It takes the dedicated energy of a great many people for McIntire to provide its graduates with an unmatched student experience, an insightful, supportive world-class faculty, an engaged, far-reaching global alumni network, and peerless preparation for career success. Those crucial attributes have been strengthened and have endured because of the commitment of those who work mostly behind the scenes: the members of the Commerce School staff.
In order to shine a light on those who embody the best of McIntire’s staff, Laurence C. “Larry” Franklin established an endowment with $50,000 in the spring of 2023 to fund the Outstanding Staff Member Award at McIntire—a generous gift matched dollar-for-dollar by the Commerce School. The award aims to annually acknowledge and reward one or more staff members who have, through their excellent work, contributed to a culture of courtesy, collegiality, and academic excellence at the School.
Sally Armentrout, Assistant Dean for Student Services, and Rico Vigliotti, Help Desk Manager, are the inaugural recipients of the Franklin Staff Awards. The two winners were honored at a reception on the afternoon of Oct. 4, 2023, when they received the award of $2,000 each.
Armentrout and Vigliotti were chosen based on nominations gathered from across the School, with final determinations made by a five-person committee composed of Senior Associate Dean for External Relations and Communications and Executive Director of the McIntire Foundation Stuart Evans, Commerce Professor and Director of the M.S. in Commerce Program Ira Harris, Associate Director of Advancement Data and Analytics Ryan Jackson, Chief of Staff Aaron Noland, and Associate Dean for Advancement Katie Whittier.
Meet the Winners
A friendly fixture at McIntire for more than 12 years, Armentrout held various positions before assuming her current role in the summer of 2018. Professors praise her positive attitude, enthusiasm, integrity, calm demeanor, and thoughtful responsiveness that she demonstrates every day, as well as her unwavering dedication to students and dependability as a professional, supportive colleague for faculty. Professor Katie McDermott says Armentrout has proven to be nothing less than an “uplifting force” who has “a deep attunement to students,” for whom she serves as a role model.
Armentrout, who has maintained the highest degree of professionalism while earning her Doctor of Education this year at the University, is universally revered for her ability to solve problems, no matter the complexity of the situation.
Professor Marcia Pentz says Armentrout also regularly displays an inherent talent for adaptability, change, and constant attentiveness for ways to improve the culture and systems of the School. “She steps into new positions with flawless grace when others would flounder. McIntire culture would not have the positive sheen that is does for our students without Sally Armentrout’s contributions!” says Pentz.
Professor Roger Martin echoed the sentiment, noting that she provides significant cultural enhancement for the community of the School: “Sally is from Idaho. And the University of Washington. And Florida State. She brings every part of herself and her background to connect with people and to make them feel like McIntire is their home, by convincing them they, too, add important pieces to the community fabric. She lives and breathes inclusiveness and makes every person she interacts with feel like they belong and are valued.”
Vigliotti, who has been at the Commerce School since the start of 2021, when he was hired as a Technician, quickly became the Help Desk Manager after demonstrating his ability to nimbly take on more responsibilities in a compressed amount of time. Valued widely across McIntire for his problem-solving skills, diligence, open communication style, and graciousness, he is highly regarded for his helpful attitude and ability to do whatever it takes to get tech-related issues sorted.
Despite Vigliotti having had no formal supervisory experience earlier in his career, Director of IT Operations Eric Rzeszut says that he has proven to be an excellent leader for the entire Help Desk team; he oversees three direct reports and a group of 10 student workers, a result of his revamping of the student worker program that educates students to provide efficient and friendly service to the entire McIntire community. Rzeszut points out that Vigliotti regularly exceeds his assigned duties to ensure that all requiring his services are properly taken care of, maintaining a high attention to faculty and staff needs, as well as often stopping into Rouss & Robertson Halls on nights and weekends to guarantee a lab or classroom is set up as it needs to be, or that the Help Desk is staffed when a student misses their shift.
Additionally, Vigliotti has been directly involved with the planning process for the McIntire Expansion Project, contributing his technological and audiovisual expertise to the planning for the renovation of Cobb Hall and the new Shumway Hall.
“I cannot imagine an employee more dedicated to the mission of the McIntire School of Commerce and more committed to the School’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and visitors,” says Rzeszut. “He represents everything that a McIntire staff member should be.”
Sharing the Accolade
Both Armentrout and Vigliotti were quite surprised to learn that they were chosen for the Outstanding Staff Member Award.
“I had to do a double take when I received the news!” says Vigliotti. “I appreciate the recognition, and it is exciting to be a part of the inaugural award.”
Armentrout was similarly appreciative and took the opportunity to point out the contributions of her peers: “We’re fortunate to have a dedicated group of talented, creative, and compassionate professionals working to enhance the McIntire experience for present and future students. I deeply appreciate the support I receive from my supervisor, Danny Steeper, as well as the diligent and thoughtful contributions of my dedicated team members, including Katherine Lawrence, Katy Smith, Hayley Spear, and Caroline Wagner.”
She insists that she holds “one of the most rewarding positions at McIntire,” because she not only advises, supports, and champions students, but also helps her colleagues to similarly establish meaningful connections with them to create a strong School community.
For his part, Vigliotti wishes to share the honor with his teammates as well, singling out Lawson Johnson, Sydney Saunders, and Kayla Reynolds for their work to keep the Help Desk running smoothly. “Also Eric Rzeszut, Bryan Lewis, and the entire McIntire IT team,” he says, stressing the importance of appreciating the Comm School’s staff. “It is incredibly special to be part of a smaller school with a strong community, while also being a part of the greater University of Virginia.”
Armentrout agrees. “Staff members consistently commit themselves to enabling the success of others,” she says. “Acknowledging the invaluable contributions of staff members within our School community not only serves to celebrate achievements, but also reinforces the endeavors that propel the School’s mission forward. The establishment of this award not only highlights the exceptional work of our colleagues, but also serves as a source of inspiration for fellow staff members to recognize and commend each other’s efforts.”
For Larry Franklin, a Professor of Finance, Management, and Business Law at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who has also taught more than 450 MBA, executive MBA, and law courses around the world, the Outstanding Staff Award offers an avenue to highlight those who he has noted have always made him feel welcome as well as creates yet another way to connect with the Commerce School and UVA.
Having first come to the University in 1998, when he accompanied his father Carl Franklin to the 50th reunion of the Class of ’48, he would come to spend time on Grounds teaching courses at Darden and the Law School between 2002 and 2014, at one point joining McIntire Professor Whit Broome to teach an accounting and finance course at the Law School. Franklin later enjoyed rewarding experiences teaching McIntire students on the Global Immersion Experience (GIE) to Hong Kong, building relationships with Director of Global Advancement Darci Spuck and former Commerce School Dean Carl Zeithaml. In 2020, Franklin contributed to the Dean Z Global Opportunities Scholarship, named in honor of Zeithaml; 0ther gifts made by the Franklins at the Commerce School include support to cover costs for McIntire students to enable them to attend the GIE. Previously, the Franklin family also established a similar staff award at the Darden School to great success.
“I want recognition for people who contribute to the total effort,” Franklin says. “As professors, we get to teach in the classroom, and we get all kinds of recognition, research grants, and so forth. It’s the support people who are often overlooked, and we hope that this will recognize and, in a modest way, reward them for their contributions to McIntire.”