2014 CAMWS Award for Special Service - Thelma Mathews

Thelma Mathews is not really the office manager of the Baylor University Department of Classics, despite the astounding competence with which she performs that job. She's actually a mom: not just of her six children and countless grandchildren, but of every person who crosses the threshold of 333 Morrison Hall. She simply will not let you go out without an umbrella, and she keeps a secret stash of them just in case. If you drop the slightest hint that you're out of Kleenex, a box of Kleenex you will have, and don't even try to refuse. Her candy bowl must have been placed under some enchantment, because there's always good stuff in it. (Not just those hard candies like they have in hotel meeting rooms - we're talking Milky Way and Twix and those caramels with the white stuff inside.) Her hugs will always make you feel better no matter what mood you're in (and by the way, if something's wrong, she'll know that too).

The thing that amazes me most about her is the way she truly enjoys service, gets pleasure out of performing the thousand little tasks that help make other people's lives easier. You hand her a wad of receipts from, say, travel to a convention where you ended up staying longer than you intended to because someone thought Chicago in January would be a great idea, and her smile and "thank you" are perfectly sincere: "I like doing these expense reports," she says, "it's like putting a puzzle together!" You walk into her office with a stack of books to send to someone and she's off looking for a box before you can even open your mouth. You just have to be a little careful what you ask for, because sometimes the task will be completed before you make it back to your office.

As a colleague in another department once said to me, not without envy, "I hope you realize that Thelma Mathews is a pearl of great price." We do realize it. For her maternal care, her professional competence, and her genuine desire to help each one of us as much as she possibly can, Thelma Mathews richly deserves to be recognized with a CAMWS Special Service Award.