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Staff Members Honored for Care and Commitment at Employee of the Year Awards

Employees of the Year

Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla (left) with the 2015 Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year honorees. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Angel Huerta is the first person parents and children see in the morning, greeting each family by name and a big smile. As head of food services at the UC San Diego Early Childhood Education Center, he is responsible for preparing and distributing three meals a day to more than 200 children, taking special care to monitor any food allergies. He is known as “Mr. Angel” by the children, who range in age from 3 months to 6 years, and helps enrich their understanding of healthy food.

“Angel has only been with us a short time, but the impact that he’s had on the department has been tremendous,” said Kathryn Owen, director of the Early Care and Education Program. “His role is one of the most important at the center; he is the key to ensuring the nutritional health of the children. But more than that, Angel is proactive in finding ways in which to be supportive, to better the experiences for the children and teaching staff.”

Angel Huerta

Angel Huerta teaches children about how food grows in the Early Childhood Education Center’s community garden. Photo by Erika Johnson/University Communications.

Huerta was named UC San Diego’s Principal Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year and was honored, along with nine other staff members, for inspiring significant positive change in support of the campus’ mission. The 30th Annual Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year awards ceremony was held on May 19 in the Atkinson Pavilion at the Faculty Club. Videos were presented highlighting the impact of each recipient’s contributions. Afterwards, a reception was held where campus colleagues and family members could celebrate with honorees.

“Thank you, especially to the 10 staff members who are being recognized, and also to our entire professional and research staff who are extremely important to UC San Diego’s daily operations,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla during the ceremony. “Our excellence would be diminished if not for your good work.”

Huerta’s kitchen is stocked with brightly colored plates and cups with precise charts that map the dietary restrictions of 20 children. He works directly with Ki’s Kitchen, which provides healthy dishes from scratch like veggie lasagna, tuna salad, and turkey burgers—adjusting orders as needed to improve sustainability. And he ensures that all culinary equipment and workspaces are thoroughly clean. His commitment to food safety and sanitation contributed to the center’s recent endorsement as an Eco-Healthy Child Care center by the Children’s Environmental Health Network.

At least once a week Huerta spends time with the children in the center’s small community garden to help them make a connection between the food they eat and where it comes from. They look forward to snatching blueberries and cherry tomatoes from the stem and exploring the grape vines, peppers, mint and other greens that grow in the miniature planter boxes.

On being named Principal Employee of the Year, Huerta said he “never expected any of this.” “I’m happy,” he explained. “Since I started here, I really like it. There is a lot of respect and care among the staff, parents and kids.”

Ronald Marcikic

Ronald “Sickie” Marcikic coaches hundreds of swimmers through the Master’s Program at UC San Diego Recreation. Photo by Erika Johnson/University Communications.

In a similar way, Ronald Marcikic’s genuine caring nature and commitment attracts hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members to the Canyonview Aquatics Center each quarter. Known as “Sickie” by all, he directs the Master’s Program at UC San Diego Recreation, a program he launched 32 years ago to train novice, rehabilitating and competitive swimmers, runners and triathletes.

On any given day you can find Sickie by the pool in his aloha shirt and conspicuously mismatching socks. Rain or shine, he is there brimming with enthusiasm, ready with a unique set of challenging routines designed to enhance the skills of his swimmers. “He’s a very fine coach; I’ve been with him for 35 years,” said Pete Pettigrew, a community member. “He is a unique individual who is very well-loved by everyone who has ever worked with him. He’ll teach you to swim faster than anyone else.”

His program has fostered a tight-knit community. There is always something going on to bring people together, from quarterly pancake breakfasts to memorial swims in honor of past members and fundraisers to support swim lessons for students and children who cannot afford them. He most enjoys working with beginners, helping those who are afraid of water overcome their fear. He believes everyone, especially those living in the aquatic community of San Diego, should have the opportunity to learn how to swim.

“We all like to be places where people are fun and upbeat, so I try to create an atmosphere like that,” said Sickie, who has been coaching for 46 years. “Community gatherings keep everyone connected to each other. We train together, compete together, we travel and have picnics, and I invite everyone over to my home for a summer concert each year.”

And the story behind his notorious socks? “I’ve always liked colors. I started mismatching my socks in high school and it just became who I was,” said Sickie. “Now, if I accidentally pick up a pair that matches, I will throw one back and get another one!”

The 2014-15 Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year Award Program Recipients

Principal Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year

Angel Huerta—Senior Food Service Worker
Resource Management and Planning: Early Childhood Education Center (video)

Exemplary Staff Employees of the Year

Krissa Beeker—Hospital Lab Technician IV Supervisor
UC San Diego Health System: Ultrasound Diagnostics (video)

Gina Butcher—Student Affairs Officer III - Supervisor
Health Sciences: School of Medicine Graduate Programs (video)

Marilyn Hardee—Staff Research Associate II
Academic Affairs: Animal Care Program

Trevor Henthorn—Programmer Analyst III
Academic Affairs: Music (video)

Bryan Hurley—Buyer IV
Vice Chancellor/Chief Financial Officer: Business and Financial Services (video)

Cindy Laurence-Huffaker—Administrative Analyst - Supervisor
Vice Chancellor/Chief Financial Officer: Housing, Dining and Hospitality (video)

Erica Lennard—Senior Administrative Analyst - Supervisor
Academic Affairs: Chemistry and Biochemistry (video)

Ronald “Sickie” Marcikic—Student Affairs Officer III
Student Affairs: Recreation (video)

Lindsay Walton—Blank Assistant III
Academic Affairs: Structural Engineering (video)