Cornell’s annual Service Recognition Dinner, honoring the dedicated work of Cornell staff who are celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40 or more years of service, was held May 17 in the Ramin Room of Bartels Hall.
This year, the event honored 346 staff members with 25 or more years of service (representing a cumulative total of more than 10,000 years of work for Cornell); 213 of those awardees attended the event and dinner, in addition to their guests, deans, supervisors and others.
“Your efforts and dedication have contributed to Cornell’s many successes,” said Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer. “You are part of Cornell’s legacy.”
Interim President Hunter Rawlings congratulated the staff celebrating service anniversary milestones, in addition to those who have worked for Cornell more than 40 years but who were not marking a fifth-year anniversary this year.
“It is a great pleasure and it is an honor for us to join those of you who have served Cornell for so long,” Rawlings said. “You are the backbone of the place; we understand that. What you have provided here is that best of all words, service.”
Rawlings gave special recognition to the evening’s longest-serving awardee, Martha Lyon ’71, marking 45 years working at Cornell as the laboratory coordinator for the university’s introductory biology course.
Quoting Lyon’s supervisor, senior lecturer Mark Sarvary, Rawlings noted that as an undergraduate, Lyon was among the first students to take introductory biology from Professor William Keeton. The current Investigative Biology laboratory course for which Lyon has worked for so long is a direct successor to the Keeton course, Rawlings said, and between 800 and 1,000 students take the class every year.
“‘There is no issue that Martha has not seen yet, and there is no problem that she has not solved already,’” Rawlings said, quoting Sarvary. “‘Her 45 years of dedication to this course have been appreciated by thousands and thousands of Cornell students. … She is truly the strong beating heart of introductory biology at Cornell.’ And that is the right metaphor for biology, the strong beating heart,” Rawlings noted.
“Cornell is known as one of the great, great research universities, not just in this country but in the world,” Rawlings said, after leading a round of applause for Lyon and the other long-serving staff members. “And we could not be one of the great research universities in the world without what you do.”
During the cocktail hour before the dinner, Lyon, who described herself as a “behind-the-scenes person,” noted she never expected to work at Cornell for four and a half decades.
“People think I’m absolutely crazy for having the same job all these years,” she said. “But we have a new group of graduate students every year as the teaching assistants, and the course has changed tremendously over the years – so it’s as if I have had many different jobs without having to go to the trouble of reapplying for a new one. … It has all changed around me. I have been incredibly fortunate.”