Recipient of the 2015 Schmitt Prize: Ruben Carmona
Ruben Carmona, a grill station cook in Caltech's Chandler Cafeteria, is the winner of the 2015 Schmitt Prize. The prize is awarded annually to Caltech staff members who embody the values and spirit of the Institute through their work, directly or indirectly supporting its research and teaching mission through the professionalism and commitment they bring to their jobs.
Carmona has been a Caltech employee since 2001, working in culinary services both on campus and at JPL. He began his career at Chandler Cafeteria, moving to JPL's Café 167 in 2002, where he worked for four years before returning to campus in 2006.
"I have been here almost 15 years, and I love it," Carmona said. "Working at Caltech, I feel like I am part of a family. When I see that smile from my customers—students, faculty, staff—it's a reward for me."
Carmona was nominated by an anonymous member of the Caltech community who testified to his dedication to his work as well as his grace under pressure, writing, "I challenge anyone to name another person on campus who, day in and day out, approaches his or her job with more enthusiasm, pride, and attention to detail than Ruben. No matter how colossal the crowd of hungry students, faculty members, and staff clustered around his station is, Ruben prepares each and every delicious meal with unmatched speed and professional skill."
The nominator also cited Carmona's unwavering good humor, attesting that "he is never anything but calm and courteous, no matter how chaotic it gets (and we all know how hectic the noon hour in Chandler can be). Even on the craziest days, Ruben will cheerfully go out of his way to accommodate a special request."
The prize was presented to Carmona on June 4 during the 60th annual Staff Service Awards, which honored staff members who have worked at Caltech for periods ranging from 10 to 45 years.
Carmona recalls his reaction to hearing his name called as the winner. "It was shocking," he says. "I'm still surprised; I can't believe it. I got a letter last week, and I knew I was nominated, and just knowing that was exciting for me. …This is incredible. Thank you. Thank you, everybody."
Senior director of dining services Jonathan Webster, who is Carmona's supervisor, noted that the dining services team was very excited about Carmona's honor.
"We are very grateful to have an employee as dedicated as Ruben on our staff," says Webster. "He has been a fixture at the Chandler grill station for over 15 years. One thing to note about the grill station is the constant heat: constant orders coming in, hot equipment all around, and hungry people waiting for their food. Ruben still has time to greet everyone cordially, chat with his regulars, and know his customers' 'regular' orders."
The Schmitt Prize was established in 2007 through the initiative of Thomas W. Schmitt, former associate vice president for human resources. Schmitt proposed the idea of a staff prize to senior administrators, and it was eventually funded by Ted Jenkins, Caltech alumnus (BS '65, MS '66) and trustee, who spent his professional career in the semiconductor industry. All staff members are eligible for this award and are nominated by members of the Caltech community.