Grill ‘brings the atmosphere’ to Government

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dawn grillLess than two weeks after graduating high school, Dawn Grill began working at UAB as a temp in General Accounting. Now, 29 years and several positions later, she’s still here.

“I came here right after school to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said. ‘And here I am.”

No one is happier than her co-workers in the Department of Government, who did more than praise her work — they said she “brings the atmosphere” along with results.

The same faculty used a great many adjectives to describe her — helpful, kind, loyal, smiling. Another choice word was “extraordinary.”

For these and other reasons, they nominated her and she was selected UAB’s Employee of the Month for October.

“Someone should be extraordinary to receive this award. And Dawn is simply extraordinary,” said Professor Angela Lewis, program director for political science. “Along with our department chair, Dawn has ushered in a productive, creative and efficient atmosphere for our faculty, staff and students.”

Grill joined the department in 2012 as administrative associate after decades in the academic medical center, working with the Center for Aids Research and the Department of Microbiology

“It was a big leap from the medical to the academic side of campus after 20 years, but I love working with students,” she said.

Attitude is everything

Grill’s caring attitude has contributed to the department’s success, co-workers say, and she combines the integrity of hard work with the festivity of a positive outlook.

“She has made an indelible mark with her diligence, hard work ethic and jovial approach to ‘boring’ secretary life,” said Nikolaos Zahariadis, Ph.D., professor of political science.

“She does so much for our department, managing three programs, and still knows every student’s name,” says Carin Mayo, program coordinator for the Master of Public Administration program.

“Her organizational skills, especially with social media and event planning, have been instrumental for our department's success and for individual faculty's accomplishments,” said Renato Corbetta, associate professor of government.

Zahariadis agreed: “UAB has changed significantly over the years and with it have come dramatic rule changes. I can pay no greater honor to her than to confess Dawn is the person who gives clear and concise advice to faculty on how to effectively navigate the bureaucracy in ways that both maintain the integrity of rules and still get things done.”

Serve with a smile

Grill is equally complimentary. “I love interacting with the students and the faculty. They love these kids and have a passion for what they do and the kids see that.”

If she could leave a piece of advice for the person who follows in her shoes when she retires next month it would be this: “Bring service with a smile, whether you are happy or not. You set the tone for the day. And have a servant’s heart. That’s what makes UAB great — people’s willingness to serve.

“This is a mission field,” she reminds us. “We’re helping students become leaders. We need to be encouragers and help them accomplish their goals.”

“People will remember how you treat them,” she said.

That includes faculty and staff stranded during the snowstorm of 2014, said Wendy Gunther-Canada, Ph.D., professor and chair
 of Government. “By the time the university closed at noon, we had many stranded students and faculty in our suite. Dawn kept everyone calm, helped to feed the kids camped out on our carpet and provided updates on safe routes to get as many students home as possible.

“Dawn Grill is an exceptional example of the work ethic, integrity, and compassion that make UAB a first choice for health care and education,” Gunther-Canada said.

“We will not be able to replace her when she retires in November.”

Leaving after 29 years is bittersweet. “I grew up here,” Grill said. “I started work here fresh out of high school. I got married while I was here and had children here. And I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish here. Then again, I can’t see myself not working.”

She and David, her husband of 26 years, have two sons Andrew, 21, and Peyton, 18, both students at UAB. They live in Gardendale with their two dachshunds, Buster and Molly. In retirement, Grill hopes to spend more time with her parents and her grandmother, who’s 101, to soak up some more wisdom.

Each month, UAB recognizes an outstanding employee for their dedication, hard work and contributions to the university’s success. If you know of a great employee, you can learn how to nominate them for this recognition at