IT’s Deigaard earns Elizabeth Gillis Award for commitment, leadership

IT’s Deigaard earns Elizabeth Gillis Award for commitment, leadership

Rice News staff

It seems tech-support people can be the most loved or the most loathed people, depending on whether they’ve just recovered an accidentally deleted research paper or reported that it’s gone forever.

Gillis, left, and Rice Board of Trustees chairman James Crownover,
right, present the Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service to
William Deigaard, director of networking, telecommunications and data
center in the Division of Information Technology, at a Feb. 7 ceremony.

There was no mistaking William Deigaard’s place in the Rice community’s heart at the Feb. 7 service awards ceremony. The director of networking, telecommunications and data center in the Division of Information Technology was the surprise recipient of the annual Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service, an honor he accepted to a roar of cheers and applause.

”He embodies all that is great about Rice,” said Elizabeth Gillis, namesake of the award established in 2000 to recognize the outstanding achievements and service by a staff member in support of the mission of the university.

Deigaard joins a select group of people known for their commitment and dedication to Rice, Gillis said.

Deigaard came to Rice as an undergraduate, began working for the university while still a student and continued on after he graduated in 1992.

Kamran Khan, vice provost for Information Technology, wrote in his letter nominating Deigaard for the award, ”William has a sustained history of innovation and leadership in his 16 years at Rice.”

During his tenure, he has been responsible for the launch of several IT projects, including the creation of the Symonds II Lab, a state-of-the-art facility that offers a novel learning environment for both instructors and students.

He has improved communications technology services for the Rice community, trimming costs in the process, Gillis said. He championed classroom technology needs and worked with faculty to implement video capture so that instructors could record and share videos of lectures, demonstrations and guest speakers, said Khan.

Deigaard also has stepped up during crises, such as unforeseen network disturbances and preparations of the network in anticipation of Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Deigaard’s responsibilities include ensuring the integrity of Rice’s infrastructure and making sure computers at Rice can talk to one another and connect to external networks and the Internet. He oversees the phone system and voice mail as well as the data center, which provides a secure environment for servers, clusters and other research and IT equipment that needs a stable and consistently powered environment with a controlled temperature.

Andrea Martin, director of enterprise applications, said, ”William is an enthusiastic advocate for Rice faculty, staff and students in all his endeavors. He doesn’t settle for incremental improvement, but looks for opportunities where a change or investment can take us to the next level.”

Among his current projects, Deigaard is managing the implementation of a new $22 million campus network and helping to build a stronger network foundation through the construction of a new data center on South Main Street.

Khan said, ”The network is a lifeline for the Rice community, and William has consistently ensured that this critical resource is available to the entire community to fulfill its mission of teaching, learning, scholarship, research and innovation.”

Rick Peterson, director of academic and research computing, wrote, ”William holds the big picture and the details — a necessary skill at a smaller research-extensive university — and he desires only to help make Rice better.”

His endeavors do not end with his job either. Deigaard is an associate of Wiess College, ”where he is involved in much more than helping students with their e-mail,” Gillis said.

”We are very indebted to William and the IT department for what they enable the rest of Rice to do,” she said.

Deigaard joins a distinguished list of recipients of the Elizabeth Gillis Award, including Suzanne King (2001), Melinda Sue Hutchings (2002), Nelson Correa (2003), Nancy Letness (2004), Adria Baker (2005) and Eusebio Franco (2006).

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