Saying good-bye after 40 years of service
March 25, 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon! I am so pleased that each of you could be here today as we celebrate the retirement of Evelyn Zicko. Evelyn became a Department of the Army civilian on July 14th, 1969, a hot, summer day over 40 years ago that marked the first of many in a long, highly successful career in the United States Army. With faithful service spanning over four decades, it is only fitting that we take a few minutes to reflect on Evelyn's many contributions to our Service and the Nation.
Retirement luncheons are thought-provoking for each of us. This afternoon we will travel back in time with Evelyn to reflect on the road she has traveled, remembering the challenges she has faced head on as well as the amazing accomplishments she's had along the way. Yet, this afternoon's luncheon is more than a time of remembrance. It is also a time of great joy and anticipation as Evelyn looks ahead to the next phase of her life.
For the past 40 plus years, Evelyn's time and talents have been devoted to the Army, drawing on every ounce of her strong spirit, character and work ethic. While the missions, adrenaline and camaraderie have given her incredible satisfaction and opportunities for professional growth, she will now be heading down a new road as she spends time on other facets of life, and further develops the many talents she possesses. I am so glad that each of you is here to share this excitement with her and I thank you for coming.
Although Evelyn has been a member of the civilian corps of the United States Army for over 40 years, I have only had the privilege of knowing her for one. I first met Evelyn in March of last year, when she was assigned as my sponsor when I reported to work at the Garrison. As she gave me a tour of the facilities, I could not help but draw a parallel to Jackie Kennedy when she gave America the televised tour of the White House on February 14, 1962. In that documentary, which was watched by hundreds of millions of viewers, Americans of all ages were impressed with Jackie Kennedy's impeccable sense of style, intellect, grace, class and authority. Even in our first meeting, I could immediately see that Evelyn possesses each of these qualities, and I could easily understand why she has been so successful in her career.
As the days passed, I came to value Evelyn's many years of experience. While I thought that my transition to the Army would be relatively easy, I was mistaken. I found myself routinely turning to Evelyn for answers to my many questions and advice as to how to deal with different situations. Evelyn always amazed me with not only her incredible institutional knowledge, but also her ability to quickly locate obscure e-mails and documents from years ago. On numerous occasions, I watched her go over to her filing cabinet, open the drawer, and pull out a folder with answers to all of my questions. Every time she did this, I couldn't help but think of Mary Poppins, the magical English nanny who could pull virtually anything out of her traveling carpetbag. It was all there...always. How she knew to save those exact documents of the many she receives on a daily basis and how she could retrieve them so quickly was beyond me, but I'm grateful that she always could.
I know that many of you in this room have known Evelyn for decades, and that you will agree with me when I suggest to you that another historical figure with qualities that Evelyn personifies is Lady Diana. Although public sentiment regarding Lady Diana is mixed, one thing that is beyond debate is her intense compassion and concern for others. Remembered as an angel to the down trodden, stories abound about how she listened, how she placed others at ease, how she remembered, how she was kind. Each is also true of Evelyn. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen her ask another how they or their loved one's were feeling after an illness, bring bagels to work to celebrate someone's birthday, or say a kind word of encouragement when someone was feeling down. As with Lady Diana, much of Evelyn's outreach occurred behind the scenes with phone calls to those in the hospital or recovering at home, or notes left on someone's desk that brightened their day. Even in planning her retirement luncheon, Evelyn's compassion for others was evident; when asked about what type of gift we could give her to honor her long and faithful service, Evelyn asked that she be given nothing, but that a donation be made to the victims of the Haiti earthquake instead. I've never known a previous retiree to do the same; like Lady Diana, Evelyn has set a new charitable standard.
Another of Evelyn's qualities that has struck me over the past year is how quiet she is about her many accomplishments. Years ago, my daughter was a competitive dancer. During one competition, we saw a beautiful young dancer named Davina, who absolutely floored me with her stunning performance. After her performance, I met her in the hall, and she was one of the sweetest, most humble people I'd ever met. Only later did I learn of her countless accomplishments and awards; in speaking with her, you never would have known that she was one of the top rated dancers in the nation. Over the years as my daughter experienced success, I often reminded her to "be like Davina," to dance as well as you can, but to never be boastful about your accomplishments or let success inflate your ego. Evelyn is like Davina. Throughout her many years of service, she has earned numerous awards and citations, but she never speaks of them. She simply does her job and works hard to contribute to the best of her ability on a daily basis.
Although I wasn't able to locate records all the way back to 1969, I could go back to May of 1995 when Evelyn was commended for her significant contribution to the installation's successful transition to becoming the Soldier Systems Command. A key member of the Concept Plan Team, the Concept Plan she helped develop was hailed as the "cleanest and most complete Concept Plan received in the AMC Headquarters in recent years." As a result of Evelyn's efforts, the plan was approved without delay.
Later that year, Evelyn was also recognized for her exceptional performance working to develop the Soldier Systems Command Business Plan, and for her work as a member of the mini-Professional Development Institute Committee. Not only did she receive the 3rd Quarter Resource Management Directorate Team Award and a certificate of commendation for her work formulating and executing the multi-faceted activities of the mini-PDI, but she was also awarded the1st Tier Award for Administrative Excellence for her leadership in bringing together representatives from across the installation to develop a roadmap for the installation's future in less than six months.
Once the Business Plan was approved, Evelyn did not rest on her laurels. During the next year, Evelyn worked hard to implement the plan by promoting, evaluating and directing each of the business planning initiatives. She was again officially commended for her exceptional performance in carrying out this significant initiative, and was awarded the Commander's Award for Civilian Service. In her citation, the Business Plan she worked so hard on developing and implementing was lauded as a foundation for the Strategic Planning Team to use in defining the command's journey into the new millennium.
By this time, Evelyn was well established as a "go to" person throughout the Installation. This led to her assignment as a member of the President's Quality Award application team. Her exceptional work and that of her whole team resulted in the Soldier Systems Command being selected as one of six Army finalists for the President's Quality Award at the federal level. It also led to her matrixed assignment to the Planning and Operations Directorate to help with the development of the Strategic Plan, and her selection to head the newly formed Business Planning and Performance Division. Of course she excelled at both, and she was again commended for her work as the architect of the Soldier Systems Command Strategic Plan, and was selected for the Planning and Operations Directorate Teamwork Award.
Over the years the accomplishments and accolades continued for Evelyn's many contributions to the command's success. An agent of change, she was promoted in July 2001 to Deputy Director of Resource Management for the Research Development and Acquisition Enterprise, and in 2003 appointed to serve as Team Leader for the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center. In July 2004 she was again promoted to her current position as Chief, Plans, Analysis and Integration Office where she directs and manages top level, high visibility efforts involving strategic and business planning, and continuous improvement and program integration. While her accomplishments continued to be impressive, I'd like to fast forward to 2006, when Evelyn was nominated for the Installation Management Agency Stalwart Award. This is an extremely prestigious award given only to those whose accomplishments are exemplary and an inspiration to others. To even be nominated for the award reflects the high esteem with which Evelyn was regarded, and her consideration by others within the command as being "the best of the best."
Yet Evelyn was not just nominated once for the award. The work she did after her first nomination in serving as the lead proponent for implementing Common Levels of Support and developing a communications plan to ensure stakeholders were well informed, deploying Lean Six Sigma, leading the transition to the Standard Garrison Organization, serving as the National Security Personnel System transition manager, and acting as the Deputy Garrison Commander earned her a second selection as the Garrison's Stalwart Award nominee. With 38 performance awards and bonuses and two Commanders Awards for Civilian Service demonstrating a clear pattern of success and superior accomplishment, I imagine it would have been hard to select anyone other than Evelyn as the "best of the best." Most recently, Evelyn was awarded the Department of the Army's Superior Civilian Service Award. This award recognized her distinguished service during her career of over 40 years, and consistent quest for improvement, commitment to the highest standards of professionalism, and exemplary performance of duty.
While Evelyn has been like Davina, producing remarkable work and earning numerous awards, but never letting her success go to her head, she has also been like the little Dutch boy who, while passing a dyke on his way to school, noticed a small leak through which sea water was trickling in. Knowing that the small leak could develop into a terrible breach that could flood the entire country, the Dutch boy put his finger into the leaking dyke, and stayed there all through the night in spite of the cold, until the adults of the village found him and made repairs. As you just heard and as I've often witnessed in my short time with the Garrison, when there is a leak in the dyke, Evelyn is repeatedly the one who is called on to plug the leak, and she always does so cheerfully and well, in spite of the personal sacrifices doing so routinely requires her to quietly make. Even this month, only weeks before her retirement, she was fulfilling special assignments; the reason for this is clear....when you want the best of the best, you call on Evelyn.
What a great career you've had, Evelyn, and what a terrific job you've done throughout almost forty-one remarkable years. As you go, we will miss you. We will miss your Jackie Kennedy like style, intellect, grace, class and authority; your Lady Diana like concern and compassion; your Davina like superb performance coupled with your humble attitude; but we will miss most the fact that you are absolutely, positively supercalifragilisticexpialidocious like Mary Poppins. Once you've retired, new people will attempt to plug the leaks in the dyke, but I know our fingers will not be anywhere near as effective as yours. You're leaving the Army full of memories and experiences that I am sure you'll always treasure just as we will always treasure our time spent with you. During your career, you have touched so many lives; thank you for your dedication, hard work, and leadership. We all wish you the very best in retirement.