Above and beyond the call of duty

Friday, May 26, 2023

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

I vividly recall filing my very first income tax return in America as a freshman at Louisiana State University in the mid-1970s after I was told that I had to fill out a form and mail it by the end of the day that same day. “It’s the law!” I was told. “What form? What law?” I asked. I had no idea and naturally panicked. You see, I had worked for a few hours a week at the university and now was obligated to report my income.

By mid-afternoon, after my last class, I essentially knee-walked into the math department office and approached Kathy, a kind and thoughtful employee whom I had met at the start of my first term. She had given me the good news that I had advanced to a higher-level math class after taking a placement test. I remembered how caring she was and with my broken English, I asked if she could help me with the letter I had received. She could sense my anxiety and said, “Oh, this is your W-2 form. Come back after 5 p.m., when I am done with my work. We will figure it out together.”

Imagine my sense of relief when I went back and found she had printed out “the form” that we completed. “You don’t owe any taxes,” she said. “In fact, you will get some money back.” Nine years later, when I was leaving LSU as Dr. Dehghani, I went back to Kathy’s office with a modest gift to say goodbye and to thank her for being the voice and sense of comfort during times of stress. For having gone above and beyond the call of duty when she didn’t have to.

This week we celebrated Staff Day, an annual occasion for us to honor our considerate “Kathys,” “Agneses,” and all our dedicated and hard-working staff. It’s a time for our staff to push the pause button at the close of the busy spring semester and celebrate their individual and collective accomplishments. It is also the time for me to honor our staff, take part in the awards ceremonies, and offer hearty congratulations to our recipients of the Staff Excellence Award, Outstanding Newcomer Award, Outstanding Faculty Award, and Jan Buhlinger Spirit Award. As we look back at last week’s observance of National Police Week, we also appreciate the efforts of our University Police staff members who keep our campus safe.

Thanks to our Staff Council for their work organizing a terrific Staff Day experience, and for all the work they’ve done over this past year to recognize exceptional efforts and provide greater opportunities for our staff to advance in their careers. Due to these efforts, nearly 20% of our staff members have participated in our Leadership and Professional Development training series sponsored by our Staff Success Center.

The commitment and dedication of our staff is not new. As I have mentioned before, in response to my Friday messages, I hear from alumni from all corners of the world and from graduates who were here decades ago. Without exception, they express their gratitude for the support they received from faculty and staff. Their responses provide thoughtful and often emotional perspectives for me as I see the celebrations, graduations, struggles, successes, smiles, tears and laughter of so many and consider how many of our staff have spent lifetimes supporting our students and our mission over a century and a half.

In the end, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for all who continue to provide selfless support to our students, faculty and university. Whether you have been here long, or joined our journey more recently, your participation is inspiring to so many who are making their own indelible memories of this place that will last a lifetime. After all, the generosity of Kathy’s or Agnes’ spirit is long remembered because of how they made others feel in times of need. Our students will remember how you went above and beyond the call of duty, and for that I am grateful.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
mo@mst.edu | 573-341-4116

206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910