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Note: This Article was published in AACE International's Source magazine
the original article can be found in the Special Focus Section of the February 2019 issue.

Elizabeth Harrison honored posthumously in 2018 with North Florida Section’s "You’re a Star” award

ORLANDO, Fla.—It has become a tradition of the North Florida Section, at its annual holiday meeting, to announce the Section’s most prestigious honor, the North Florida Section “You’re A Star” award. This award goes to a member who has made significant and outstanding contributions that have made a positive difference to the programs and activities of the Section.

At the December Section event, Section President John Orr announced that the 2018 North Florida Section “You’re a Star” award was being posthumously awarded to the Section’s late administrator and At-large Section Board of Director member, Elizabeth V. Harrison. She became an AACE member and North Florida Section member during the time her husband, Dave Harrison, was serving as Section President. Dave filled this role from 2005 until his untimely death in a car wreck in 2012. He had assigned Elizabeth to be the section’s newsletter editor and section administrator. After her husband’s death, she continued in these roles until her own passing in October 2018. Orr said the 2018 “You’re a Star” award was in honor and in memory of both Elizabeth and Dave. 

The award was presented to: Lynda and Bob Miller, daughter and son-in-law of Elizabeth and Dave Harrison. In presenting the award, Orr said, “Following the death of her husband, who was our former Section President, she provided continuous expert service as our administrator and made many highly significant contributions both as an active administrator and as one of our most dedicated leaders and supporters. Her experience running non-profit organizations has served to enhance our Section, and the enthusiasm, love, and degree of detail and effort she provided is unsurpassed!” Orr continued, “I can personally attest that she has always provided input, clarification and instruction throughout my entire experience as section president. We have nominated her several times in the past for this award, and she has always fiercely declined (refused and overruled, really!) all the attempts that we made to honor her. The Board had to race her every year to make sure that we paid her annual membership dues before she did it herself; she never would have accepted reimbursement! So, it is with a great sense of sadness, but with a firm conviction that there is a no more deserving candidate for this award than Elizabeth V. Harrison.” Speaking to Lynda and Bob Miller, Orr said, “I am honored to present the “You’re A Star” award to you this evening in honor of Elizabeth V. Harrison, Section Administrator and Board Director At-Large!”

Present for the award presentation was John Philbrick, Director – Region 3, serving on the AACE auxiliary Membership Board. Mr. Philbrick said, “David and Elizabeth Harrison both greatly helped the North Florida Section. David provided capable leadership as this Section’s President from 2007 to 2012. Elizabeth was truly remarkable in her support of the section as our administrator, lining up speakers, producing newsletters, delivering announcements of section events, helping to produce our meeting webcasts, and performing an assortment of other tasks. As I have been a part of the North Florida Section since 1995, I have been the beneficiary of both David and Elizabeth’s faithful support of our section for years. In 2017, I became AACE’s Region 3 Director. My previous involvement with AACE had never included serving as president of a local section, so it was helpful for me to be able to draw upon Elizabeth’s experience, as she provided advice about the impact that any of our decisions at the board or regional director’s level could have on the local sections. We wish to express our gratitude for David and Elizabeth’s willing, expert, and sacrificial service to AACE.”

President Orr noted that the 2018 Awards Committee was comprised of: Marlene Hyde, Eric Cannon, Fernando Villanueva, and Sam Griggs. He asked each of the committee members to pay tribute to Elizabeth with remarks. 

AACE International Past President Marlene Hyde, CCP EVP, who served during 2012-2013, and has been a member of the North Florida Section since 2007, said, “Our North Florida Section is truly indebted to both David and Elizabeth for their many years of dedicated service to AACE. David served as president of the section beginning in  2005, keeping the section going with interesting programs, awarding scholarships, and leading certification seminars. His wife, Elizabeth, was a partner throughout, keeping things on-track from an administrative standpoint. I moved to Orlando in 2007 and was pleased that the section was thriving. After David’s sudden death in a car accident in 2012, John Orr was elected President of the section and Elizabeth continued to dedicate her time to serving AACE as before. She handled all the administrative details, contacting speakers and following up with them, publishing the monthly newsletter, keeping track of all the myriad details of the section and compiling them into the annual submittal to headquarters which has resulted in the North Florida section continuously winning awards as a Gold or Platinum Section. Elizabeth Harrison passed away in late October 2018 and it has taken a number of our board members and president to step in to fill all the roles that we had learned to depend on Elizabeth for. In recognition of her long service, the North Florida Board voted unanimously to award Elizabeth Harrison the “You’re a Star” award for 2018. She had been voted to receive this award several times, but always, very modestly, turned it down. We are pleased to be able to award this posthumously tonight.”

Eric Cannon said, “I have been with the section for a little over 8 years and never met Elizabeth but only spoke to her either by email or telephone to get her suggestions or help. She has been the ‘glue’ in making this one of the most successful sections. I can’t say enough thanks for her endless service. God rest your soul, we will miss you dearly.”

Fernando Villanueva opened his remarks by asking, “Who was Elizabeth Harrison?” He said, “I didn’t know Elizabeth, I never had the privilege of meeting her in person and this is unfortunate. However, I knew Elizabeth as the spark plug that maintained our vibrant section. I knew Elizabeth as a tremendously organized lady that would not leave any rock un-turned until she got a task completed. I knew Elizabeth as that mysterious personality somewhere in the background of our AACE section that guided me and coached me until, ultimately, I received the Canaveral Council of Technical Societies (CCTS) award in 2014. I knew Elizabeth as the director and organizer of our section meetings, making provisions and making certain everything was detailed and in good shape for our meetings. I know that Elizabeth was a great and remarkable lady. Come to think about it, it turns out that I did know Elizabeth, she was everywhere the North Florida Section was, she touched many of our lives and now I know that I suffered a loss, I will sorely miss her. May she rest in peace.”

F. Sam Griggs said he felt a special kinship to Elizabeth because they shared an interest in genealogy. “When she learned that my mom’s maiden name was “Howard” and her mom’s maiden name was “Lavender,” her research showed that there were South Carolina marriages between the two clans, so indeed we might have been distant cousins,” noted Griggs. He added, “We worked very well together, I was always impressed with her energy and her versatility. She had all the traits that we look for in AACE. Plus, she had worked as an English teacher, an events planner and coordinator, as well as working with other professional organizations. A very versatile lady was she!”

He said Elizabeth could handle anything. She handled a myriad of duties including the section newsletter, website development, notifications to speakers, management, as well as preparing reports that are required by HQ. Griggs said, “It seems we need a committee to handle the tasks that Elizabeth had been doing and had been doing very well.”

He continued, “During her tenure, our local section received the Gold Section Recognition Award and was recognized at the AACE International Conference & Expo in San Diego. Griggs said, “While our section has very good leadership that was instrumental in earning the award, it is also understood that Elizabeth was the “glue” and a major driving force in helping our section earn the award. She was the one who maintained the records and submitted the reports and generally handled all the admin details.”

In the beginning, when Dave started working at Siemens as an electrical estimator/cost engineer, Griggs said he recruited Dave to become a member of AACE. Griggs added, “we got a bonus when Elizabeth moved to Orlando and joined her husband, our Section got Elizabeth and the rest is history.” Griggs shared a few personal stories about Elizabeth that he believes shows her “attention to detail” and her versatility.

He said over the years he has made presentations to the section. He noted, “In each case, I found Elizabeth to be very helpful and a stickler for detail. She would always send out reminders to make sure that we were on schedule for our presentations. She had been an English teacher, she had [a] great eye for detail. I would send her an advance copy and she would make helpful suggestions. Once, when she proof-read my presentation and suggested minor revisions, I told her that It was like being back in school again and I told her that she must have been an excellent teacher.”

After joining AACE, Griggs says Elizabeth became familiar with the association and its unique “rule book” of procedures, bylaws, and association rules. He said, “She had an eagle-eye for detail, and she had a good sense of humor.”

Griggs favorite memory is that Elizabeth was super-efficient. He says Dave told him that when they were about to buy their house in Deland (while she was still in Connecticut) that she was the one who took care of all of the details and reviewed the closing statements, the deed inspection, etc. Griggs said, “I had asked Dave if he had hired a real estate attorney to review the transaction, since they were from out of state, and Dave responded, “I don’t need an attorney, I have Elizabeth.” Griggs noted, “I will never forget that statement. Thought that was a neat compliment. And she even found a couple of errors in the closing papers and the purchase of the house had to be postponed until they (the real-estate people and title company) could fix the paperwork. You know, everything in the closing papers had to be correct. When they were not correct, Elizabeth pounced on the errors. Everything had to be fixed and repaired before the house purchase could be closed.” He said, “Elizabeth had familiarized herself with the real estate and title ‘rule book’ and saved them money and time by being knowledgeable of the rules and details. Griggs believes Elizabeth was the epitome of efficiency and excellence! He said she was a lovely gracious lady.

After Penny Whoolery, Manager of Certification, and Val Smith, Senior Credentialing Analyst, from AACE Headquarters, presented a video-remote program for the Section, Griggs volunteered to hand deliver certificates of appreciation from the Section to the two AACE staff members. The Certification Board was meeting the next week in Morgantown and Griggs is a Cert Board member. Griggs said Elizabeth was detail-minded and efficient. She had arranged the presentation for the section. He notes, “Right before I left, I received a nice email from Elizabeth thanking me for volunteering to hand-carry the certificates. He added, “Being Elizabeth, she wanted to make sure that we had ‘closed the loop” and that indeed I had not forgotten to carry the certificates. Typical of Elizabeth – efficient to the end.”

Griggs said Whoolery and Smith were both very complementary of Elizabeth and noted how much they enjoyed working with her to deliver their presentation. They told him, “she kept us on schedule.” Returning to Orlando, Griggs sent Elizabeth an e-mail with the tag line, “Mission Completed.” Uncharacteristically, he did not receive a reply from Elizabeth. It was not like Elizabeth to miss a reply, she was always very punctual. Later, the section learned the sad news that she had passed away.

Orr thanked Lynda and Bob Miller for attending and accepting the “You’re A Star” award on behalf of and in memory of Lynda’s mom and dad, Elizabeth V. and Dave Harrison. He said, “As we have heard from our other speakers, David and Elizabeth invested their efforts into the North Florida Section and its members. The two of them were truly the heart and soul of our section for many, many years; they represent a large part of who we are. Elizabeth was truly one of us, and we miss her very much.”

Previous winners of the North Florida Section’s “You’re a Star” award include: Joe Brown, Bill Sheerin, David Harrison, Susan Zimmerman, Dallas Lee, Del Younker, Sam Griggs, Marlene Hyde, Fernando Villanueva, and Eric Cannon

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