February 19, 2013 by Emily C. Kelley, NMSU News Center
Life can throw the unexpected at you, and New Mexico State University faculty members have a safety net to help with those circumstances: the Perozynski Employee Emergency Fund. Soon, the fund will be open to assist NMSU staff, too.
The Perozynski Employee Emergency Fund provides assistance for NMSU faculty – and soon staff – on all NMSU campuses, facing immediate, severe and temporary financial hardship due to an emergency. The program is managed through the Employee Assistance Program and a faculty/staff review committee, and is funded through private donations held by the New Mexico State University Foundation.
The fund is named for Lisa Baron Perozynski, a faculty member at the NMSU Carlsbad campus at the time of her illness in 1999. Perozynski developed complications from a surgery to remove a benign tumor. As a nine-month faculty member, she did not qualify for sick leave, and when it became clear that she could not work, was put on a leave without pay. When an employee is on leave without pay, they are allowed to keep their health insurance only if they pay for it themselves. Perozynski later died of complications from the surgery at age 31.
“Lisa’s illness showed me a major gap in employee benefits for these state employees,” said Margaret Lovelace, Perozynski’s friend and colleague. “Before Lisa’s tragedy, I believed that NMSU would take care of us. After Lisa, I knew that NMSU was not always in an economic position to do that.”
The gap for nine-month faculty is due to State of New Mexico policies, not that of NMSU.
Lovelace, who now serves as special assistant to the president at Doña Ana Community College, saw this major gap in employee benefits for faculty and worked to do something about it. She approached the Faculty Senate to develop a faculty trust fund to help in these types of situations. She used the stipend she received as part of her appointment as a Regents Chair to start the Perozynski Employee Emergency Fund and continues to support the fund through payroll deduction.
Tax-deductible gifts may be made to NMSU Foundation, Inc, P.O. Box 3590 Las Cruces, N.M. 88003, in support of the Perozynski Employee Emergency Assistance Fund.
The fund’s principal balance is currently about $37,500; once the principal reaches $70,000, NMSU staff will be eligible for one-time assistance through fund.
For information about applying for assistance from the fund, contact the NMSU Employee Assistance Program at 575-646-6603.