NEWPORT, R.I. – The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) recognized its top two civilians of 2011 during an awards ceremony in Spruance Auditorium, Feb. 6.
This year’s recipient of the Junior Civilian of the Year award was Mr. Dennis Zambrotta, NWC Library classified library technician, and the Senior Civilian of the Year award went to Ms. Shirley Fernandes, Protocol and Events Department event coordinator.
“As with every awards board we have here, there are so many great nominations. It was a very difficult decision,” said NWC Chief of Staff, Capt. Russell Knight. “Competition was close this year, but we chose our very best. We’re all extremely proud of both Shirley and Dennis for their hard work and dedication to the College. They truly set the standard for faculty and staff.”
For Zambrotta and Fernandes, news of the award came as a surprise. The longtime employees each received enormous amounts of congratulatory sentiments from around the College.
“People told me ‘it’s about time’ and ‘well-deserved,’” said Fernandes, a 41-year NWC employee and Fall River, Mass. native. “I’m very grateful to be the recipient of this award, but it’s not about me. It’s about everyone around me.”
That was a common theme between Zambrotta and Fernandes, who each credit the NWC team for the accolades.
“For me, civilian of the year is not an individual award,” said Zambrotta who’s served at NWC for more than 31 years. “It’s the teamwork in my department and our desire to help staff, faculty and especially the students.”
When asked what the secret to their success was, they each mentioned having a can-do attitude and accommodating the students.
“In the line of work I’m in, it’s all about having good communication skills,” said Zambrotta, a Navy veteran, who began working at NWC as the President’s gardener in 1981. “We’re dealing with students who just got back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’ve been through a lot. While they’re here, we try to make research at the library easier for them. The students are our product, our customer.”
Fernandes echoed his mission-focused approach.
“For me, it’s the work I do. For example, at graduation, I like to see all the moving parts of the event come together,” Fernandes explained. “Seeing the end result is what motivates me…to see the students step off the stage with their diplomas.”
While, both Zambrotta and Fernandes are honored to have been recognized as the NWC’s leading performers of 2011, they have no plans to rest on their laurels in 2012. For Zambrotta, who calls Newport home, he plans on working hard to do his part to digitize and incorporate the latest technology to the NWC’s library. Fernandes, who previously served in locations such as the President’s office, as the Dean of Administration’s secretary, the College of Distance Learning and at the library’s circulation desk, plans on striving for improvement every day in the her department.
“It is people like Shirley and Dennis, and all of the employees they represent, that make the War College the success it is,” said Knight.
By Teresa L. Sullivan, U.S. Naval War College
Posted Cmdr. Carla M. McCarthy