Three Life Span Institute central office staff honored

In late February, three Life Span Institute staff were recognized for their service: Donna Burruss received the KU Employee of the Month award, and Laci Ulrich and Jennifer Myers Holwick were honored with the Paul Diedrich Support Services Award.

"Jennifer Myers Holwick and Laci Ulrich"
Jennifer Myers Holwick, left, and Laci Ulrich, right, were honored with the Paul Diedrich Support Services Award.

Belinda Sturm, interim vice chancellor for research, presented the Employee of the Month award to Burruss, who is retiring after 19 years with KU. Burruss has overseen dozens of grant proposals, including tracking numerous documents in various stages of revision, ensuring tasks are completed and that all rules are followed. Her nomination noted that she has been the lead grant coordinator for every successful National Institute of Health (NIH) grant the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) has received on the Lawrence Campus for at least the last two decades, with each of these grants bringing in $5-$11 million to KU.

The Diedrich award recognizes outstanding central office staff and is supported by Paul Diedrich, a retired Life Span Institute central office finance manager, and his spouse, Marilyn J. Fischer. Following a pause attributed to the pandemic, KU Life Span Institute Director John Colombo presented two awards this year, one to Ulrich, who is a grant coordinator, and the other to Holwick, who leads financial services for the Life Span Institute.

Laci Ulrich joined KU two decades ago in the Office of Research. Her nomination noted that as a grant specialist and now coordinator at the Life Span Institute, she has a record of helping with whatever needs to be done to keep the Life Span Institute running smoothly and investigators happy.  

Christopher Cushing, a Life Span Institute investigator, noted that “Laci is one of those staff members that represent the lifeblood of KU. The work that she supports would not get done without her—period. She is a tireless professional whose commitment truly goes above and beyond…She deserves all the recognition KU and LSI can muster.”

Jennifer Myers Holwick has been a part of the Life Span Institute since 2007, first starting as an accountant and working her way up to associate director of finance and planning. Her nomination stated that Holwick stays busy tracking all finances of the Life Span Institute, as well as managing a large group of grant coordinators. She and her team stay responsive to constantly changing financial systems, travel and procurement guidelines set by KU, uniform guidance restrictions, as well as new grants and investigators. 

Jamie Jones, associate director for project development, said that Holwick “insists on being a ‘working manager’ to ensure that she understands every aspect of what her team does and can answer any questions that might arise (and that tends to be a lot!)… Jen is important and vital to the success of the Life Span Institute.”