Not all heroes wear capes, but some of them do wear Niner gear from head to toe. That was the sentiment expressed by those who nominated Chris Gonyar ’05, ’07 MPA, this year’s recipient of the Employee of the Year (EOY) for Safety and Heroism.
As a part of the annual EOY ceremony, UNC Charlotte recognizes an employee who demonstrated outstanding judgement, courage or ability in an emergency situation or meritorious action or service to prevent injury, loss of life or damage to property. Described as a true, behind-the-scenes hero at UNC Charlotte, Gonyar dedicated his efforts to keep the campus community safe, healthy and informed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is probably safe to say that, for Chris, every day at work is a disaster waiting to happen,” wrote one supporter describing Gonyar’s responsibilities as director of Emergency Management. If an emergency situation or disaster occurs, Gonyar and his team in the Office of Emergency Management are prepared to respond with clear guidance and communication on what UNC Charlotte students, faculty, staff and visitors need to remain safe and healthy.
Gonyar and his team plan and coordinate all of UNC Charlotte’s operations, emergency preparedness, response and recovery during an emergency or disaster. This may include a threatening weather situation like a tornado or a hurricane, a campus closure due to ice or snow, a power outage, a law enforcement emergency or even a once-in-a-century, global pandemic like COVID-19.
As many of his nominators noted, Gonyar and his team were involved in virtually every aspect of the University’s COVID-19 response. That effort began on Jan. 24, 2020, when Emergency Management activated the Emergency Operations Center, and nearly a year and a half later, it is still fully operational as the University continues to respond to and recover from the pandemic.
As part of the University’s COVID-19 response, Gonyar and his team managed 32 coordinating committees and the Incident Management Team that developed all of the University's safety protocols.
He oversaw the COVID-19 registry and isolation and quarantine process. Gonyar and his team assessed every Niner Health Check response indicating diagnosis of or exposure to COVID-19 and made sure those individuals were synched with the appropriate University offices for follow-up and care. In the event that an on-campus student needed to enter quarantine or isolation, they handled that, too.
In addition, the Office of Emergency Management coordinated all surge testing efforts. Each time UNC Charlotte’s researchers detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the wastewater sampling of residence halls, Gonyar leads the response team to ensure affected residential students are notified, cared for and tested. They also coordinate the response posttest, notifying residents of their results and assisting those who test positive or who are exposed to the virus into isolation and quarantine.
Gonyar and the other Employee of the Year Award recipients were acknowledged at a virtual Employee of the Year awards ceremony and Staff Recognition event on April 23. If you missed the live event, you can watch a recording of it here.
“I cannot imagine anyone at UNC Charlotte who has done more to keep their fellow Niners safe in the past 12 months than Chris,” one nominator wrote. “No matter how long he has worked, how tired he is, he always finds it in himself to do more, placing the needs of the institution and others above himself. That certainly makes him a hero to me, and I hope it does to you, too.”