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Facilities’ Pawneshing Chosen Staff Member Of The Year

Published: July 1, 2013

If Sherry Pawneshing from the Facilities Management Department had not been named the 2013 Outstanding Staff Member at CSULB, it would have been necessary to invent a title for her.

In her 32 years at the campus, she has risen from gardener to electrician, been married for 37 years, raised two exemplary daughters and changed the campus for the better.

Pawneshing, a Lakewood resident, was pleased and surprised to be named Outstanding Staff Member. “I feel really honored,” she said. “I’m very excited. I’m surprised my co-workers would think of me.”

Pawneshing believes one reason for her recognition is her campus commitment. Her CSULB activities include service on Staff Council as secretary and as chair of the special events committee for such events as Staff Day, Halloween Spooktacular, President’s Breakfast, Facilities Management Cart Parade and Staff Summer Picnic.

Off campus, she stays busy as chair of the statewide scholarship committee for Job’s Daughters, working for the Ladies of the Oriental Shrine which supports the Shriners and their Children’s Hospital, and the Order of the Eastern Star.

“The work I do with Job’s Daughters is important to me. Through the years I hope I have made a difference in the lives of the young ladies who are members,” she explained. “I have made a commitment of my time and energy to help the organization. For instance, I just finished leading our statewide scholarship board where we awarded $16,000 worth of scholarships. I feel really good about that. The friends I have made through the years working with Job’s Daughters have enriched my life.”

Her Staff Council record is a long one. “I made that commitment because it gives me a different perspective of the university,” she said. “Sometimes our jobs isolate us from the rest of the university. Staff Council broadens our view. It makes your job so much more enjoyable when you’re involved in the university rather than just working here.”

She points with pride to her promotion to journeyman electrician. “There still aren’t that many women electricians,” she said. “I went to school at night for four years after working really hard on campus every day. That meant learning the skills needed to be an electrician. It is up to the electricians to make sure the lights and power are on. If the lights go out, we make sure they go back on. Our responsibilities are to the university and its classrooms.”

An average day for Pawneshing today begins at 7 a.m. but it was not always so. “For 25 years, I worked in the Grounds Department and in grounds, they start at 6,” she recalled. “Compared to them, I feel like I’m sleeping in.”

The power of the unexpected is a big reason for Pawneshing’s long staff career. “You never know what will happen in this job from day to day,” she said. “One Saturday morning I was working overtime installing some additional power in the women’s locker room. We had just come back from morning break and the lights went out. I mean they went out all over campus. A Mylar balloon had landed in the main electrical transformer, shorting it out and causing the campus to lose power. Six hours later the Electric Shop had power restored to campus and I was part of that team.”

Pawneshing earned her associate of science degree from Long Beach City College, her bachelor of science degree in ornamental horticulture from Cal Poly Pomona in 1980 and her multiple subject teaching credential from CSULB in 1992. She grew up in Long Beach and graduated from Millikan High School.

In 1981 she was hired by the then-Plant Operations Grounds Department as a gardener where she managed the Plant Operations greenhouse, growing flowers and ground covers to plant on campus. In 1989, she participated in a three-month professional career development internship in the Division of Student Services and went on to earn her teaching credential from the College of Education in 1992.

Sherry Pawneshing
Sherry Pawneshing (c), recipient of the Outstanding Staff Award, with Mary Stephens, Vice President of Administration and Finance; and Don Para, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

After a pair of leaves of absence to complete her student teaching and teach for a year, Pawneshing returned to CSULB as a gardener working in landscape maintenance. She is especially proud of her work on the maintenance committee at the Japanese Garden. “It was a great pleasure working with the committee and I have a great deal of respect for all the hard work that the garden does to maintain its appearance but also its community outreach.”

In 2006, she was accepted into an electrical apprenticeship program in Facilities Management and moved from the Grounds Department to the Electric Shop. For the next four years, she was an apprentice electrician working full-time under the watchful eye of a journeyman. On July 1, 2010, she became a journeyman electrician.

She has been married to her husband Bob for 37 years and has two adult daughters, Melissa and Amanda. When she isn’t protecting the campus, Pawneshing enjoys quilting, camping, reading, gardening and tea.

Pawneshing admires the level of personal commitment she finds at CSULB. “As employees of Facilities Management, we care whether it’s putting out sand bags or working on commencement,” she said. “We go the extra mile to make sure things run smoothly.”

When asked which area of campus she liked best she said “the small gardens around campus where staff can come out of nearby buildings and enjoy part of their day. I especially like the center of the psychology building. In grounds, the center circle used to be known as the ashtray. Nothing grew there. One year when I was acting lead person, I landscaped that area adding the ginkgo trees, bright yellow fall color and the shrubs. I remember so many people coming out to the walkways above the circle to watch us transform the area and how excited they were to have their building looking nice.

There are still mountains left to climb for the Outstanding Staff Member. “Right now, I’m working on re-landscaping my back yard,” she laughed. “That’s my short-term goal.”

Pawneshing is glad she chose CSULB. “I was a local resident and wanted a stable job,” she said. “When I started out I wanted a job that would allow me to raise a family. CSULB has allowed me to do much more than that.”