Staff Service Awards

2020-2021 Awards


Faculty Magister Optimus Award

Dr. Yvette Castillo


To teach is to lead. To be recognized among your peers for this same leadership is to be a leader among leaders. Such recognition constitutes a profound and impactful accomplishment as there is no greater honor than recognition and celebration from your peers. The imperative of our charge as educators – to guide, educate, and facilitate the goals and aspirations of our students – is to teach and lead.  Dr. Castillo’s contributions in this regard are numerous and span cross-cultural contributions, professional and academic practice, study abroad leadership, and consistent recognition of teaching excellence.  As a true servant-leader, Dr. Castillo is an unyielding student champion who exhibits acute care and advocacy for our students, particularly for our first-generation and underrepresented students, that is thoroughly reflective of WTAMU’s mission and purpose.  On behalf of the West Texas A&M Faculty Senate and for her contributions in educational leadership, to the community and university, and demonstrated dedication to the advancement of our students, I am pleased to honor and recognize Dr. Yvette Castillo as Magister Optimus – Supreme Teacher.

– Dr. Jeffry Babb


Clarence E. Thompson Staff Excellence Award 

30 Years of Service

Jon Davis

Student Enrollment, Engagement, and Success

Jon Davis has been employed with WTAMU for thirty-one years.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Management with a minor in Marketing, and his Master’s degree in Administrative Studies from Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

He was initially employed on July 24, 1989, as an Area Coordinator.  On August 1, 1992, Jon was promoted to Assistant Director of Residential Living.  On December 6, 1993, he was promoted to the position of Director of Residential Living.  On September 1, 2000, he was promoted once more to Senior Director of Life Services. Most recently, he was promoted to the position now known as Assistant Vice President for Student Enrollment, Engagement and Success on September 1, 2010.

According to his supervisor, Mike Knox “Jon’s 31 years of faithful service to WT and our students exemplify excellence.  In my 6 years of working with Jon, he has been the steadiest of hands in our division.  He provides gentle and stable leadership, and faithfully and cheerfully does whatever is needed.  The greatest strength of the many that Jon possesses is his ability to lead.”

Comments from others included, “His work ethic far exceeds the norm and this is shown daily in how he positively impacts the University.”  “Jon leads by example and cares about each person he works with.”  “He is an excellent role model and mentor for the staff, he is kind and respectful to everyone he meets, yet provides support and guidance enabling staff to challenge themselves to constantly do their best.”  “He is kind and generous with his information and time as well as really takes a personal interest in his departments, which leads to trust in his leadership and knowing that you can genuinely speak with him about anything.”  “Way back in 1990, I mentioned getting an “All Time Great” Nolan Ryan to speak at our Hall Council Banquet and of course, that never happened, but what I did not know then but know now, WT has its own “All Time Great” and his name is Jon Davis.”

Congratulations, Jon!


Staff Council Staff Excellence Award

25 Years of Service

Shawn Burns

University Police Department

Shawn has been employed with WTAMU for twenty-five years.

His career in the University Police Department began on February 1, 1995, as a Police Officer.  On February 16, 1998, he was promoted to Patrol Sergeant.  On February 2, 2001, Shawn was promoted to Police Lieutenant.  On October 21, 2002, he became Interim Police Chief; and on August 21, 2003, he became the Police Chief for WTAMU and has continued serving in that capacity for the past 17 years.

In Shawn’s nomination, it was stated, “Shawn is an exemplary employee.  He puts his life on the line every day for all students, faculty and staff members of WTAMU.  As the Chief of Police, he is responsible for maintaining the university police force.  He enforces the laws but always treats everyone with respect and dignity.  Shawn has a very high level of integrity and demonstrates amazing leadership qualities.  He has always made a strong and lifelong commitment to enforce the laws.  He is also there to instruct classes on campus safety, has instructed CPR courses, has helped people who are locked out of their cars, and has helped people with health related emergencies.  He always has and always will respond to any situation whether it is a crime or an emergency whenever necessary.”  “I think he exemplifies the mission of the university and positively impacts the students, faculty and staff members with his commitment to our safety.” 

Shawn’s supervisor, Randy Rikel, stated, “Shawn Burns and I have worked together for years and for the last five in an employee/supervisor role on paper but so much more closely as teammates.  I rely on Shawn to bring ideas on how to keep this University and community safe and secure, and it is my role to find ways to let him and his team execute those plans.  The results have been pretty spectacular as WT is the number one ranked safest campus in Texas.  Although Shawn may look intimidating, he is a teddy bear and has a heart as big as Texas.  He loves the region he works in by serving the area communities with free active shooter trainings as well as safety classes.  But more importantly he loves and cherishes WT.  From the students to the faculty and staff, and even to Thunder, our mascot, Shawn shows his dedication day in and out to his alma mater.”

Congratulations, Shawn!


Staff Council Staff Excellence Award

Susan Allen

Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs

Susan has been employed by WTAMU as a staff member for twenty years.

She joined WT as an Instructor/Director of the PACE Program on February 14, 2000.  On August 19, 2013, she was promoted to Instructor/Associate Department Head for Educator Preparation, and on August 1, 2016, Susan was promoted to her current position, Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Susan’s supervisor, Dr. Neil Terry, stated, “The Clarence E. Thompson Staff Excellence Award recognizes recipients for their work over a number of years, but the 2020 award feels different because it provides a reminder as to how essential our staff are to a high-quality student academic experience at a well-functioning institution, no matter what our circumstances or challenges.  Susan Allen’s knowledge, dedication, innovation, and patience make her a wonderful choice for this prestigious recognition.”

In her nomination, it was stated, “Our College has a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for Susan.  Her leadership and ownership of the curriculum process required hours of effort in development of more effective forms; increased efficiency in review of and corrections to requests; and enhanced communication to all involved.  She listens, is thoughtful, and willingly seeks out the correct answer to any posed question.  As a professional, Susan is not only knowledgeable and competent, but kind and compassionate.  She daily practices WT’s core values of academic freedom, service, pragmatism, innovation, respect and engagement.  I can’t think of a better representative of the staff at WTAMU.”

“Susan’s approach to everything she does is with the spirit of servant leadership.  She carries out her duties with an instinct to make students successful through quality coursework delivered in an updated and current format.  “…her sweet spirit and tireless efforts to serve the students and faculty of WT are the qualities that should be recognized, honored and emulated by others.”

Congratulations, Susan!


Staff Council Employee of the Year

Steve Sellars

Steve began his employment with WT on December 2, 1993 in the position of Job Development Specialist.  On August 1, 1995, he was promoted to Cooperative Education Coordinator, which is now known as the Experiential Education Coordinator.

In Steve’s nomination, it is stated that “Steve is a quintessential professional, always taking care that he represents WT and Career Services in the best manner possible. He is eager to assist employers and his enthusiasm makes him an incredible ambassador for our university. Dr. Chen describes Steve as being "a bridge" for the WT community. He connects students, employers, faculty and staff to develop relationships that help students easily transition from college to career. He not only represents these groups well, but he embodies the humble and hardworking image of WT.” 

Amber Black, Steve’s supervisor, shared that “it was impressive to watch Steve build partnerships with organizations on and off campus to make these events a success. He partnered with faculty and the Enactus student organization to get students to attend the Tuesday lunch on "How to Make the Most of Your Internship". On Wednesday, he partnered with the Amarillo Area Foundation, Workforce Solutions, the Small Business Development Center, and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation to get over 50 employers to a morning workshop about starting and maintaining a successful internship program. 

Even more special, she said, is that “Steve is man of great character. I have never heard him speak an unkind word about another person. He is a good friend to everyone on our team, remains pleasant in all circumstances, and keeps the whole team laughing. He is also a loving husband and father, and serves people in our community by teaching English to refugees through a program at his church. In addition to his work in Career Services, Steve also serves WT students in a faculty role by teaching Strategic Management in the College of Business.”

Congratulations Steve!


25 Years of Service

Wes Hicks

Information Technology

Wes began his career at WT on March 13, 1995, as a Programmer/Analyst I.  On October 1, 2001, he became a System Analyst I.  On November 29, 2012, Wes was promoted to System Analyst II, which is now Software Applications Developer III.

Wes enjoys gardening, more specifically vegetable gardening.  He is an avid runner.  His favorite thing to do is play dinosaurs with his two grandsons.  He also enjoys driving his Mustang around on a nice day.

According to his peers, “Wes is truly a people person.  His dry humor and observation of life is entertaining.  Wes keeps up with technology as well as his fitness.  He bikes, lifts weights and works on cardio.  However, his weakness is honey buns.  His temperament is pleasant even under the most stressful situation.  Everybody loves Wes.  It's a joy to work with Wes in connecting technology to education.”

Congratulations, Wes, on 25 years of service at West Texas A&M University!


25 Years of Service

David Thurston


David started his career at West Texas A&M University on December 1, 1994, as a Custodian I.  On February 1, 2004, he was promoted to Custodian II.  On April 5, 2006, he was promoted once again to Custodian III. 

David loves to go snake hunting!  He enjoys fishing in his spare time.  His father was in the military and their family was transferred to Germany when he was growing up.  He lived there for three years before returning to the United States.  He would like to visit the Everglades National Park when he retires so he can go hunt some snakes! 

Congratulations, David, on 25 years of service at West Texas A&M University!


30 Years of Service

Shelly Davis

Accounting & Business Office

Shelly began her career at WT on January 2, 1990, as an Accountant II in the Business Office.  She held that position until May 8, 2002, when she was promoted to the Director of Accounting position.  On November 13, 2013, Shelly transferred to the Student Affairs area, and became a Senior Accountant.  On June 29, 2015, Shelly was promoted to the position she holds today, Associate Vice President for Business & Finance/Controller.

Shelly’s supervisor, Randy Rikel stated, “Shelly Davis was one of my first employees I worked with when I came to work in 1996 in the Business Office.  Quickly, I knew I could depend on her in any situation and also to be a valuable asset as I navigated the University and TAMUS accounting waters.  She even came back a little early to help me complete the Annual Financial Report from maternity leave – by the way three office employees had babies born during the 2000 AFR.

Shelly left the business office for a short time but I was able to get her to return in 2015 as AVP and Controller.

She has brought ideas and ingenuity to the office throughout her 30 years in the Business Office and has seen so many computer and accounting changes, Y2K, Presidential changes and now a historic pandemic.

I know many at the University are grateful to have worked alongside Shelly and we all wish her and Jon the best retirement back in their home state of Oklahoma.  She will be greatly missed and hard to replace.  But we still have 4 more months to let more ideas help this University.”

Congratulations, Shelly, on 30 years of service at West Texas A&M University!


35 Years of Service

Martin Lopez

Upward Bound

Martin has worked as either a student or staff employee under seven of the eleven WT Presidents.  He obtained his undergraduate degree from WT in Fine Art, majoring in painting and minoring in sculpture.  He began his first staff role at WT as an Exhibits Technician at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum on May 17, 1982, promoting to Conservation/Exhibits Technician on November 1, 1986.  While working at the museum he was involved with creating and constructing many of the exhibits in the new petroleum wing, including painting the Panhandle sky on the 80 ft. mural on the second floor, assembling the large dinosaur skeleton model, and delivering restored paintings to the Texas House and Senate Chambers.  During his time at the museum, he also had the opportunity to be involved in the music video production of “Long Line of Love” by singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphy.

On August 7, 1987, Martin transferred to the Admissions Department and became an Admissions Advisor.  On April 2, 1990, he was promoted to Assistant Director of Admissions.  On September 9, 1991, Martin was promoted to Counselor/Tutor Coordinator in Student Support Services.  In 1993, he transferred to Angelo State University while working on his Master’s degree.  He returned to WT on September 16, 1996, as the Director of Upward Bound.  On June 14, 1999, he became the Program Director of CAMP & Upward Bound.  On November 1, 2012, Martin became the Executive Director of Special Programs, the position that he holds today.

Martin has achieved many accomplishments.  He is an avid runner and had the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon in 2004.  He was a recipient of the 1986 “Wilder Award” from the Texas Association of Museums for the Art Deco Poster advertising an “Exhibition of Decorative Art” at the museum.  He has served on the State, Regional, and National Boards and various committees that govern and advocate for the TRIO grant programs, since 1998.  Martin has presented at Local, State, Regional, and National conferences on college access and success for first generation, migrant and low-income students.  As a grant writer, he was the first “Million Dollar Club” award recipient for bringing in more than a million dollars in grant funding in 2008.

After retirement, he plans a trip to Spain to trace his genetic ancestry.  He also hopes to consult for TRIO programs across the nation and stay involved with WT through part-time work and volunteering.

Congratulations, Martin, on 35 years of service at West Texas A&M University!


35 Years of Service

Meri Lyn Odell

University Police Department

Meri Lyn came to WT on July 6, 1984, as a Legal Secretary II.  On September 1, 1986, she was promoted to Legal Secretary III.  On September 13, 1988, she became an Administrative Secretary III for the President’s Office.  She transferred to the University Police Department, where she continues to work, on September 1, 1990, in the position of Police Clerk I.  On September 2, 1992, she was promoted to Administrative Secretary I.  On November 1, 1993, she was promoted once again to Police Administrative Assistant.  On May 12, 1997, she became the Director of Police Administration, and on March 12, 2015, she was once again promoted to the position that she holds today, Clery Coordinator.

Meri Lyn has worked under almost half of the total number of Presidents of West Texas A&M University.  Former President Ed Roach, the 7th President, started at WT the same day as Meri Lyn!  She has loved WT for many years and graduated with her Bachelor’s degree from WT in December 1998.

Meri Lyn has several outstanding accomplishments.  In 2019, she was named the National Clery Compliance Officer of the Year by the National Association of Clery Compliance Officers.  Earlier this year, she was nominated and selected as one of the top four finalists for the Remarkable Woman contest sponsored by KAMR.  She was selected as a finalist due to her work over the years with students and employees as the Victim Assistance Coordinator. 

In 2016, her passion for service took another avenue due to the illness and death of her infant granddaughter, Nora Lyn Williams.   She gives blood passionately and regularly and began hosting the Be The Match Bone Marrow Donor Drive in the JBK on Giving Tuesday following the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Over a hundred new donors have registered each of the four years this event has occurred.  She also serves on the board of Camp Alphie, an organization that provides a summer camp for children that have battled or are battling childhood cancer. 

Congratulations, Meri Lyn, on 35 years of service with West Texas A&M University!