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The legacy of Floyd Hoelting

Director of University Housing Services, Stacey Mwilambwe (left), with Floyd Hoelting (right) and award-recipient, Liz Thomason (center).

Director of the Office of Residential Life from 1977–1995, Floyd B. Hoelting returned to campus Friday, March 29, 2019, to award the Hoelting Team Player Award to Elizabeth (Liz) Thomason, Area Coordinator for Apartments (Cardinal Ct., Fell, & School). Upon his retirement, Hoelting endowed the award with the ultimate goal of teaching teamwork in every area of the housing department. The award recognizes employees who have consistently assisted other staff in meeting their goals and commitments.

Hoelting’s 39-year investment in university housing employees recently inspired longtime friend, Harold Lee Witt (more commonly known as “H” by friends and colleagues), to support the University Housing endowed award. Witt is Boeing’s Chief of Staff, set to retire this summer after 33 years in corporate communications. He has also authored four books and contributed to two others. Together, Hoelting and Witt are using their influence to recognize outstanding employee performance.

“I think it’s important to recognize people, regardless of title and position, who model the attributes of a team player.” – Floyd Hoelting

The two spoke at the award ceremony about what the award means to them and what they hope the results of this award are on the campus community. Hoelting reflected, “This is where I worked the longest. I got my legs at Western Illinois but I raised my kids here. I’m real close to ISU. I was opportune to this. And ultimately, I feel strongly about the team player idea. I want to reinforce the idea that people are only as good as the team they’re a part of. I think it’s important to recognize people, regardless of title and position, who model the attributes of a team player.”

Lee Witt agreed wholeheartedly and explained how the award is a symbol of growth. “I left ISU better than I came in. Floyd was a model of possibility for others, including me. He was a brilliant coach and always left me feeling like a million dollars. I saw, watched, and learned from Floyd in both roles as Graduate Assistant and Hall Coordinator. He led me to think of myself as an educator and I support the award because of him.”

“He led me to think of myself as an educator and I support the award because of him.” – Lee Witt

Not only was the award presentation an occasion for Division of Student Affairs’ staff to recognize Elizabeth Thomason’s efforts but it was also an opportunity for Hoelting and Lee Witt to reunite after not seeing one another for twenty-five years. In the very same space they met, the basement of Wilkins Hall, the two reminisced about life as housing staff members in the ‘70s. Witt served as a residence hall graduate assistant in Walker, Dunn-Barton, and Fell Residence Halls and had a significant first impression of his supervisor. “Floyd was a terrifying figure who was and still is bigger than life. His expression at our first training was very stern and he immediately got our attention. He implemented a code of behavior that many bought into because of the way he coached.”

He and Witt have an exemplary relationship, one of equal respect and learning.

“’H’ and I were both teacher and student at any one time,” Hoelting said.

They experienced many a challenge working in the jungle of rules and regulations that was residence life in the seventies. It was their work at Illinois State University that taught them how to navigate minutia, see the bigger picture, and above all value their relationship with each other.

“’H’ and I were both teacher and student at any one time.” – Floyd Hoelting

The two alumni also agree on being clear about your values and consistent in your good habits will take you far in life. Floyd’s top value is one he lives out loud – meaningful relationships. In his career at Illinois State, he once sent out for a snowplow for a staff member (in a blizzard) when she was in the hospital undergoing surgery. He had promised the employee’s mother he would take care of her and he did just that, sleeping on the couch of the hospital lobby until the employee was out of surgery.

The common sentiment shared by Witt and others in attendance at the award ceremony was that Hoelting is a mentor to many Redbirds and respected for his longstanding commitment to the Division of Student Affairs and housing family. His impact is now mirrored in 100+ award winners. Click here to learn more about how University Housing Staff are awarded for their leadership.

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