Purdue faculty, staff members win prizes for choosing to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Carina Olaru, director of the Latino Cultural Center, shows off her winning gift card for Dunkin’ Donuts for participating in the Protect Purdue employee COVID-19 vaccination incentive promotion. Joining Olaru at the surprise reveal event aboard the Boilermaker Special (from left) are Amanda Emmons, vice chair of the Management and Professional Staff Advisory Committee; Campus Support Staff Advisory Committee communications chair David Montgomery; and Bill Bell, vice president for human resources. (Purdue University photo/Maddie Dean)

Michele Brost, a 44-year university employee working in student services for Purdue Athletics, knew getting vaccinated against COVID-19 “was the right thing to do.”

Purdue Police Sgt. Nick Crosby thinks he had the coronavirus in late 2019 – even before the pandemic had been declared. Crosby, who joined the force 14 years ago and has staffed several Protect Purdue events the past 18 months, said he still wanted to get the vaccine, noting his wife works in health care locally and sees the effects of contracting the virus. 

Kelly Blanchard, an adjunct economics professor in the Krannert School of Management since she received her PhD from Purdue in 1996, strongly believes the vaccine provides the surest and safest path to a return “to even the simplest and normal signs of life.”

And Carina Olaru, director of the Latino Cultural Center, didn’t think twice about getting the vaccine, saying she trusts the science and knew it was important to send a message to Greater Lafayette’s Hispanic population, which has been more reticent to be inoculated against COVID-19.

“I have volunteered with the Tippecanoe County Health Department to help with the community’s vaccination efforts, serving as an advocate and an interpreter,” says Olaru, who also serves as Purdue’s director of student advocacy and education. “And since school restarted, I have been very encouraged and impressed by the students, faculty and staff who, you can tell, want to be together and do what it takes to be here.”

This Boilermaker foursome joined thousands of their colleagues in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and attesting their status with the university before the start of the Fall 2021 semester. By taking this important public health step, however, they also were among the lucky 50 employees randomly selected for a host of prizes awarded through the Protect Purdue vaccine promotion.

“I really appreciate how our faculty and staff have responded to this public health challenge, choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Bill Bell, Purdue vice president for human resources. “Their example is a testament to what our entire Purdue community has done and continues to do in ensuring we provide a quality residential experience for our students.

“And to be able to celebrate these 50 of the thousands of employees who have come together for this cause is an honor.”

To find out their specific prize, the winners were invited to events at Academy Park and the Purdue Bell Tower. The celebratory surprise reveals last week included representatives from Human Resources, the Campus Support and Management and Professional staff advisory committees – and, of course, Purdue cheerleaders and the Boilermaker Express. 

Judy Hanna, payment systems manager for the Office of the Bursar, and Jorge Martinez, outreach program manager for EPICS, each won an overnight stay plus a food voucher at the Union Club Hotel.

Claiming the top two Athletics prizes are Tammy Blickenstaff, an admissions trainer in the Office of Enrollment Management, who won the 2021 football season tickets; and Daniel Miller, a chemist for Radiological and Environmental Management, who won the tickets for the men’s basketball home opener in November. A full list of winners is below.

Brost also was one of the big winners, snaring a free Purdue reserved parking pass for a year. Sgt. Crosby won an annual membership to the Córdova Recreational Sports Center. Olaru won a dining gift card, and professor Blanchard received an hour of Purdue Pete for a birthday or other family celebration.

“I’m desperate for life to get back to normal. I miss normal. And by getting the vaccine, I firmly believe we can do our individual part for the collective benefit of our Purdue and local community,” says Blanchard, whose daughter contracted COVID-19 but fortunately had a mild case.

In her 14th year as a math education professor, Rachael Kenney brought her dog Toby, a mixed-breed terrier, for the surprise reveal at Academy Park, winning a pair of dining gift cards. “I got the COVID vaccine as soon as I could,” she says. “It’s the quickest and surest way to keep me, my family and my Purdue colleagues safe.”

To be eligible for the drawing, Purdue employees were asked to submit valid proof of their COVID-19 vaccination to the university by Aug. 13. From the pool of those who documented their choice to be vaccinated, the winners were randomly selected on Aug. 23.

“Time and time again, our faculty, staff and students have risen to the occasion, not only to continue our learning, research and engagement missions during a global pandemic but to thrive during these challenging times,” Bell says.

So far, 91% of Purdue faculty members verify that they have been vaccinated, while 78% of staff. Overall, 82% of the Purdue community of over 55,000 faculty, staff and students verify they are fully vaccinated.

Those faculty and staff who have been vaccinated since the start of the fall semester and want to avoid regular surveillance testing are encouraged to upload proof of their COVID-19 vaccine.

Employees who elected not get the vaccine are required to participate in Purdue’s weekly surveillance testing process, which began Aug. 23. On Aug. 2, Purdue announced the 10 student Old Golden Ticket winners from its Willy Wonka-inspired COVID-19 vaccination promotion that awarded each $9,992 – the equivalent of a year of in-state undergraduate student tuition to Purdue since 2013.


Full list of prizes and winners

Administrative, Professional, Clerical and Service Staff

  • Tammy Blickenstaff, Admissions, Football Season Tickets
  • Daniel Miller, Chemist-Radiological/Environmental Mgmt., Men’s Basketball Season Opener Tickets
  • Judy Hanna, Bursar, One Night/One Room Stay + food voucher at the Union Club Hotel
  • Jorge Martinez, EPICS, One Night/One Room Stay + food voucher at the Union Club Hotel
  • Michele Brost, Academic Services/Intercollege Athletics and Facilities, Reserved Parking Spot for one year
  • Rhea Thukral, Histology Research-VPRB, Annual A Parking Pass
  • Melissa Martin, Sponsored Programs, One-Hour Boilermaker Special Certificate for Campus Ride/Tour
  • Nick Crosby, Police/Fire, One-Year Membership to Co-Rec
  • Donald Matthews, VPR Lab LILY, Gift Card
  • Judith Rantz, IT-Yong, Gift Card
  • Shane Jones, Police/Fire Mgmt., Gift Card
  • Gregory Tamer, MJIS – Biomedical Engineering, Gift Card
  • Marti Van Court, MRGN-President Jischke, Gift Card
  • Aimee Highland, ADDL, Gift Card
  • Patricia Miller, Ford Food Dining, Gift Card
  • Kyle Linback, Dining Director Ops MCUT, Gift Card
  • Carina Olaru, LCC Latino Culture Center, Gift Card
  • Meagan Brothers, HHS Field Extension Educators, Gift Card
  • Catherine Field, FRNY Chem Engr, Gift Card
  • Amanda Correa, RHPH Pharmacy, Gift Card
  • Russell Wetli, PFSB Ops and Maintenance, Gift Card
  • Tamora Wilson, Wiley Dining (WDCT), Gift Card
  • Alyssa Cantrell, KNOY Academic Advisor, Gift Card
  • Sarah Zoll, Remote-New Jersey, Gift Card
  • Tammara Misner, WOOD-Building Serv-Residence Halls, Gift Card
  • Thalia Fisher, LYNN, Gift Card
  • Gabriella Giannini, Remote-Maryland, Gift Card
  • Angelika Thompson-Hewitt, Farm Worker Vincennes/Knox, Gift Card
  • Rodney Flowers, EE-ECN, Gift Card
  • Raluca Ostafe, LILY, Gift Card
  • Andrea Pluckebaum, KRAN, Gift Card
  • Steven Hitze, Building Services – HAMP, Gift Card
  • Casey Marks, MTHW HHS admin, Gift Card
  • Lev Gorenstein, YONG-IT, Gift Card
  • Theresa Baker, PFEN, Gift Card
  • Gift Card, winner TBA

Faculty/Clinical Research/Postdocs

  • Jian Jin, professor, Agricultural & Biological Engineering, Gift Card/Purdue Dining
  • Gudrun Schmidt, professor, Chemistry, One Hour Photo Shoot with Boilermaker Special and Purdue Pete
  • Kelly Blanchard, professor, Krannert, One Hour Purdue Pete Event (birthday, anniversary, etc.)
  • Alexander Laskin, professor, Chemistry, Gift Card
  • Andreas Jung, professor, PHYS Physics and Astronomy, Gift Card
  • Jogendra Pawar, postdoc research associate, RHPH-Med Chem/Molecular, Gift Card
  • Nolie Parnell, professor, Vet Clinical LYNN, Gift Card
  • Rachael Kenney, professor, MATH, Gift Card
  • T. Vijaykumar, professor, EE-Electrical and Computer Engineering, Gift Card
  • David Whittinghill, professor, KNOY Computer Graphics, Gift Card
  • Alexander Chubykin, professor, Biological Sciences-LILY, Gift Card
  • Ryan Altman, professor, RHPH Med Chem, Gift Card
  • Maria Davila Ordonez, postdoc research associate, EAPS-HAMP, Gift Card
  • Jenny Beal, postdoc research associate, Pharmacy RHPH, Gift Card
  • Qing Deng, professor, Biological Sciences (LILY), Gift Card
  • Partha Mukherjee, professor, Mechanical Engineering, Gift Card
  • Gift Card, winner TBA