Stanford Report, May 12, 2004
Neil Hamilton: A 'responsive saint' who helped ease the pains of Oracle system
The implementation of new administrative systems in recent years -- a monumental undertaking -- has been accompanied by words like "pain" and "crisis." And in the case of the contributions made by financial analyst Neil Hamilton toward smoothing out the process, it also has inspired words like "tenacious" and "responsive." Even "saint."
The last is a description offered by Beth Elliott, administrative services manager for the Department of Psychology. "I don't state that lightly, because there are only a handful of people I would say that about." (And three already have received the Amy Blue Award, she added.)
"I can't imagine how it would have been during the implementation of Oracle without the support and nurturing characteristics of Neil, which we all have come to depend on," said Rosenna Yau, administrative services manager for the Department of Physics. "He is very caring. I think that's something that's important for someone in central administration. He can feel the pain of department administrators."
Hamilton, who works as a senior financial analyst for the School of Humanities and Sciences, hasn't been immune to the challenges posed by the new system. "It's been a rough couple of years," he allowed, although he quickly added that things are stabilizing. But he does have a philosophy about working through tough times. "You can make yourself miserable, but why do it?"
In addition to his regular duties, Hamilton has served as a member of a number of working groups who met throughout the implementation, including the authority and workflow and budget committees and the group that worked on implementing the new chart of accounts. "It was a whole new construct," Hamilton recalled. He was involved early in process and he said it helped later to remember how long it personally took him to learn the new structure. When helping to teach others, "I tried to provide lots of examples," he said.
Those who nominated Hamilton for an Amy Blue Award praised his constant helpfulness, his sharp intelligence and his patient and polite demeanor, even in trying circumstances. Hamilton is "simply one of the most service-oriented and even persons I've had the privilege to have on my staff," said Karen Nagy, executive dean for the School of Humanities and Sciences.
"When I am dealing with a difficult situation, I try and take the perspective of the person I'm talking with," Hamilton said. "If someone is upset, there probably is a reason for it."
Some of his people skills come from a source that might surprise some, he said -- a stint in the Army. Hamilton grew up in Ashland, Ohio, in the midst of "acres and acres of corn" and joined the Army with the intention of becoming a Russian linguist. High test scores earned him a spot at West Point; he left at the end of his sophomore year. He later enrolled at Stanford as a transfer student, where he studied symbolic systems and earned a degree in vocal music. (His application essay offers a clue to his peripatetic academic interests: He wrote about his enthusiasm for Bertrand Russell, the mathematician and philosopher who continued to explore a broad range of subjects throughout his life.)
Hamilton began working for Parking and Transportation Services as a student, and after taking business administration courses following his graduation in 1997, took a position at P&TS as an accountant. From there, he moved on to financial analyst positions in the School of Humanities and Sciences.
He has been married to his wife, Celandra, for nine years and has two young daughters. After his first daughter was born, Hamilton took seven months off to be a stay-at-home dad.
The fact that his colleagues nominated him came as a total surprise, he said. During the Oracle implementation, "sometimes I felt like a nag."
Nothing could be further from the truth, Nagy said. "Even when he wants something from the departments, he couches it in the most supportive and helpful way possible."