Jan Berry, a research laboratory specialist senior in Periodontics and Oral Medicine in the School of Dentistry for 38 years, has been selected to receive the 11th annual Candace J. Johnson Award for Staff Excellence. Officially retired from Dentistry, Berry currently is a part-time biosafety training specialist in the U-M Office of Research.
Berry received the award Feb. 5.
The Candace J. Johnson Award for Staff Excellence was established in 2004 as a memorial to Johnson, a staff member in the Office of the Provost who died in 2003. The Provost’s Office created the award to recognize staff members on campus who, like Johnson, have a positive influence in the workplace through their professionalism and personality.
In a nomination letter, School of Dentistry Dean Dr. Laurie K. McCauley spoke of the parallels between Berry and Johnson.
“Candy started at the university in 1972, Jan Berry started here as a student in 1971 and on staff in 1978,” McCauley said. “Candy worked many years in the Medical School, Jan Berry worked many years in the Medical School. Candy loved this university and inspired those around her. Jan Berry loves this university and continues to inspire those around her. I’m not sure if Jan and Candy ever met, but if they did they would be kindred spirits.”
Dr. Erin Ealba, pediatric dentistry resident and assistant research scientist in the Department of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry, describes Berry as “an extremely motivating, selfless and energetic individual.”
“She is simply irreplaceable in the dental school and the campuswide community,” said Ealba, who organized Berry’s nomination for the award. “Without a doubt, Jan’s retirement would be significantly enhanced by knowing what we think about her career at the University of Michigan as truly one of the leaders and best.”
Those who worked with Berry spoke of how she demonstrated strong work qualities, such as initiative, dependability, and commitment.
“Jan is always willing to take initiative and will learn new technologies to advance the science, and keeps up with the latest tools, technologies and science in the field and beyond,” said Dr. Martha Somerman, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and past chair of Periodontics/Prevention/Geriatrics at the School of Dentistry.
“Our work place functions well because Jan Berry takes care of everything behind the scenes,” said Junro Yamashita, assistant research scientist and lecturer in the Division of Prosthodontics.
Yusuke Shiozawa, assistant research scientist in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine, said Berry “always seeks solutions and solves the problems.”
Many of Berry’s colleagues said she encouraged others to collaborate and strive for excellence in all aspects of work.
“Jan makes it a point to know what’s going on not only in our department, but in the school and also across campus,” said Amy Koh, research lab specialist lead in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine. “She has a large network of people that she can pool resources from and is willing to share her knowledge and is always happy to hook people up with others who can help you meet your goal.”
Berry also shows a willingness to help others, and often makes an extra effort to take on additional responsibilities.
“Jan never stops helping others,” Yamashita said. “We always appreciate her caring attitude.”
“Jan was not only competent in driving her own scientific research but also showed leadership in mentoring and teaching other scientists, such as myself, who worked in our laboratory,” said Glenda Pettway, project scientist and U-M alumna.
“Jan took the time to not only explain how to perform experiments and how to operate equipment in the lab, but also engaged in profound scientific discussions with others that led to the development of new hypotheses and experiments, which often resulted in novel scientific discoveries.”
Berry exemplifies the award by making a difference in the lives of others by displaying a positive outlook and strong compassion, colleagues say.
Somerman describes Berry as “a born mentor. She has a way with people that allows them to seek her out for mentorship.”
“Jan is encouraging to new students and displays patience and positivity during training,” Koh said. “She has an excitement about science that is contagious to those around her.”
Pettway said it was apparent that Berry “authentically cared about others.”
“As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, I did not have any biological family in Michigan,” Pettway recalled. “Jan always checked in with me to make sure that all was well with me personally, and even regularly brought home-cooked meals to the lab for me. Jan played a significant role in making the lab feel like a home away from home for me.”