James Holman, crew leader for housekeeping services, became the first recipient of the Rebecca Clark Staff Award for Moral Courage on University Day, which was Oct. 12.
Holman has been with the UNC Employee Forum as a delegate for over a decade. While working with staff and housekeeping around UNC's campus, he also acts as an advocate for University staff on issues regarding safety and health, as well as group issues that may arise.
Holman is also the chairperson of the State Employees Association of North Carolina District 25, a district that encompasses all employees and retirees from UNC, he said.
Charles Streeter, the previous Employee Forum chairperson, said he’s seen firsthand Holman's advocacy work for members of the UNC staff.
“He's able to take those issues that are from the campus to members of the state legislature to advocate on our behalf," Streeter said. "So, he's done a lot."
During his time as chairperson, Streeter tried to get a staff-centered award approved to be presented on University Day. Shayna Hill, current Employee Forum chairperson, said she has advocated alongside Streeter for the recognition of this award.
Hill said she is proud to see Holman to be the first to receive the award, given his work within UNC and to the higher legislatures that represent North Carolina state employees.
“It's not a secret that his advocacy goes well beyond the borders of the campus,” Hill said.
Katie Musgrove, vice chairperson of the Employee Forum, said she is proud that staff are recognized at a University level, especially when considering the courage it takes to advocate on issues within the staff.
“I'm really proud that we got that moral courage in the title,” Musgrove said. “Because we're really passionate about that and want to kind of recognize the courage it takes for staff on campus to advocate in knowing that staff are in a vulnerable situation a lot of times.”
For Holman, moral courage has a specific definition.
Knowing the risks that he had to take to ensure the clear communication and safekeeping of UNC staff, Holman said he was surprised to receive this award. It helped him further realize his work at the University truly did take courage, he said.
“It took courage for me to put my wellbeing and my income in jeopardy to fight for what's right for the employees,” Holman said.
Streeter and Hill said they believe Holman will continue to be an advocate for UNC staff moving forward.
“Advocacy is at the core of who he is,” Hill said. “So I think he will continue to do what he's doing.”
With the first staff award being presented on University Day, Streeter said he hopes people will understand that the staff are unsung heroes who deserve recognition.
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