how she could help. Givens entrusted Edwards with the credentialing process.
“We couldn’t have pulled off the debate in the same way without Jill’s dogged determination to get everything perfect and efficient in the credentialing area,” Givens said.
Edwards may be best known for the Washington University Military Care Package Project, which she founded in 2004. Edwards manages a growing email list of Washington University community members who have donated more than 10 tons of snacks, sporting goods, socks, toiletries and home-baked goods — including lots and lots of cookies — to deployed service members.
“I alway tell soldiers we will do our very best to get what is on their wish lists,” Edwards said. “I’ll send out an email and the next thing you know, the collection boxes are magically full. It just shows how caring people are.”
The Gloria W. White Distinguished Service Award was established in 1998 and celebrates the legacy of White, a campus leader for some 35 years until her death in 2003. An engraved glass award and a $1,000 check will be sent to Edwards in celebration of her accomplishment.