President Skorton recognizes staff for excellent work

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Joe Schwartz
award recipients
Lindsay France/University Photography
From left, Mary Opperman, Karen Raponi, Jami Joyner, Rebecca Weger, Joseph Lalley III, Tracy Holdridge, Jennifer Harris and David Skorton.

Tracy Holdridge, an administrator in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, received the first President’s Award of Excellence at the inaugural Employee Recognition Luncheon, May 9 in Bartels Hall. At the same event, the recipients of the first Individual Excellence Awards and Management Excellence Awards were announced. All five staff awardees had been chosen for recognition from among 61 award nominees, who had also been invited to the event.

The awards have their origins in work done two years ago by a committee chaired by Kathyrn Burkgren, director of the Office of Organizational Development for Faculty and Staff, on increasing staff recognition opportunities. The results of the 2012 employee survey confirmed these efforts, and an Employee Recognition Team, comprising staff from across campus and led by Karen Raponi, recruitment consultant for the Recruitment and Employment Center, was formed to address this need. As a result, the team developed a suite of recognition opportunities, including these new awards.

Each year, the team will choose two recipients each for the individual and management excellence awards from a peer-nominated staff list, and one recipient for the President’s Award of Excellence.

Recognition helps “reignite our spark, energizing us all over again about our work and our contributions,” said Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources and safety services. The new awards “give the entire Cornell community not just the chance to be recognized, but also the opportunity to recognize one another – an action that by itself is invigorating and affirming,” she said.

In announcing the award recipients, President David Skorton expressed his appreciation for having “this new way of honoring the staff whose excellent work … has had a major impact on the university.”

Congratulating Holdridge for receiving the President’s Award for Excellence, Skorton quoted William Fry, her department chair and former dean of the faculty. In his nomination letter, Fry had noted that Holdridge is “always thinking ahead” and “leads by example.” Other nominators wrote that Holdridge is “respectful and fair to everyone” and “very sharp and detail-oriented,” Skorton said.

Jennifer Harris, human resource generalist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Lab of Ornithology, and Jami Joyner, student service associate of diversity programs in the College of Engineering, received Individual Excellence Awards.

Skorton quoted Harris’ nominators: “She is both a role model and a mentor.” “Her words guide us with compassion, clarity and facts,” they wrote, and “her presence at the Lab of Ornithology ensures that all staff are treated fairly.”

Joyner’s nominators, Skorton said, noted that “Jami is deeply committed to making Cornell accessible, especially to students from populations traditionally underrepresented in engineering.” They also attributed Joyner’s leadership and contributions with helping her unit receive the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2011.

Receiving the Management Excellence Award were Joseph Lalley III, senior director for Facilities Operations, and Rebecca Weger, director of Prospect Development in Alumni Affairs and Development.

Lalley’s colleagues noted his forward thinking and love of technology, Skorton said. One wrote that Lalley “inspires me to be a better employee and person,” while others cited his work with Commencement, campus emergencies, the university’s operating status during weather events, bargaining units and United Way advocacy, Skorton said.

Weger was noted by her colleagues to be “a master problem solver” and “nothing but visionary,” Skorton said. Colleagues also wrote that Weger’s “abilities to recognize potential and trust her team allow us to seek new ways to contribute and participate in Cornell’s success,” he said.

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Nancy Doolittle