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Employee Excellence Award recipients, from left: Front row: Carol Merkur, Vivian Relta, Eileen Grabosky, Julie Parsons, Janna Dawn, Keeley Boerman. Back row: Sue Brightly, Cornell Woodson, Gary Stewart, Jan Vink, Graig Lyon, Marta Guzman Cotto, Bert Adams-Kucik.

Graig Lyon, assistant equipment manager, receives top Employee Excellence Award

Graig Lyon is called to the podium to receive the event’s highest honor, the President’s Award for Excellence.

When he was invited to the luncheon recognizing all awardees and nominees for Employee Excellence Awards March 13, Graig Lyon expected he would be recognized as one of the 64 who had been nominated for individual excellence. He did not expect that Vice President Ryan Lombardi would call him forward as the sole recipient of the event’s highest honor, the President’s Award for Excellence “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters.”

A staff member with 17 years of service to Cornell, Lyon is an assistant equipment manager in Schoellkopf Hall.

Noting Lyon’s impact on co-workers, coaches and student-athletes, Lombardi said, “Graig – you exemplify the motto, ‘Cornell Cares.’” Lombardi commended Lyon for ensuring the safety of student-athletes by repairing sticks and shoes for women’s lacrosse and assisting varsity football players with their helmets and shoulder pads, plus fitting and repairing equipment. And his caring goes beyond athletes’ gear, Lombardi noted.

More than 200 awardees, nominees, nominators and senior staff members gathered at the Statler Ballroom for the fifth annual Employee Excellence Awards celebration.

“You are held in the highest regard by the student-athletes,” Lombardi said, “for your willingness to listen when they are struggling with school work, family issues and missing home.”

Noting that a colleague had called Lyon “an amazing role model for our Cornell student-athletes,” Lombardi added, “You are an amazing role model for all of us.”

A record 129 staff were nominated this year for the four additional Employee Excellence Award categories – from which Lyon was chosen – each of which had three award winners.

Recognized for excellence in diversity and inclusion:

  • Marta Guzman Cotto, counselor for the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, Cornell Health, has partnered with the Center for Teaching Excellence to create the “Let’s Get Real” series addressing challenges in intercultural communications.
  • Vivian Relta, associate director for the Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble, Department of Organizational Development and Talent Management, has demonstrated a lifelong passion for inclusive dynamics and sensitizing workshop participants to culture change.
  • Gary Stewart, associate vice president for community relations, is known as an effective, creative problem-solver. His office received the Presidential Excellence Award in 2016 from the International Town Gown Association for initiatives related to diversity and inclusion.

Recognized for excellence in innovation:

  • Janna Dawn, associate director of Summer College, School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, “thrives on change and is willing to take risks,” according to one nominator. She has streamlined operations, and her favorite phrase when faced with a challenge is “Bring it on.”
  • Cornell Woodson, lead for diversity and inclusion programs, Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, spearheaded the inaugural ILR School’s Ally Days and is reshaping the Inclusive Excellence Academy programming.
  • Jan Vink, extension associate for Policy Analysis and Management, College of Human Ecology, has helped support the U.S. Census Bureau and the New York State Department of Labor in creating new methodologies and tools to ensure census accuracy.

Recognized for individual excellence:

  • Bert Adams-Kucik, director of fitness programs, Physical Education and Recreational Services, is known for working well with students of different cultures and communicating with all individuals. She is an icon to students and staff taking her physical education classes and using the fitness centers.
  • Julie Parsons, events coordinator, Facilities Management, is known for her service-minded work ethic that “creates a positive impact” on all who come in contact with her. She has an “incredible ability to work with anyone” and she is “always doing it with a smile.”
  • Sue Brightly, communications marketing specialist, Division of the Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, was described in a letter of nomination as “one of the hardest working people I know.” She also was commended for her commitment, positive influence and service to others.

Recognized for management excellence:

  • Keeley Boerman, department manager for German studies, College of Arts and Sciences, is known for her people skills, quiet confidence, openness, calm efficiency and clear-sighted understanding. One nominator called her “the best manager my small department has ever had.”
  • Eileen Grabosky, director of administration, Department of Information Science in Computing and Information Science, is known as a thoughtful, responsible, respectful, meticulous and accessible leader who empowers everyone to achieve their best.
  • Carol Merkur, director of business operations, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, is known for the concern she demonstrates and the excellence her leadership encourages. She always takes time to listen to others.

Media Contact

Lindsey Hadlock