Joel Gonzalez, lauded as a ‘very creative thinker,’ wins a 2020 Amy J. Blue Award

Joel Gonzalez, a media technician in Event Services, will receive an Amy J. Blue Award on Feb. 11. The award honors staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

By Kathleen J. Sullivan

As an undergraduate majoring in biology at the University of the Philippines in the early 1980s, Joel Gonzalez thought he might one day become a doctor.

But a summer class in a style of documentary filmmaking known as ‘cinema direct’ helped set him on a completely different career path, one that would eventually include producing television documentaries focused on poverty and rebellion in the Philippines.

“I was working in TV right before coming to the United States,” said Gonzalez, who is a 2020 recipient of an Amy J. Blue Award, which honors staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

Gonzalez is a media technician in Stanford Event Services, which provides audiovisual services in a variety of campus settings, including meeting rooms, classrooms, lecture halls and auditoriums, as well as outdoor venues, such as the Main Quad.

Members of the Stanford community who nominated Gonzalez for the award described him as a “very creative thinker,” and as a calm and patient professional. They said he never seeks credit for himself but is eager to recognize the accomplishments of others.

“Joel honestly cares about the outcome of every project and he doesn’t give up until he achieves the best outcome,” said Kerry Watkins, director of Event Services. “Joel’s goal is not to be remembered, but to have event presenters get accolades and credit for excellent presentations.”

Darin Evans, senior event manager of Event Services, summarized his description of Gonzalez in three words: “definitely, absolutely, extraordinary.”

One of three Amy J. Blue Award winners

Gonzalez is one of three Stanford employees who were recently named 2020 Amy J. Blue Award winners. The other recipients are Arthel D. Coleman, Jr., manager of student residential services at the GSB Residences, and Cindy Ng, the Scott J.J. Hsu Director of the Asian American Activities Center.

The winners will be honored in an online celebration at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. Elizabeth Zacharias, vice president for human resources, will be the featured speaker. The link to the Zoom meeting is here. This year’s winners will also be invited to attend an in-person ceremony – likely to be held in the fall – that will also honor the 2021 cohort.

To Stanford via the Philippines

Gonzalez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1984, spent more than a decade working for nongovernmental organizations in the Philippines. He prepared educational materials – slide shows, graphic books, pamphlets – to help improve the lives of impoverished Filipino farmers. He also worked as a communication specialist in the Office of the President.

By the time Gonzalez arrived in California, his resume also included more than a decade working in television in the Philippines, including sound engineering, camera operation, video editing and producing. He joined the Stanford community in 2007.

Gonzalez, who is now one of 14 media technicians working in Event Services, said he enjoys working on a team that includes colleagues, friends and managers.

“Together we create a wide spectrum of audiovisual experiences at Stanford and it is so satisfying when all of our efforts come together,” he said.

Staff members who nominated Gonzalez for the award described him as “a creative thinker who always comes up with ways to enhance a project,” all in his characteristic respectful and thoughtful way.

Gonzalez is often called upon to direct projects that require two or more cameras such as the signature events of New Student Orientation: the welcome-to-Stanford variety show produced by students and the conversation with the president and the provost.

Kelly Doran, assistant director of facilities at the Hoover Institution, said Gonzalez always “goes above and beyond” the call of duty.

“If Joel is in the technician’s booth, he is 100 percent engaged in seeing how he can make it better,” Doran said. “If someone is on stage and has a problem, Joel steps up to help in the most unobtrusive way. He is a shining star.”

Gonzalez laughed when he learned that someone who had nominated him for the Amy J. Blue Award had praised “his” trick for reviving a limp flag with a wire coat hanger. He attributed the technique to an aide of a former governor and said it’s an easy fix for a common problem.

With most of the campus closed due to the pandemic, Gonzalez and his colleagues have taken on a new role as Safety Ambassadors, who walk around outdoor areas of the academic zones on the main campus to check building signage and document compliance with county guidelines and university protocols for limiting the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s a pretty serious undertaking, but it has some perks,” Gonzalez said. “I get my steps in – 20,000 to 40,000 a day, and I get to shoot pretty pictures of campus with my iPhone.”