It was a lucky day for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program when Ellen Garshick joined the staff in 2007.
From her interviews, staff members saw that she was exceptionally talented. The long list of clients of her previous editorial work included prestigious organizations, and her publication samples demonstrated masterful skills. What also deeply impressed everyone from the start were her interpersonal skills. Such a mix of editorial expertise and social intelligence would have made her an asset for publications work in any organization. At BPEP, we recognized she would be an ideal fit for our collaborative work environment rooted in a structure of self-managed teams.
As Ellen settled into her job with the Baldrige program, coworkers from all functional areas were soon singing her praises. With humorous frequency during staff meetings, individuals offered kudos to Ellen for advancing projects in highly valuable, yet unforeseen ways. She developed a reputation not only for being generous in supporting wide-ranging work, but also for combining her brilliance with modesty to serve as a “hidden hand” in the innovation of both publications and the work processes that produce them.
By 2013, Ellen had won BPEP’s first Colleagues’ Choice Award from our agency (NIST). This award’s prestige derives from the unique requirement that the winner must have earned such a high level of peer admiration that coworkers as a group, independent of their supervisors, initiate and complete all paperwork to make the case for their nominee’s selection. In Ellen’s case, it was easy for BPEP colleagues to cite a multitude of reasons she deserved the award.
Not surprisingly, Ellen has earned other high honors from our agency during her tenure, including the 2017 Bronze Medal Award, which is the highest NIST medal for employees (silver and gold medals are awarded at the Department of Commerce level). Twice in recent years, Ellen also received NIST’s George A. Uriano Award, which recognizes outstanding group work.
Now, as Ellen’s retirement approaches, her colleagues wish for her to enjoy investing more time in her hobbies and community service activities. Yet, frankly, some of us are simultaneously reluctant to let her go! She has become seemingly irreplaceable, despite leaving ample project documentation—and selflessly timing her long-planned departure to a point when her key projects can sustain a transition in staff.
So we are grateful to Ellen, even as we will greatly miss her. We know we’ve been very fortunate to have worked with her for nearly 14 years. We appreciate that her time and talents have made BPEP products and services better, and also, it seems, helped people work better together.
Now it’s time to share Ellen’s own words. Following are her answers to some questions we asked about her career and future plans.
What are your most memorable experiences from working in NIST’s Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP) since 2007?
The first has to be the collaborative, self-managed team atmosphere at the program. Since the program is small and has a rotating set of big projects throughout the year, everyone needs to pitch in, and everyone does.
This cultural attribute is due in no small part to the leaders of the program since I arrived: first Harry Hertz and Jeff Lucas [BPEP’s director emeritus and former deputy director, respectively], and then Bob Fangmeyer [BPEP director since 2013]. They made it clear that they valued collaborating with others and helping their projects succeed just as much as they valued success at individually “owned” projects.
The second is learning, and eventually helping develop, the Baldrige Excellence Framework and leading the development of the Baldrige Cybersecurity Excellence Builder and Communities of Excellence Framework.
Starting out as a member of BPEP’s editorial team definitely helped: one of my first tasks was proofing a new version of the framework booklet against an old one, word for word! There was no better way to learn that every word is important. I’m grateful to Bob Fangmeyer and Harry Hertz and for teaching me to see the big picture—that the audience/customer for the framework is all U.S. organizations—and to see the connections that hold the framework together.
I also enjoyed—and will miss—interactions with the many Baldrige community members who unselfishly help the program: the Board of Examiners, the Judges Panel, the Board of Overseers, Baldrige Award recipients, and many others.
Would you please share highlights of your previous work before you came to NIST?
My road to BPEP was long and winding. My first career was as a teacher of English as a second language and academic skills to international scholarship students coming to the United States to attend college. I was lucky enough to spend a year in Beijing, China (through Georgetown University and the UN Development Program), helping establish an English language program for Chinese scientists planning to go abroad for conferences or university study. From this experience, I learned how many U.S. cultural aspects I had been taking for granted and how hard it is to acclimate to a different culture.
In 1986, I began my second career: doing editorial work on a freelance basis to see if I could work part-time while caring for my children. From this, I learned the useful skill of multitasking! This experiment lasted for 21 years and many books and other publications. It was at that point that I was hired by BPEP.
What do you most look forward to in retirement?
The freedom to plan my own schedule, to travel, and to spend time on activities I enjoy, such as sewing and gardening. I’m also hoping to volunteer regularly.
Readers: You are welcome to leave a comment below this blog to express good wishes for Ellen’s retirement this month.
Ellen, You were an incredible addition to the BPEP staff. I enjoyed working and learning from you - even if we don't capitalize "item" anymore! Your contributions will be missed by staff and the Baldrige community, as a whole. Best of luck to you in all you pursue!
Ellen, Congratulations on a wonderful career but we will miss you terribly.
Wow! Ellen started the first year that I was an examiner. I haven’t experienced the Baldrige program without her. Best of luck in retirement Ellen!
Very nice tribute Christine!
Ellen, Wishing you the best retirement possible. It really is nice to set your own schedule and do fun things of your choosing. Hopefully, the pandemic will wane, and freedom of getting out will once again be a part of all our lives. If so, I hope you get a chance to visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY. Kathie
Ellen has been so amazing to work with, and Communities of Excellence 2026 wouldn't be where we are today without her expertise and support. Ellen, we will miss you!
Ellen, warmest wishes and congratulations on your high-impact career! I feel fortunate to have worked with you on healthcare revisions and to have learned from your insights and editorial clarity. Thank you for your many contributions in helping us do a better job of running our organizations, and for your unflagging generosity of spirit.
It has been a genuine pleasure working with you for so many years, Ellen! It'll be a loss for the Baldrige Program, but know you are leaving a legacy -- your impact will be felt for years! Good luck on your next adventure.
Wow, congrats. Best of luck with your new adventures. I always admired your temperament and persistence with achieving your goals. BTW you made a great HRO during training.
Ellen, I know you'll be missed! It has been a pleasure working with you over the years. Best of luck as you move to the next milestone in your career.
Ellen -- Congratulations on your retirement. You are going to be GREATLY missed. I have enjoyed working with you so much over the years. You have provided you knowledge, your passion, and your kindness to this program and it is better for your efforts. I will miss you!
Ellen, you will be missed by your coworkers and the Baldrige Community as a whole. What a glorious end to an illustrious career. I’m proud that we collaborated on multiple projects for the Baldrige Program and community. Enjoy retirement, it truly is the next wondrous step in your life journey.
Ellen, CONGRATULATIONS! What a career and I am just so grateful to have had the opportunity to have learned so much from you and felt your continuous encouragement throughout the years I plowed through as an examiner and judge. You always will be an inspiration to me on how to handle any situation with calm and get a message across with pure clarity. Best of luck, which you may really not need, in whatever you choose to undertake in the years ahead. Stay healthy and happy always!
Congratulations on your well-earned retirement and than you for your leadership in guiding all of us examiners to clarity of thought, to concise yet comprehensive thinking, and to crisp writing in service to the organizations who graced us with their applications. The editorial team was and is a shining example of continuous improvement and learning!!
Ellen, congratulations on your retirement. Thanks for all your help to me as an examiner in helping me provide the best possible feedback to applicants. Best wishes on whatever you choose to do in retirement.
Best Wishes in ur retirement Ellen! It was a pleasure working w/u.
I enjoyed our collaboration over the years. You were a great asset to the Baldrige program. Enjoy your retirement.
Ellen, on behalf of The Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Board of Directors, thank you for your many years of selfless-service and dedication to the nation and the Baldrige Program. Your professionalism, talent, and collaborative spirit made a positive impact on the success of the Baldrige program. Your many friends, colleagues, and the entire Baldrige Enterprise, to include consumers of the Framework, are better thanks to your contributions. We wish you all the best in retirement!
No! I can't imagine BPEP without you, Ellen. I have LOVED working with you over the years. I'm so sorry that you'll be leaving, and yet I'm so happy for a fellow gardener to have time to enjoy her garden. With kind regards and all best wishes, Steffani
Ellen, enjoy your well-deserved retirement. I loved the opportunity to work with you on several teams - your sense of humor and guidance were invaluable. Best wishes as you transition to this next part of your journey and the opportunities that await you!
Sincere best wishes on your retirement. Now you can volunteer as an examiner and you won't have to bite your tongue anymore! It was a real pleasure to be in your training rooms and to have you assigned to teams where I served. Your calm and gentle guidance helped us to find the best in our applicants and the best in ourselves. Thank you so much for your service!
Ellen,Congratulations on your retirement. I like the Baldrige framework “burger”. All the best！
Many thanks for your kind comments and good wishes. I'll miss all the wonderful people in the Baldrige community!
Congratulations on your retirement! You have been the epitome of quality in a program devoted to its attainment. It was truly a pleasure working with you for so many years to spread the BNQP message. Best wishes as you begin a new adventure!
Ellen - I will always carry the mental image of you coming into our training rooms, quite literally "wearing the hat" of the CEO of the case study - and asking "what exactly do you expect me to DO with this comment?!?!?!" Making the learners smile makes the training more memorable, for sure!
Best wishes on the new phase of your life - I have no doubt that you will make smiles and learning blossom whatever you're doing!
It has been an absolute pleasure working with you! Your calm presence, intelligence, wisdom and kindness have impacted the lives of many. Thank you for all you have contributed to the Baldrige program. Through your many roles, you have helped make a difference for patients who receive safer care, students who get a better education, and others who enjoy improved products and services.
I will miss you and wish you every happiness in your next adventure!
Congratulations on your retirement Ellen! I still think of you as I (and team members) attempt to critique those Feed Back Ready Comments (FRCs). As a fellow quilter and examiner, I admire the Baldrige hamburger quilt. Good luck on your next adventure.