2019 Michael R. Ferrari Award

Walton

When the call went out for nominations for the 2019 Michael R. Ferrari Award, the top award given to administrative staff, the School of Art did not hesitate. “The burden lies not in knowing who to nominate, as he is the most deserving candidate we could imagine, but in trying to find the right words to convey what an incredible asset he is, not only to the School of Art and to Theatre and Film, but the entire university.”

That person is Jason Walton, collaborative arts digital technology coordinator. As the Ferrari Award winner, he received $1,000 and a reserved parking space for a year, and a plaque in his honor will hang in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. The award was presented at the May 21 Administrative Staff Council annual reception. Named for former interim president “Mick” Ferrari, it recognizes those who represent the values he exemplified: demonstrated excellence in one’s work while also promoting harmony, having strong relationships with the University community and being committed to the growth and betterment of BGSU and its students.

Walton was nominated by faculty and staff in both of his areas, the School of Art and the Department of Theatre and Film, to unanimous acclaim. “In many ways, Jason exceeds the challenging requirements and expectations for the award,” his nominators said.  

“It is no exaggeration to say that in my 22 years at BGSU I have never worked with someone so open and caring and whose central drive is to forward the growth of the students, faculty, the units he serves and the University,” said Dr. Dena Eber, graduate coordinator and professor of digital arts, and acting associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Lesa Lockford, professor and chair of the theatre and film department, said, “No matter the deadline or challenges facing a production, he is good-natured, supportive, willing and a hands-on troubleshooter. Moreover, his level-headed approach serves as a calming agent when we need it most. What’s more, he is a creative and synergistic thinker. Frequently, when we are posed with a particular and unprecedented situation, he is the one who calmly proposes a solution, one that often ingeniously solves a problem about which others around the table are flummoxed.”

The same is true in art: “We have seen him resolve conflicts and handle difficult situations with remarkable patience,” wrote School of Art office staff Lisa Molnar, Marisa Clin and Jane Steinert and Director Charlie Kanwischer. “That patience comes especially in handy when dealing with technology-challenged people. He has the heart of a teacher in that he doesn’t just ‘do it for you,’ but will show you how to do it so that he is constantly teaching wherever he goes. He is literally making us smarter and more efficient day by day.”

“His work throughout multiple departments and schools makes the Wolfe Center a collaborative place for creativity in art, theatre, film, dance and music, instead of a siloed work environment,’ said Ruth Burke, digital arts instructor. Burke added that she was hired close to the beginning of spring 2018 semester and found that Walton’s “warm and inviting demeanor” and openness to questions made him an invaluable resource in her transition to a new university.

“Jason’s resourcefulness has definitely led to the formulation and implementation of creative new ideas,” wrote Jacquie Nathan, director of the University galleries. “For example, he is working with me to find the most flexible, cost-effective and practical replacement for the dying gallery lighting system in conjunction with the University electricians.”

He does not confine his efforts to the Wolfe Center, however, but helps out whenever needed. Lockford wrote that throughout the decision-making process for upgrades to the film theater in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union and the newly repurposed 117 Olscamp Hall as the Ralph Haven Wolfe Film Center, Walton was consistently on hand to contribute his expertise, and diligently pursued information needed to best equip the venues within the budget.

In addition to helping faculty, Walton also has a powerful impact on students, in all the areas he serves.

“The examples are too numerus to list, but one of his more significant innovative activities is when he works with graduate and undergraduate students to help bring their exhibition ideas to life,” Eber said. “He is not just the ‘tech guy’ who plugs in a bunch of monitors, he collaborates with students and helps them come up with creative and innovative ways of realizing their vision. These are complicated solutions that he generously and tirelessly gives, always with a smile.”

“Our art students depend on him to assist with all of the very complex and constantly evolving digital and electronic aspects of their show installations in the galleries,” Nathan said. “His attentiveness to detail, in-depth knowledge, and willingness to take the time to explain and instruct are truly impressive. How he can possibly be shared with Theatre and Film is amazing.”

In addition to the fact that “he treats all people with complete and genuine respect,” Eber said, Walton’s reliability and availability have earned him gratitude from all the areas he serves.

“I have seen him on campus helping faculty and students on his ‘days off’ and he is always reachable and responsive by phone or email,” Eber wrote. “As with his innovation and problem-solving skills, he always comes through. He is also happy to help and I believe that spreading happiness is his driving force.”

This is the more remarkable given the breadth of his responsibilities, Lockford said. For Theatre and Film, there are five main-stage and six second-stage theatre productions annually in the Thomas B. And Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre and the Eva Marie Saint Theatre, plus College of Musical Arts and dance productions in those spaces and special events for the Creative Writing Program, the School of Art and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, along with the president’s State of the University address. There are also collaborative events such as the yearly ArtsX.

In the School of Art, addition to assisting with gallery shows, “Not only does he deal with all the computer/technical issues of Art, he supervises student employees working on our social media and administers budgets for all the art technical equipment and more,” wrote Kanwisher and the office staff. “He juggles all these duties seemingly with ease and with an understanding of how to stretch a budget in the most efficient way. Everyone knows that if you want something done quickly, efficiently and cheerfully, Jason is the person to see.”

As Eber wrote, “He is our ‘sigh of relief’ because we know that in his hands, the work will get done.”

“Jason is a joy to work with. His kindness, ready humor, keen intelligence, and unstinting diligence inspire all of us who have the privilege,” Nathan said.