It isn’t required that Charles and Virginia Duke Award recipients at William & Mary achieve more with less, but the 2024 honorees embrace and embody that remarkable characteristic.

According to Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Development Professor of Higher Education Pam Eddy, were Dorothy “Dot” Osborne to leave the School of Education, it would take three people to take her place.

So, too, is it with Darrell Payne, celebrated by Associate Director of Utilities Zach Thompson for going “way above and beyond” his duties as director of the plumbing shop inside Facilities Management. Once in charge of a team of nine, Payne and his band of seven keep W&M’s vast, often cranky, plumbing systems running under every conceivable circumstance.

Payne, plumbing shop supervisor, and Osborne, senior assistant dean for academic programs and student services at the W&M School of Education, will be celebrated at a reception on May 1 and during Commencement on May 17. First bestowed in 1997, the Duke Award is awarded each year to “outstanding employees for exemplary individual accomplishments in their professional lives and service to the William & Mary community.”

“This distinguished award uplifts the hard work of William & Mary staff who carry forward the legacy set by Charles and Virginia Duke. I am deeply grateful to the Duke family for establishing this fitting honor for our talented colleagues,” said W&M President Katherine A. Rowe. “Ms. Osborne’s and Mr. Payne’s expertise and pride of work are so in tune with this prize. I look forward to honoring them.”

Payne said he knew someone would win this year’s Duke Award, “but I didn’t think it would be me. I was in shock,” he said, recalling when Rowe called with congratulations.

Osborne said she never considered herself “to be special enough to receive this honor. When I found out my staff were a big part of the nomination process, it really humbled me.”

The Duke Award was endowed 67 years ago by Charles Bryan Duke and Ann Evans Duke ‘57 in memory of Charles Joseph Duke ‘23 and Virginia Welton Duke for their years of “distinguished and loving service” to William & Mary. It’s presented each year to employees who have followed their tradition of exceptional service.

Dot Osborne

There are few offices on the W&M campus that Osborne can walk into and not be recognized.

In her role at the W&M School of Education, Osborne works closely with Financial Aid, Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment, the Division of Student Affairs, the Dean of Students Office and the University Registrar’s Office. Her relationship with prospective students begins with their application, then admission, matriculation and registration all the way through graduation.

Dot Osborne is the senior assistant dean for academic programs and student services at the W&M School of Education. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)

Other offices have teams devoted to these areas; somehow, Osborne manages four people who serve more than 900 on-ground and online students.

“Like Charles and Virginia Duke, Dot is made of the same mold in her dedicated service to William & Mary,” wrote Eddy.

She recalled a conversation with a faculty colleague and a member of Osborne’s staff. The admission period was in full swing, and the conversation turned to Osborne’s oversight of the process and how her work added to the strength of the school.

Unprompted, the staff member proclaimed, “Dot is the best boss I’ve ever had!”

“I echo that sentiment,” Eddy wrote. “She is one of the best colleagues I have worked with in my career, a great thinker and problem solver.”

“A true student advocate who has been a mentor for first-generation/low-income students, she strives to make sure education is accessible to more students and that historically underrepresented students feel like they have a place at William & Mary,” wrote Elizabeth Cavallari, associate director of recruitment and admission for the School of Education.

Osborne herself was a first-generation college student. Her parents didn’t understand why she needed a college education. That experience has had a profound impact on how she does her job.

“I had no one on campus to guide me through the four-year college experience,” she said, “and I want to be that person for first-gen students at W&M.

“One of the most rewarding parts of my job is serving as a pre-major advisor, especially to transfer students. I tell all my advisees, ‘Email me any time with any questions, even if they seem unrelated to advising. If I can’t answer the question, I will find the right office or person to direct you to.’ I wish that support had been available to me when I was in college.”

School of Education Dean Robert C. Knoeppel pointed out that diverse students typically represent 20-25% of the School of Education’s overall enrollment and credits Osborne with “setting the stage” for this statistic.

“Dot clearly models the core values of our university,” he said.

Osborne was at her creative best during the pandemic, Eddy wrote, and called Osborne “an early responder to reimagining enrollment management.”

“She was able to translate historical face-to-face activities to new online recruitment platforms,” Eddy wrote. “Dot’s ingenuity, creativity and ability to do a great deal with few resources provides ongoing benefit to the university.”

Likewise, the online counseling program resulted in a 400% increase in applications, Knoeppel wrote, requiring a re-wiring of the traditional review process.

Osborne instituted a system in which applicants were first reviewed by admissions staff and only the most competitive applicants were passed on to faculty for decisions. She worked with faculty to host webinars to address prospective student questions and to still allow them an opportunity to put a face to the faculty names they saw on the website.

 “This level of personal attention helped stave off some of the steep enrollment declines witnessed by other education programs across the country,” Eddy wrote.

Knoeppel added what might be the greatest endorsement of all.

“She successfully models a student-centric, service-oriented focus for all staff,” he wrote. “Dot has shown grace and determination under pressure to be sure that each person in the SOE community has a positive William & Mary experience.”

Darrell Payne

It was May 2007. Queen Elizabeth II was coming to the United States to help celebrate Jamestown’s 400th anniversary. Her trip included a stop at William & Mary, and nearly everyone on campus was abuzz in anticipation of her arrival.

Not Payne. He was anxious for the visit to conclude.

Darrell Payne is the plumbing shop supervisor. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)

The area around the Wren Building, where the queen was to speak, was deemed a potential security risk. Payne’s job was to go underground and inspect the area — including manholes that accessed the sewer system and manways that led to utility areas — inspect them again in the presence of the queen’s security force and then weld the covers shut until she was safely away.

Ask Payne to categorize his responsibilities at the university and he replies, smiling, “They ask us to create these little miracles — and we do it.”

 A few of the little miracles people on campus have praised him for over the years include repairing a steam leak at Zable Stadium by excavating and replacing a pipe shortly before the start of a football game. They include sleeping four consecutive nights in his shop during Hurricane Isabel, when flooding, fallen trees and downed power lines as he put it “devastated the campus.”

They include locating and repairing a failed pipe and malfunctioning valve that caused a leak in the Adair pool. They include being part of the Facilities Management team that worked with Dominion Energy to limit a power outage in Botetourt and the Keck Lab to just 24 hours, enabling students needed time and space to prepare for exams.

“It’s no secret that we have an aging infrastructure, although we are addressing the problem with major new construction projects,” said Zach Thompson, Payne’s immediate supervisor. “Darrell goes way above and beyond to keep things working.”

Senior Plumber William Moore, who nominated Payne, wrote that his colleague “has the respect of most building supervisor and residence-life employees.”

“The plumbing work-order bench has the least outstanding work orders of any other crew,” wrote Moore. “His leadership allows the plumbing shop to succeed at the highest standard.”

That leadership, Payne explained, involves listening to the seven people he supervises and trying to grasp their strengths.

“Everyone’s different,” he said. “If you understand them and what they can and can’t do as far as strengths you can assign different jobs to different people, depending on their personality.

“You also can build more skills and knowledge in more people depending on how you pair them.”

Payne, 50, has spent almost half of his life working at W&M, learning its quirks and intricacies.

“He has great knowledge of the campus utilities and buildings,” Moore wrote. “That’s vital in responding to emergencies.”

And, of course, visits by royalty.

, Communications Specialist