Chuck Tomlinson receives 2022 President's Award for Outstanding Service

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (06/06/2022)—Chemistry department Director of Operations Chuck Tomlinson has received the 2022 President's Award for Outstanding Service. The award, established in 1997, recognizes faculty and staff who have provided exceptional service to the University, its schools, colleges, departments, and service units.

“Chuck has made the University of Minnesota better, and he continues to do that every day,” says department head Prof. David Blank. “Throughout his career, he has made the experience and outcomes better for thousands of students. He has provided direct support and mentorship for many staff members across our institution, and he has supported the work of the faculty in just about every possible way. He does all of this with extraordinary respect, compassion and humility.”

Tomlinson began his staff career at the University of Minnesota in 1991 while he was a still a student, working at Space Science Graphics in the Shepherd Labs building. He joined the Department of Chemistry in 1994, providing administrative support to Professors Paul F. Barbara, Lou Pignolet, and Xiaoyang Zhu. In the early years Tomlinson served as journal editorial assistant for Prof. Barbara as Associate Editor of the ACS journal Accounts of Chemical Research, followed by the Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry under Chief Editor Professor Lawrence Que.

Student services positions followed in 2002, with Tomlinson serving as Assistant to the Vice Chair and Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies. He rose to the department’s highest staff position, Director of Operations, in 2009. In this position, Tomlinson has oversight responsibilities for all aspects of that come with a large research and academic service department.

On any given day Tomlinson might solve a complex HR issue, address a postdoc immigration status problem, provide a new faculty member with critical mentorship and advice, help a staff member navigate a challenging policy issue, figure out how to address a serious internal budget challenge, adjust staffing due to COVID absences, solve an undergraduate enrollment issue, advise peers in other departments, address an issue with the building HVAC system, help a lost visitor, run point to help address a laboratory safety issue, and help a graduate student in a mental health crisis.

“The magnitude and breadth of his responsibilities are truly remarkable,” says Blank. “It is not just every little thing, or every big thing - Chuck deals with just about everything. Even after working closely with him as department head for the last 5 years, I still do not fully understand how he manages to do so much for so many at the University of Minnesota.”

Tomlinson makes positive impacts in every aspect of the department. He is the staff lead on the Departmental Safety Committee, which has been successful in instilling a culture of safety, contributing to the department’s national reputation as a leader in laboratory safety. A trained mental health advocate, Tomlinson has helped numerous students, faculty, and staff in their most challenging moments.

Beyond the department, Tomlinson contributes to the success of the college and the institution. In addition to serving in formal and informal mentorship roles, Tomlinson is regularly asked to serve on search, safety, facilities and governance committees due to the broad respect he has earned for his careful, insightful ability to find solutions that center the people and the mission.

Tomlinson’s talent for problem-solving, combined with his ability to help and develop those around him has a remarkable positive impact on every aspect of the University’s mission. This always starts with students, staff, and faculty. When anyone walks into his office for any reason, he will meet them where they are and simply ask, “How can I help?”

The Board of Regents recognized award winners at the May 13 Board meeting, and a reception honoring recipients will be held at Eastcliff, the official residence of the University president on June 28. The award is accompanied by a $1,000 stipend.