Massey Award: Schoenfeld `indispensable’ at Public Health
This is the third in a series on the four winners of the 1996 Massey Award.
Experienced wisdom, unvarnished candor and the ability to offer nonthreatening advice–always with a desire to help others.
Colleagues in the School of Public Health as well as the University community long have attributed these characteristics to Ernest Schoenfeld, the school’s associate dean for administration.
Schoenfeld has served the school for 24 years in various capacities.
He has been associate dean since 1986 and for the past six years also a lecturer in the Department of Health Policy and Administration. From 1973 to 1984, he served as assistant dean for operations and management, then moved to the associate vice chancellor for health affairs post until assuming his current position.
“Ernie Schoenfeld is a dedicated and loyal public servant,” said Dean Michel A. Ibrahim. “If there is anyone who may be characterized as indispensable to an organization, Ernie would be that person.”
Because of his long-standing commitment to help others and his track record of success in solving problems, Schoenfeld was selected to receive a 1996 C. Knox Massey Award for distinguished service.
With a well-earned reputation for interpersonal skills, Schoenfeld was drafted by the University for tough tasks outside his home base, according to the award citation.
These tasks include chairing three search committees–a UNC systemwide search for a director for the Institute of Nutrition as well as campus searches for a dean of the School of Dentistry and an associate vice chancellor of business. He also was asked to chair the first Universitywide Performance Pay Review Board.
Schoenfeld has administered his duties with distinction, according to the citation.
“This modest, diligent, considerate, kindly man has brought the same luster to those broader assignments,” the citation said.
H. Garland Hershey, vice provost for health affairs, called Schoenfeld a consummate administrator.
“He brings to his work a wealth of academic and management experience, broad and deep understanding of this University, and an absolute commitment to support in every way possible his fellow faculty, staff and students,” Hershey said. “All of this is accomplished with a calm, pleasant and positive approach to resolving whatever issue is before him.”
Schoenfeld referred to his role as that of facilitator.
“I help others do their jobs,” he said. “In many ways, I’m like a therapist. If a person comes to me with a problem, I try to help them identify a range of solutions.
“Sometimes, the best solution is not immediately obvious. Sometimes it involves bringing in other people and other ideas. Often, it involves negotiating relationships.”
Fundamental to Schoenfeld’s role, he said, is enhancing the education process.
“The most important thing at the University is the education of students,” he said. “The faculty are here to teach, to do research and engage in public service. My role is to help our faculty members in these capacities.”
Ibrahim said Schoenfeld was a vital University resource.
“His contribution goes beyond the School of Public Health,” Ibrahim said. “The University often calls upon him to resolve critical issues and concerns.”
Actually, being called upon to meet that challenge seems to be one of Schoenfeld’s greatest rewards.
“I believe in the education process and its importance to our economy and the collective good,” he said. “Through education, people do better for themselves and form a better society.”
At Carolina, he added, the process of educating students is enhanced because people work well together without constructing barriers.
“For example, the School of Public Health has an excellent relationship with the other schools in the Division of Health Affairs, and we are thus able to collaborate on many projects,” he said.
The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which involves cooperation among the five health schools, is an example, he said. When funding was sought, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that would be an impossible relationship, Schoenfeld said.
“But they were wrong,” he added. “It has been very successful.”
Key to Schoenfeld’s success as a problem-solver is liking what he does.
“The most rewarding thing about my job is being able to help someone get the job done more easily than they could otherwise,” he said. “Of course, I don’t always know immediately that I’ve had that effect.
“But, to be successful, you can’t always wait for the pat on the back. You have to like what you do.”
A self-described helper who likes to see his school and University do well, Schoenfeld said having an impact on others was the driving force behind his commitment.
“Ernie Schoenfeld always wants to be part of the solution to an important University problem, knowing full well the enormous time commitment it will entail,” Ibrahim said.
Hershey echoed the sentiment: “His good works have had a substantial and significant impact on the University at Chapel Hill.”
Originally published by University Gazette: June 5, 1996