David B. Thorud Leadership Award
Gene Woodard

Gene Woodard

Director, Building Services, UW Facilities

Nominated by John Chapman, Associate Vice President – Operations, UW Facilities

Awarded 2020

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Gene Woodard, Director of UW Facilities’ Building Services Department, for the 2020 David Thorud Leadership Award. He is an administrator on campus whose leadership style and accomplishments best exemplify the traits and characteristics identified and recognized by the award.

As Director of Building Services for the past 34 years, Gene has been an innovative and outstanding leader of the organization responsible for keeping the campus buildings clean and ready to support the mission of the University every day. He has earned the respect of his employees and colleagues; and he is considered to be a leader in his field by his peers throughout the country.

Below are a few specific examples of innovative initiatives that were implemented as a result of Gene Woodard’s outstanding leadership:

Green Cleaning Program – This program replaced the use of toxic cleaning chemicals with safe and environmentally friendly alternatives on campus. The program was the first of its kind amongst our institutional peers and it was conceived by Gene long before sustainability became an important national priority. The department has been a three-time recipient of the Grand Award for Higher Education in Green Cleaning by American School and University Gene currently serves on the leadership council of the Healthy Schools Campaign, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring healthy school environments for students.

Culture of Engagement – Building Services employees can influence how the work gets done, when it gets done, and what tools are used. Gene has instituted a system whereby employees track their ideas as a team, meeting daily to ensure that those ideas are implemented. Thousands of employees’ ideas have been generated and implemented over the past several years, leading to significant improvements in safety, quality, efficiency and morale.

Participatory Ergonomics – When Building Services was faced with an increase in safety incidents and accidents, Gene provided the leadership to develop an innovative approach to reduce injuries in the department. After careful analysis of the injury statistics, it became clear that most of the injuries were related to performance of repetitive tasks by the Custodians. As a result, Gene worked with experts to develop the Participatory Ergonomics program. Custodians work with management and with ergonomics experts to analyze repetitive tasks and then provide input to develop better ways to safely perform those tasks in a way that avoids injuries. The result of this program has been a significant improvement in employee safety in the department.

Campus Waste Diversion – Gene has instilled a commitment for the University to minimize the amount of waste generated by the campus ending up in landfills. At present, about 65% of the waste generated is diverted from the landfills and is instead recycled or composted. The department developed and implemented the innovative Mini-Max program on campus. This program provides the infrastructure that allows the campus to sort recyclables from trash at the source, thus reducing the landfill stream.

English as a Second Language – Many of the employees in the department have English as their second language. Gene implemented and made available a robust ESL program for his employees to provide an opportunity for improving communication skills, both on and off the job.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Building Services Department’s annual employee recognition event. This is an organization of approximately 300 employees and is likely the most diverse organization on campus, with employees from at least a dozen different countries of origin and many for whom English is their second language. Despite everyone’s unique background, it was clear that the employees have come together to enthusiastically do their part in supporting the mission of the University. The pride is pervasive amongst the employees who provide daily service to the campus, and their dedication is phenomenal. Gene Woodard has worked tirelessly his entire career to build a culture of engagement within his team and to build respect for his team across campus.

Gene is universally admired by his colleagues and customers. He listens to input from others and then generates and moves forward with innovative solutions. He takes his work seriously, but always shows humility and patience in all of his collaborations and interactions. People and relationships are critically important to Gene, and he is always there to help others improve and to help them feel good about their contributions. He truly enjoys the values of the people he works with and enjoys the opportunities to be a mentor. These characteristics are exemplified by the following quote from one of Gene’s colleagues in a different organization on campus:

“Gene has been a tremendous mentor to me. He believes in people and their ability to develop. He gives of his time and energy constantly to anyone who has an interest in custodial or management. Gene met with me when I first took my position. He is incredibly authentic and compassionate. He connected me to others and communicated his passion for custodial and service professionals. He has continued to include me in opportunities that have furthered my development and have helped me feel I belong. I have had the opportunity to watch him lead his organization. In witnessing his work leading the Ergonomics group he demonstrates deep care for his employees and works consistently to remove barriers to their success. Gene is a remarkable professional and I strive to emulate his compassion, positivity and pure joy in service of his employees.”
— Kate Flowers, Assistant Director, Custodial Services, Housing & Food Services

As a leader, Gene Woodard focuses on helping the people who are doing the work, not just on the work itself. He looks for ways to help his employees and others find opportunities for personal growth. Many employees have gained confidence in their ability to speak English while working in the department. Many employees who are first-generation immigrants have been able to see their children graduate from the UW. These are some of the characteristics that have made Gene Woodard a unique and outstanding leader. The UW is fortunate to be the beneficiary of his leadership for the past 34 years.

I highly recommend that Gene Woodard be the recipient of the David B. Thorud Leadership Award. Thank you for your careful consideration.

John C. Chapman

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