"It's great at least once a year to have a chance to take care of the staff that are always providing such important services for us," said Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education, as she circulated among the tables.
The midday picnic served as the culminating event of William & Mary's 2010 Employee Appreciation Day, a day set aside each year to celebrate the College's staff members and their contributions to the campus.
"Without the staff at William & Mary, in my judgment, this place would grind to a halt - a quick, screeching halt," President Taylor Reveley said in remarks to the hundreds of staff members in attendance.
"Our mission is education, but it takes an enormous amount of support from the staff - support of all sorts - in order for the faculty, the professors to do their best work in the classrooms, labs and library," he said. "So William & Mary staff, you are absolutely vital to this place. We have to have you. You really matter."
Reveley said that one of the fruits of the ongoing strategic planning at the College has been a new emphasis on diversity and community.
"We know that a wide range of ideas and perspectives and thoughts and cultures adds significant value to our community, and that we're all in this together," he said. "Everyone's work is very important."
Anna Martin, vice president for administration, noted the creation of the Staff Assembly as one of most important developments in the last year for College employees.
"The new assembly gives all of you a strong voice in the life and work of the College and at the Board of Visitors' table," she said, adding that they'd soon be electing officers to the new assembly.
Prior to Friday's lunch, an event was held in which staff members who had reached milestone work anniversaries were celebrated. George "Guy" Brown, a chef who has worked at William & Mary for 55 years was one of the people celebrated during that event. Though he was unable to attend the day's activities, Reveley acknowledged Guy's decades of service to the College during the lunch and called on a special guest to reveal a gift for Brown.
"Get me the Griffin," said Reveley.
Seconds later, the College's new Mascot - the Griffin -- appeared in the Wren Yard. With help from another staff member, he revealed a rocking chair, which will be given to Brown as a token of the College's appreciation. After the big reveal, the Griffin mingled among the crowd, giving employees high-fives and taking photos with them.
Another staff member was acknowledged during the lunch for her contributions to the College. Thomasine Lewis, a Marketplace employee, was this year's recipient of the Duke Award, which is given annually to an outstanding member of the College staff who exhibits exemplary service and dedication to William & Mary.
Several door prizes - including Busch Gardens tickets and a parking pass - were given out during the event, and all of the employees received reusable, blue bags as part of the College's DOT (Do One Thing) Campaign for sustainability.
But it was more than prizes and a free lunch that the employees enjoyed on Friday.
Beckie Pasipanki, administrative assistant for the William & Mary Law Review, said she cherished the opportunity to get together with her friends and colleagues from around the law school whom she does not necessarily get to see very often.
Jacqueline Blake, senior compensation consultant for human resources, echoed that sentiment.
"We're all so busy, we never get an opportunity to interact," she said. "And this is a day, like a big party, where we can all socialize, fellowship and have a great time."
Blake, who has been at William & Mary for 33 years, said that interaction is one of the best parts of the annual event, along with "seeing people's faces when the appreciation is show for their years of service."
Lesley Atkinson, director of donor relations for development, has been at William & Mary for eight years and has volunteered to serve at the event during each of those years.
"I think this is one the greatest events that we do," she said. "I love coming out here and helping. It's just a lot of fun."
Atkinson said that she wouldn't be able to get a lot of her work done without the staff.
"My administrative assistant is here, and we'd be lost without her," she said. "They absolutely support all of us in the mission of the College."