Every year, Pomona College recognizes a staff member with the Peter W. Stanley Distinguished Staff Award for their service and effort beyond their daily job requirements. This year, 25 individuals were nominated, with over 50 separate nominations submitted by staff, faculty and students. The award committee selected two long-term staff members for this year’s award for their positive impact on our campus community.

Lori Keala has worked at the College since 1995 as an academic coordinator, first for the Biology Department, and later moving to geology. Now serving as academic coordinator for both geology and computer science, Keala maintains the day-to-day operations of each department, organizes events like the Geology Department’s annual Woodford-Eckis lectureship and even helps parents organize surprise birthday parties for their students. 

Thanks to her baked goods and cheerful helpfulness, Keala has come to be known to some students as “geo mom.” She is someone who not only cares about the academic success of students but also their personal well-being, even looking out for them during departmental events, so much so as to intentionally seat people together to help students gain contacts in the professional realm and help alumni reconnect with friends.

“I feel very blessed to have been nominated – because you’re already a winner when you’re nominated,” says Keala. “I work for the best faculty – in both departments. I look forward to getting up and coming to work every day, that’s how much I love it.”

Since 2005 when M. Ricardo Townes joined Pomona College, he has dedicated himself to providing support to students, distinguishing himself as a mentor, advocate, ally, advisor and friend. Currently, Townes is an associate dean of student mentoring and leadership, and over the past 12 years he’s served on various committees, including the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity (PACD), bringing a thoughtful outlook and optimistic approach to various campus discussions.

Townes is known around campus for being deeply committed to students, often staying late or coming in on weekends to support students and student groups like the Students of Color Alliance (SOCA), BLOC, Quest Scholars and many others throughout the years.

“It’s an awesome and positive feeling to know that your colleagues recognize you and were willing to take the time to go through the nominating process to do it,” says Townes.

“But the thing that makes it particularly special, is that the work is so hard at times that you don’t always know if you’re getting it right. And in a way, to be nominated and win, to me that says ‘yeah, you’re probably getting it right.’”

Described by his colleagues as a “true Sagehen who lives, works and plays on campus every day,” Townes is shaping generations of students – many of whom stay in touch long after graduation. As one colleague wrote, Townes has “a talent for making you feel valued in his presence and is a fierce ally to his colleagues and students.”