Bak, who has been a USD employee for 15 months, was nominated for the award by Kaius Helenurm, Ph.D., professor of biology because of her hard work, efficiency and, particularly, for her diligence in managing the diverse activities of the biology department.

“Renée is unfailingly polite, calm, cheerful and helpful,” said Helenurm in his nomination of Bak. “She is the most efficient secretary we have ever had and her work is of the highest quality.”

Surprised with the honor during a reception at Churchill-Haines Laboratories building on Tuesday, Oct. 6, Bak noted that she was grateful for the award and credited her coworkers for their help and friendship.

“I wouldn’t be as good as I am without the help of everyone around me at work, including faculty and staff,” admitted Bak. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the people I work with.”

Bak, a Mission Hill, S.D. native, began working in the Department of Biology at The U after working as a secretary in the Yankton School District. Because of the high level of research activity in the department, Bak is constantly submitting large numbers of forms for purchasing, employment, travel requests, reimbursements and invoices. She also manages funded grant and contact accounts, and ensures that work study and staff time sheets are completed for more than 50 employees.

“It’s very enjoyable for the fact that I get to meet a lot of interesting students,” added Bak, who resides in rural Mission Hill with her husband, Greg. “I also have an opportunity to learn a lot about the field of biology, so every day is a new challenge.”

A photo of Renée receiving her award from USD President James W. Abbott is available for download at

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