FE&P’s Franco honored with Gillis Award

Rice News staff

After a flood of nomination letters, Rice University bestowed the Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service upon Eusebio Franco, director of custodial and grounds for Facilities, Engineering and Planning.

Franco has spent his 26 years at Rice dedicated to the success of people in his department. He supports English as a Second Language classes and computer training opportunities.

Presenting the honor Feb. 8 at the service awards ceremony, the award’s namesake Elizabeth Gillis lauded Franco’s contributions to the university. “[Eusebio’s] personal encouragement, support and mentoring have helped his employees learn English, gain promotions and move into office management and supervisory roles,” she said. “His initiatives in sustainable green cleaning practices, recycling programs and environmentally sensitive grounds practices have placed Rice on the cutting edge and made our campus the standard for universities and institutions across the country.”

When Franco came to Rice, the custodial and grounds department faced problems with high turnover, varying work quality, language gaps and low customer expectations. He quickly gained the respect and cooperation of the people in his department and went on to develop procedures and guidelines to increase the effectiveness of his department.

Above all, Franco gives his employees encouragement, support and mentoring. “In the many years I have known Mr. Franco, he has always encouraged me to continue learning,” one nomination letter stated. “I would not be a supervisor at this time if it were not for him encouraging me to continue with my education.”

Russell Price, assistant vice president for facilities, came to Rice the same year as Franco. “I’ve known [Eusebio] the entire time he’s been at Rice,” Price said. “He’s loyal to Rice and to his department. He is always around. If his staff is working, then he wants to be here.”

Price said Franco is committed to people — not just his staff, but all people at Rice. “He’s so dedicated,” he said. “He believes in his staff.”

One former custodian, who has been promoted within Rice to various office positions, wrote: “If it weren’t for Mr. Franco’s encouragement and support as a supervisor and mentor, I would not be where I am today.”

After working as a Rice custodian for 11 years, one nominator started filling in when office staff members were on vacation. When a receptionist position opened up, the former custodian became a full-time member of the office staff. “I remember Mr. Franco telling me, ‘If someone asks you to do something, never say you don’t know how. Instead, find out how and get it done,’” the letter of nomination stated.

Letters poured in about Franco, making him an obvious choice. The people writing the letters ranged from top university administrators to custodians and grounds specialists — all who have learned something from him.

One nomination letter hailed Franco this way: “Perhaps Mr. Franco cares for Rice so much because the mission of the university aligns so closely with his personal values. Mr. Franco conducts himself as if he believes that we each can learn something and teach something every day.”

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