March 20, 2018

Bessie Walker Receives Excellence in Support Services Award

Bessie Walker is flanked by Officer in Charge Mitch Nesler, and and last year's winner, Kathrine Lytle.

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – March 22, 2018]) Bessie Walker, office assistant for SUNY Empire State College’s Nanuet location, was the recipient of the Empire State College Foundation Excellence in Support Services Award given at All College 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“Without our support staff, the college could never operate at the level required,” said Vice President for Advancement Walter Williams. “Our support staff are often the unsung heroes of Empire State College, and it is my pleasure to recognize Bessie Walker for the invaluable role she has played in Nanuet.”

“First, I give thanks to my higher power who is a great component of my everyday life,” said Walker. “I was humbled, honored and ecstatic as I heard excerpts of recommendations being read, and I realized they were speaking about me. I count it a blessing for me to receive this wonderful award.  I extend a special thank you to the college, the reward committee and my colleagues at the Hudson Valley region, Nanuet location for their moral support.”

One colleague described Walker as the “face” of the Nanuet location, since she is the first person students encounter when entering the location. Colleagues further lauded her for her efficient and quiet persistence, and her consideration towards her colleagues, which often sees her coming in early and staying late.

Walker has been with the college for 44 years, and is willing “to help mentors with just about anything,” one faculty member said. This includes assisting at community engagement events, aiding new students log in to MyESC, assisting with new student orientation, taking student ID photos and organizing the attendees.

She is also a valuable asset to adjunct professors who hold study groups at the Nanuet location. All the while, colleagues say they have never heard a word of complaint from her. Joseph Angiello, a mentor who has worked with Walker for 41 years, said, “Ms. Walker is a champion for the college of which she is justly proud. She has internalized the college’s mission – a mission which resonates with her own inclination and values.”

Externally Walker is deeply involved in her church, and to other organizations that strive for the betterment of all people, colleagues said. Therefore, where able, she seeks to create connections between the college and community it serves. Besides supporting mentors, Walker is known for her responsiveness to students. Miriam Tatzel, professor emerita, said, “Bessie likes getting to know the students, and likes to be helpful to them – with financial questions, tracking academic records, and the like. Even with difficult, demanding or frustrated students, she is ever patient, pleasant, and persevering until the matter is resolved.”

Christopher Whann, executive director of regional operations, said, “As the college has gone through some major changes these past few years, it’s reassuring how many of our colleagues still rely so heavily on support staff across the state in both small and large locations. I was touched to see how many people supported Bessie Walker for this prestigious award.”

About the Excellence in Support Services Award

Criteria for the Foundation Award for Excellence in Support Services include superb performance in fulfilling the duties in the job description, demonstrated flexibility and adaptability to institutional needs, and excellence in the areas of leadership, decision making and problem solving. Additional criteria may include initiation of ideas or development of proposals for improving effectiveness in the position.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates nearly 18,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 30 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35, and graduate students’ average age is 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

The college’s 78,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977.

Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at