How our staff members have practiced safety and displayed heroism

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

There are times in UNC Charlotte history when staff members have made critical decisions in emergency situations at their own expense and safety, displaying great acts of heroism and saving lives. 

Each year, UNC Charlotte recognizes employees demonstrating outstanding judgment or courage in an emergency, whether they’re off duty or on the clock. This includes voluntarily risking their life or exhibiting extraordinary action to prevent injury, loss of life or prevented damage to or loss of property. The “safety and heroism” category is the last of the five categories of awards through the Staff Employee of the Year Program, and the only category where more than one employee can win. 

Jeff Baker, Virginia Funetes, Brent Offenberger and John Renwick are a few employees who displayed heroic acts in recent years.

UNC Charlotte Police and Public Safety Chief Jeff Baker was recognized for not only his impact on campus safety for over a decade, but for his actions following the shooting on April 30, 2019. In a letter nominating Baker, Dean of Students Christine Reed Davis wrote, “I can think of no other staff member this year more deserving of recognition for courage, outstanding judgement and heroism than Jeff Baker.”

Vehicle operator for PaTS, Virginia Fuentes, was named Employee of the Year under the category of safety and heroism for going above and beyond for an injured police officer. On July 9, 2017, Fuentes saved a police officer after the officer veered off the road and hit a hillside. She called 911 while she radioed campus police, running to assist the officer and stayed until medics arrived. 

Brent Offenberger, a master plumber in facilities management, was honored with this award for his actions during June 2016. He was expecting a quiet day of fishing with his teenage son and father-in-law when a helicopter came crashing down in front of them. Offenberger and his family immediately sprang into action, helping the three uninjured passengers aboard.  

John Renwick, a facilities management Zone 4 staff member, was also honored in the safety and heroism category. On June 3, 2013, Renwick spotted a man in a stopped car that was blocking traffic. Discovering the man was in a diabetic shock, he immediately assisted and had a bystander call the police. 

Many employees stepped up to the plate and responded to the emergencies that arose in 2020. If there’s a colleague you’d like to nominate or would like to know more about nominating before March 12, additional information can be found on the Human Resources website.