By Amanda J. Richard 

Recognizing the Department of State’s amazing employees who serve bravely and selflessly worldwide is typically done during an elegant ceremony held in the Harry S. Truman Building’s exquisite Benjamin Franklin room. While the 2020 event—the first-ever virtual awards ceremony—may have lacked the glamour of a ballroom, it was resplendent with gratitude and appreciation. Held via the WebEx online meeting platform, Dec. 1, employees around the world gathered from remote locations to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of employees who embody the Department’s values and time-honored traditions, both at home and abroad. Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Global Talent Carol Z. Perez provided opening remarks and thanked the Bureau of the Global Talent Management’s Office of Performance Evaluation for their coordination of the online event. 

“It’s always important that we recognize and reward the work of our people, but never more [so than] when times are tough,” said Perez. “It brings me great satisfaction that despite the challenges of the last year, we’ve been able to carry out this award ceremony virtually.” 

Perez shared her regrets that the event could not take place in person in Washington but highlighted employees’ resilience and flexibility to consistently serve—even amid a global pandemic.

“There’s such talent, there’s such dedication, there’s such professionalism, and there’s such a commitment to our mission,” said Perez. “I could not be prouder to serve with all of you.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recorded a video message expressing his gratitude and highlighting four extraordinary individuals who showcased some of what the group of 30 honorees have accomplished within the past year. He shared the “One Team” award winner, Jessica Davis Ba from Embassy N’Djamena, who transformed her team into one of the most agile public diplomacy forces engaging directly with the public in a dangerous part of the world. Pompeo also announced the first recipient of the inaugural Keith J. Krach Award for Excellence in Economic Security, Rolland De Marcellus. Marcellus helped secure global consensus on transparent infrastructure investment and sovereign lending led by the U.S. private sector to confront the predatory, unfair economic practices of the People’s Republic of China. Finally, Pompeo recognized the 2020 Global Foreign Service National of the Year Award winner and runner up—Abdullah “Hadi” Abdulhadi and Dalia Sava—who provided superior performance in protecting the lives of U.S. citizens overseas.

After Pompeo’s message, Bureau of Global Talent Management Deputy Assistant Secretary Jeanne M. Juliao announced and virtually awarded the 2020 recipients. While the ceremony didn’t allow for congratulatory handshakes or photos, Juliao highlighted how attendees were making use of the chat box, allowing friends, family, and colleagues to congratulate the winners from around the world on these well-deserved honors—embodying a true 2020, socially distanced, act of appreciation.

Amanda J. Richard is the multimedia editor of State Magazine.

2020 Award Winners: Click on names to view citations.

2020 Award Winner Citations

Abdulhadi “Hadi” Abdullah

Foreign Service National of the Year Award (NEA – Department)

For sustained superior performance in protecting the lives, well-being, and interests of U.S. citizens.

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Ambassador John P. Abizaid

Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service

For exemplary leadership of the U.S. Mission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and for advancing key U.S. foreign policy priorities, including strengthening the U.S.-Saudi security partnership, promoting a peaceful resolution to the Yemen conflict, and ensuring the security, morale, and welfare of the Mission and American citizens in Saudi Arabia.

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Jessica Ba Davis

The One Team Award

For exemplary leadership of Embassy N’Djamena in empowering staff, directing outward-facing engagement, and modeling the Department’s professional ethos. Her efforts have improved the bilateral relationship between the United States and Chad and inspired and empowered the Mission team. 

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Oscar Baez

Linguist of the Year Award

For exceptional depth and breadth of language expertise and application of those skills in pursuit of the Department’s mission and American foreign policy priorities.

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Charles Baier

Post Occupational Safety and Health Officer of the Year Award

For his sustained and collective efforts that have broadly raised the Department’s safety posture and truly created a “culture of safety” within the U.S. Mission to Morocco in Rabat, Casablanca, and Tangier.

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Steven Bitner

James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence

For sustained excellence in guiding U.S. engagement with the Kingdom of Denmark to achieve shared objectives in the Arctic, including the re-opening of the consulate in Nuuk, Greenland, and key priorities in the Department’s security partnership.

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Paul A. Brown

Cordell Hull Award for Economic Achievement by Senior Officers

For outstanding leadership in advancing top White House and Department priorities in Africa—expanding trade and investment ties, allocating hundreds of millions of dollars of COVID-19-related assistance, and countering China’s malign influence.

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Marialice Burford de Castillo

Leamon R. Hunt Award for Management Excellence

In recognition of her extraordinary achievements as a management counselor at Embassy Mogadishu. For her tireless efforts in opening a new embassy facility in a hostile environment, creating and nurturing an effective management operation, and fostering a diplomatic presence that resulted in strengthening strategic and bilateral goals.

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Federico Casso

Special Agent Daniel E. O’Connor Memorial Award for Excellence in Site Security Management

For sustaining outstanding performance and innovative leadership as site security manager at the new consulate compound (NCC) construction project in Guadalajara. He managed all security aspects of a $330 million construction project while in a city impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCC project was the first in Mexico to resume operations, and his new screening process was immediately adopted by Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations security management headquarters for use worldwide.

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William Childers

Contracting Officer Representative of the Year

In recognition of his outstanding performance as a contracting officer’s representative during the ordered departure of Embassy Baghdad. His dedication ensured that functions remained supported despite the significant reductions in contractor and embassy personnel.

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William Christensen

Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development

For superior leadership in demonstrably and tangibly advancing U.S. commercial and trade interests as director of the American Institute in Taiwan.

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Anne Coleman-Honn

Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women
s Role in Policy Formulation

For her leadership and creativity in promoting women’s political and economic inclusion.

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Diane Corbin

Foreign Service Office Management Specialist of the Year Award

In recognition of conspicuous and exceptional performance of duties in transitioning and enhancing embassy operations from an expeditionary Mission in Mogadishu, Somalia—a high threat war zone.

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Todd Crank

David E. Foy Memorial Award for Excellence in Facility Management

For his exceptional performance and achievements as an FS-03 facility manager in Harare, Zimbabwe. Under his remarkable leadership and resourcefulness, the facility management team exceeded customer expectations and delivered exceptional service during hyperinflation and power, fuel, and water shortages in Harare. He delivered high-quality service, reduced costs, and improved morale.

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Rolland De Marcellus

Inaugural Keith J. Krach Award for Excellence in Economic Security

For delivering Under Secretary Krach’s vision to secure global consensus on transparent infrastructure investment and sovereign lending led by the U.S. private sector to confront the predatory, unfair economic practices of the People’s Republic of China.

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Cole Donovan

Inaugural Keith J. Krach Award for Excellence in Economic Security (Runner-up)

In recognition of his critical efforts to rally U.S., European, and Japanese efforts to host the next mega-science accelerator, and in so doing, thwart Chinese ambitions to gain dominance in high energy physics and control the resulting environmental, energy, commercial, and security technologies associated with the expansion of knowledge.

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Sebastian Dreifert

Haydee Martinez Memorial Award for Post Occupational Safety and Health Officer Assistant of the Year

For consummate professionalism as safety program coordinator of the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt showing exceptional leadership through effective mishap corrective actions, organized training, diligent inspections, and effective community communications under challenging circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Christopher Dumm

Luther I. Replogle Award for Management Improvement

For exceptional ingenuity and innovation in coordinating the evacuation and sustainment of the Mission China official community following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China.

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Kathryn Edwards

Sean Smith Innovation in the Use of Technology Award

For speeding Americans to safety and minimizing the risk of coronavirus exposure to Embassy Banjul and airport staff by creating an innovative web-based data collection and form-filling merge tool, now adopted by the Bureau of Consular Affairs as a global, standardized “best practice.”

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Ana Escrogima

Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award

For providing guidance and mentorship to professionals in underrepresented groups of entry and mid-level Foreign and Civil Service officers and bringing to life the tenets of inclusion that support the Department’s recruitment and retention goals.

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Kathleen FitzGibbon

James A. Baker Award for Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission

For outstanding leadership of the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, promoting interagency collaboration, advancing the U.S.-Nigeria bilateral relationship, mentoring the next generation of Department leaders, and masterminding U.S. influence shaping Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemic responses.

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Hatab Fadera

Foreign Service National of the Year Award (AF Runner-up)

For consistent superior performance to ensure the success of the full range of public affairs section activities in support of The Gambia’s transition to democracy, strengthening U.S.-The Gambia relations.

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Calli Fuller 

Director General’s Award for Excellence in Human Resources (Category I Winner)

In recognition of her outstanding leadership, integrity, and commitment to the mission of the Bureau of Global Talent Managements’ Office of Employee Relations Conduct and Suitability Division while providing the highest level of professionalism and compassion to employees worldwide.

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Taimoor Hassan

Foreign Service National Financial Management Award

In recognition of his superior performance as Mission Pakistan’s senior financial specialist for staff development, superb execution of ICASS, implementing new technology to streamline vendor payments, implementation of vendor/grantee portal, addressing taxation issues, reducing the Mission’s reliance on cash, unliquidated obligations reviews, and service to the community.

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Elizabeth Hoffman Franolich

Herbert Salzman Award for Excellence in International Economic Performance

For her exemplary contributions to advancing U.S.-Mexico economic relations and strengthening regional competitiveness. Her achievements were instrumental to the successful negotiations, congressional approval, and entry into force of the USMCA, in addition to preserving critical supply chains during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Charles Hughes

General Services Officer of the Year

For sustained extraordinary performance from August 2018 through May 2020 as the senior general services officer in Embassy Kabul. He reduced costs, strengthened management controls, and oversaw numerous improvements during a period of unremitting, extraordinary change as Embassy Kabul moved hundreds of employees, downsized by 40 percent, and responded to the COVID pandemic.

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Ambassador Thomas Hushek

Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership

For his outstanding leadership of Embassy Juba that has created a unified team promoting peacebuilding and providing humanitarian and development assistance to the people of South Sudan.

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Berenice Mariscal 

Barbara M. Watson Award for Consular Excellence

For her consistent excellence in all aspects of consular work, her leadership in a time of crisis, and for her commitment to mentorship, team resilience, and operational efficiency in a particularly challenging environment.

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Arnold Maxhelaku

Foreign Service National of the Year Award (EUR Runner-up)

For his extraordinary efforts to protect the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Albania during a year marked by two major earthquakes and the COVID-19 global pandemic. His phenomenal contributions advanced a top Department of State priority and embodied the United States’ unwavering dedication to its citizens overseas.

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Molly McCormick

Foreign Service Construction Engineer of the Year Award

For her exemplary work in her Foreign Service assignment to Beirut, Lebanon, supporting the construction of the new embassy compound project. For her sustained outstanding performance in successfully managing complicated, major projects. Despite the challenges of her first assignment—and double and triple—stretching into acting roles during that assignment, she led her team and the contractor in a context of menacing security threats, civil unrest, and COVID-19 pandemic challenges to keep the project moving on time and within budget. 

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Emily Miles 

L. Nicholas Ruwe Eligible Family Member of the Year Award

For sustained performance at Embassy Ouagadougou during a challenging period of crisis and hardship.

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Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet

Excellence in Multilateral Diplomacy

In recognition of her determination, professional skill, and flexibility in producing concrete successes for U.S. foreign policy at the United Nations.

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Matthew Percival

Robert C. Bannerman Diplomatic Security Employee of the Year

In recognition of his innovation in developing a revolutionary radio frequency detection platform and his leadership in transforming this idea into a program for the entire U.S. government.

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Ayesha Pirzada

Foreign Service National of the Year Award (SCA Runner-up)

For playing a vital role in the socialization, implementation, and overall readiness of Pakistan for formal partnership with the United States under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

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Erik R. Quam

Secretary’s Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs 

For working tirelessly to analyze China’s military-civil fusion strategy, raise concerns about the breadth and scope of this new threat, and develop prescient, impactful policy recommendations to improve the security of the United States relative to China’s efforts. His efforts have transformed how the United States and its international partners approach China. 

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Toy Reid

Director General’s Award for Impact and Originality in Reporting

For sustained exceptional reporting that enhanced U.S. ties with Taiwan and improved policymakers’ understanding of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China.

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Robert A. Romanowski

Mary A. Ryan Award for Outstanding Public Service

For his outstanding leadership in supporting the repatriation of more than 100,000 U.S. citizens during the ongoing pandemic through his work on the Repatriations Taskforce, his interagency coordination and support for his team.

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Dalia Sava

Foreign Service National of the Year Award (WHA Runner-Up)

For sustained special contributions to achieving U.S. government foreign policy goals, including exceptional leadership in service to U.S. citizens, overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, overseeing the repatriation of more than 4,500 citizens, and serving families impacted by international parental child abduction.

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Jeffrey Scearce 

Chief Financial Officer’s Award for Distinction in Public Finance (Overseas)

For excellence in ensuring Mission China is able to meet strategic and performance goals despite evacuation, government shut-down, changes in Chinese law, and other challenges.

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Kelley Tynan 

Chief Financial Officer’s Award for Distinction in Public Finance (Domestic)

For outstanding leadership and financial management as the deputy comptroller for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, working to ensure the bureau financial resources were managed in the best interests of the Department of State and U.S. taxpayers.

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Earl Underwood

Thomas Morrison Information Management Award

For vision and leadership in the face of a global pandemic that enabled Department of State employees worldwide the ability to telework and access critical applications from anywhere at any time.

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Paul M. “Pablo” Valdez

Frank E. Loy Award for Environmental Diplomacy

For building policy and technical relationships between the U.S. and Brazil to advance sustainable solutions to long-term environmental challenges and effectively respond to the 2019 Amazon forest fires crisis, Brazil’s largest-ever oil spill, and a major mining waste dam failure.

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Vanessa Vieira 

Director General’s Award for Excellence in Human Resources (Category II Winner)

In recognition of her persistent dedication to the highest standards, which consistently produced results with a Mission-wide and global impact. Her talent, vision, and ingenuity has been integral to the U.S. Consulate in Recife’s ability to positively support and develop its employees. 

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Fang Fang Wang

Foreign Service National of the Year Award (EAP Runner-up)

For quickly adopting new roles and responsibilities, establishing a network of new government contacts, and designing and executing evacuations of several hundred U.S. citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Jeffrey Weinshenker

Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy

In recognition of his vision, values, leadership, and humanity as chief of the press and executive communications unit of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

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Stacy D. Williams

Equal Employment Opportunity Award (Outstanding Leadership)

Through his hard work in establishing and leading the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs’ (WHAs’) Diversity Council, he has made WHA a model of better understanding and promoting diversity and inclusion, one that other bureaus actively seek to emulate.

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