Life has been pretty good of late for JoAnne Gipson.
Gipson’s 2009 began with a bang when her beloved Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII with a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Just this week her equally beloved Los Angeles Lakers took a one-game lead over the Denver Nuggets in the NBA’s Western Conference finals.
And, on May 13, during the campus’ annual Honor the Best ceremony, Gipson, a Program Officer for the Gaming Management Program in Extended Studies, learned that she is the University of Nevada, Reno’s Classified Employee of the Year.
“I didn’t find out about it until Honor the Best,” Gipson recalled recently in her office in the Continuing Education Building. “When I walked in, I saw about 15 people from Extended Studies there and I thought, ‘Is this a coincidence that they’re all here?’”
As it turned out, Gipson’s colleagues were there to celebrate a well-deserved honor. In more than five years at the University (Gipson had previously worked for Sierra Design Group, a Reno-based subsidiary of Bally Technologies), Gipson has distinguished herself on a number of different fronts.
In her role as Program Officer, she has coordinated non-credit gaming courses, managed the department’s copy program, and has often traveled to tradeshows on behalf of Extended Studies and the University to recruit students for the program. In addition to her Classified Employee of the Year award, Gipson was also recently awarded a 2009 Red Cross Real Heroes award.
The Classified Employee of the Year runner-up for 2009 is Cindy Erskine, an Accountant Technician I working in the Controller’s Office.
Gipson’s reputation is one of efficiency and focus. Her Classified Employee of the Year award was a reflection of what the Classified Employees’ Council called Gipson’s “tremendously gracious and caring” way that she does her work: “She goes well out of her way to support students and assists instructors in developing their skills (while) presenting to adult learners as well as adjusting program curriculum to meet the needs of the audience.”
The Council further noted that, “JoAnne never hesitates to help when needed and does so without complaint. In January 2008, JoAnne gave the gift of life by donating her kidney to a co-worker who had been diagnosed with severe kidney disease. Due to her generosity, courage and sacrifice, the fellow employee is happy, healthy and living life with her family.”
Such praise, though deserved, makes the self-effacing Gipson somewhat at a loss for words. She said that she simply “just does” her job, and hasn’t ever really thought of winning a major award such as the Classified Employee of the Year.
When pressed about her formula for success, she did admit that, “I’m a hard worker, and I try to set high expectations for people … and for myself. You have to be loyal to your job and wherever you are working and pretty much give it your all.”
Although she is constantly striving for new and exciting ways for the Gaming Management Program to extend its reach and to continue to grow, there is no denying that the program is already one of the best the campus has to offer. It has been ranked as the No. 1 such program in the world.
“That makes it kind of fun,” Gipson said. “I love knowing everything there is to know about it.”
Of her many interactions during her day, Gipson said that working on campus gives employees a rare opportunity to work with the University’s students. Along with her three colleagues in the Gaming Management Program, she has employed student workers in the past, including this year.
“The students on our campus are just amazing,” Gipson said. “They’re our future leaders. We have a chance to see our students grow from freshmen into graduating seniors. And to think that you may have had a hand in their success is a pretty nice feeling.”
In addition to her high caliber of work and her love of students, it’s easy to identify the other important currents directing Gipson’s life: Family and sports.
A mother of five, she has had children who are either attending or have attended the University. Hers is a family of athletes and cheerleaders, and Gipson herself said she loves to either “watch or play” sports during her free time.
A native of Pennsylvania, Gipson grew up in State College, Pa., (home of the Joe Paterno-coached Penn State Nittany Lions). She has been a major Steelers fan for her entire life. Unlike some NFL fans who simply hang a banner in their office, Gipson’s knowledge of the Steelers’ franchise runs deep. In conversation, one gets the impression she could just as easily tell you who the Steelers’ other “Terry” quarterback was during their “Steel Curtain”-winning Super Bowl days in the 1970s (that would be backup quarterback Terry Hanratty, not Bradshaw, by the way).
“I just love sports,” Gipson said. “I love the Steelers and the Lakers. And I’m really into (Reno’s new Pacific Coast League franchise) the Aces right now. It’s really fun.”
With the Steelers winning a Super Bowl and then earning one of the University’s most distinguished honors in May, 2009 has indeed been a year to remember for Gipson.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Gipson admitted. “I’m not one of those people who likes the limelight. But it is kind of nice to know that my name is going to be added to the Honor Court, along with all of those great professors and researchers. That’s pretty cool.”