School of Public Health staffer to receive Candace J. Johnson award


Sylvia Koski, assistant to the dean in the School of Public Health, has been selected to receive the 12th annual Candace J. Johnson Staff Award for Excellence.

Koski will receive the award at a reception from 3-4 p.m. Wednesday at the School of Public Health.

Sylvia Koski

In a nomination letter, SPH Dean and Professor of Toxicology Martin A. Philbert noted that Koski has loyally served U-M and SPH for more than 49 years.

“Sylvia is one-of-a-kind and extraordinarily deserving of recognition for her significant impact on the university, and equally as important, on countless individuals who have had the pleasure of working with her over her lengthy career,” Philbert wrote.

“She sets an example for others by way of her notable work ethic, her pleasant and humorous demeanor, her unflappable ability to deal calmly with sticky or difficult situations, and her steadfast positive attitude. She is a true and undeniable asset to the school and university.”

Christina Truskowski, human resources director at the College of Engineering, worked with Koski 25 years ago. Truskowski remembers a time when her growing family required her to look for a larger home, but she could not afford the down payment. Without asking any questions, Koski lent her money with the condition that Truskowski would pay it back when she could do so comfortably, which she did within months.

“I don’t even know if Sylvia remembers that incident, as it was 25 years ago, but I sure do,” Truskowski wrote in a nominating letter. “I’ll never forget it. Her kind gesture was done at a time when random acts of kindness weren’t recorded on social media for the world to see. … This is a perfect example of Sylvia’s quiet, unassuming grace and the impact it has on those around her.”

Ellen Crissey, assistant dean for finance and administration at SPH, notes Koski’s dedication and accountability.

“Sylvia is the first person here on any given morning and among the last to leave each evening,” Crissey wrote in a nominating letter. “She is truly the ‘face of the Dean’s Office’ in the best possible way.”

Barbara Wagner, senior executive search specialist in the Office of the Provost, has known Koski for 17 years.

“Sylvia is unfailingly responsive and helpful,” Wagner wrote in a nomination letter.

“(She) brings to the role enormous knowledge and, as importantly, a willingness to go out of her way to be helpful in a cheerful way. She is a role model for anyone who would serve in this position.”

Cathleen M. Connell, professor and chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, describes Koski as a valuable employee who “handles everything that comes her way with efficiency, accuracy and diplomacy.”

“It’s impossible to imagine how the building will remain upright if Sylvia ever decides to retire,” Connell wrote in her nominating letter. “She is our institutional memory and more. She is the heart of the school, and we won’t be the same without her.”

Kenneth E. Warner, the Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor of Public Health and former SPH dean, says Koski is “regarded as the school’s go-to source for information on anything that happened in the school’s past.”

“Her institutional memory and ability to see both the big picture and attend to all of the intricate details required to get a job done right have been invaluable.”

Rachel Flint, a U-M retiree, recalls a time when she needed to take time off work to care for her mother, who was in hospice care. Koski stepped in and helped out in the mailroom, so Flint could be with her mother.

“She was always available to talk when I needed during this time, and I am honored to call her a friend as well as my coworker,” Flint writes in her nominating letter. “Sylvia takes time to help where and how she can, and her qualities of dependability and professionalism as well as sense of humor make her one of the best people I have ever known.”

Michael Kalasinski, former assistant dean for finance and administration at SPH, describes Koski’s deep knowledge about SPH “as second-to-none.” Also, “her sense of humor and calm demeanor are very welcoming to faculty, staff, students and other visitors to the SPH Dean’s Office,” Kalasinski wrote in a nominating letter.

Marc A. Zimmerman, professor of health behavior and health education, says Koski is a “helpful problem solver” who is “caring in her approach.”

“Sylvia is the kind of person who goes far beyond the call of duty,” Zimmerman wrote in his nominating letter. “She is loyal, hard-working, committed, ethical, professional and all those things we expect from someone in her position. … In many ways, Sylvia is the face of the School of Public Health; as deans come and go, she has been our sentry — and how well taken care of we have been.”

The Candace J. Johnson Staff Award for Excellence was established in 2004 as a memorial to Johnson, a staff member from 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.



  1. Gary Niemela
    on March 2, 2016 at 8:24 am

    What a great article to read. As a private Business owner, I know the value of trusted employees. We recently had an excellent employee retire after 30 + years and miss her dearly. Sylvia comes from a place that I was privileged to share a little of, we grew up neighbors. Her mother was the most beautiful, kind, hardworking, generous person I have ever known. I remember hearing piano music and singing often escaping from the open windows of the Koski home in Summer. Sylvia obviously loves her work and does a great job, this is a priceless quality. I am happy to know that so many co workers appreciate her.


    Gary Niemela

Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.