OXFORD, Miss. – For almost 20 years the Frist Student Service Award has recognized University of Mississippi employees who go above and beyond the call of duty to demonstrate their commitment to students.
Two of these employees, Marvin C. Wilson, associate dean for academic and student affairs at the School of Pharmacy, and Amy Saxton, operations supervisor for summer school and online programs at the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, are being presented with this award for their exceptional service.
Wilson and Saxton were chosen from dozens of nominees, submitted by students, alumni, faculty and staff. A chancellor’s committee weighed all the nominations and made the picks.
“Our faculty and staff work hard to be service-oriented and to help students any way they can, so to be recognized by their peers and by students as a leader in service affirms the extraordinary level of commitment of the Frist recipients,” Chancellor Dan Jones said.
The awards, one for faculty and one for staff, were established with a gift from Dr. Thomas F. Frist Sr. of Nashville, a 1930 UM graduate. This is the 19th year for the awards.
Wilson and Saxton each receive $1,000 and a plaque, and are to be honored Saturday (May 11) at UM’s main commencement ceremony. Both recipients expressed surprise upon learning that they had been chosen for the recognition.
“I am so humbled that the university has chosen to acknowledge me in this way,” Wilson said. “It’s quite overwhelming. The Frist Award is such a great honor, and it means so much to me that people on our campus chose to nominate me for the award.”
Saxton, who began a new job in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education last month, was nominated for the award for her work as an administrative assistant at the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center.
“I was completely shocked when the chancellor’s office told me I had won, and I am just so grateful they thought enough of me to nominate me,” she said. “This brings to light the best part of my job and what my goal is as a staff member, which is to be there for the students and to connect with them on a personal level.”
Wilson has been a faculty member at the School of Pharmacy for 42 years. As associate dean of academic and student affairs, he has been involved in the education of literally thousands of pharmacy students. He also serves as a professor of pharmacology and research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from West Virginia University and a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Michigan.
As associate dean, Wilson is responsible for academic advising for all the university’s early entry and pre-pharmacy students, but he is so dedicated to helping all the school’s students that many nominations praised his role as mentor and confidant.
“I am amazed by the details that Dr. Wilson knows about each of our students; not just where they are from, but also about their career and personal interests,” one nomination said. “He takes the time to meet with each of our students one-on-one at least twice during their time in pharmacy school, to talk about their development as well as to gather feedback on the school’s performance.”
Another letter praised Wilson’s dedication to helping students interact the school’s faculty. “He often visits the student lounge to chat with us about how the semester is going. There have been various times that he has gone out of the way to encourage me.”
Wilson recently announced his retirement from the university, effective June 30. After learning about his plans, the school’s students organized a retirement reception.
“The fact that I am retiring this year from the School of Pharmacy makes the award a bittersweet honor for me,” Wilson said. “I have been so blessed to work with the students, faculty and staff in the School of Pharmacy – the students have been so intelligent, passionate, service-oriented, and expect a lot of themselves and each other. I wouldn’t trade my experience at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy for anything. It has been so rewarding to have my prior students become members of our faculty and the leaders and innovators of the pharmacy profession in Mississippi.”
Saxton joined the UM staff in 2000 as a senior secretary in the Department of Student Housing and Residence Life, where she worked closely with resident assistants and hall directors. She moved to the Student Media Center in 2011. In addition to her work on campus, she is also taking courses in pursuit of a degree in hospitality management.
One nomination said Saxton was” the unsung hero” of the Student Media Center, and another said she served as the “SMC mom.” One letter noted that Saxton “helps us with every miniscule problem that we could ever have, and she also collaborates with us on ideas. She works harder than anyone at the Student Media Center, myself included.”
Another letter noted that Saxton helped teach students about professionalism. “She reminds us about the job at hand and never lets us forget that what we do matters to the city of Oxford and the University. That we are one of the few outward faces of the University and to always be a good one.”
Saxton said she tries to be accessible to students and let them know she can be trusted. “I pay attention to the students as people, and not just as 19-year-olds who sometimes don’t know what they’re doing,” she said. “I tried to help them learn to listen and develop connections with people, to become personable and accountable and to stand up for what they know is right. I am honored to have gotten to know and befriend many of the students at the Student Media Center. ”
Saxton also has worked with students through several campus activities, including serving as a commencement usher, helping with the final exam breakfast and volunteering with the Ole Miss Cares project. She served on the Staff Council in 2005-2007 and was honored with the Kathy Tidwell Support Staff Person of the Year award for 2002-2003, the Outstanding Service award from the Mississippi Association of Housing Officers in 2003 and the Loyal Service Award in 2006.