Linda Lambert, who has worked at Cornell for 40 years, recalls being the same age as the students when she first came to the university.
Cindy and John Durbin married within a year of beginning work at Cornell, both 35 years ago. Now their youngest daughter, Caitlyn, works here; their oldest daughter, Jenna Graham, named her firstborn son Ezra.
An employee for 25 years, Douglas Wilkins remembers working without a computer, and Susan Sullivan, with 30 years of service, was there when the first fax machine arrived in the development office in Sage House.
At the 63rd annual Service Recognition Dinner June 5, Cornell President Martha E. Pollack and Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman paid tribute to 250 staff members who began working at Cornell 25, 30, 35, 40 or more years ago. About 170 staff awardees attended the event in Barton Hall, in addition to their guests, Provost Michael Kotlikoff, college deans, vice presidents and other university leaders.
“Cornell University is known around the world for the high quality of the education, research and outreach that we do here,” said Pollack. “None of those things could possibly happen without you.” Pollack thanked Joy Wagner, assistant to President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes, for her 50 years of service, and Ron Wolverton, technical services supervisor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, College of Arts and Sciences, who has worked at Cornell for more than 52 years.
Pollack also recognized five staff members celebrating 45 years – Rich Cochran, Leora Lovejoy, Debbie Van Galder, Joanne Widom and Gerard Zeltmann – and wished those retiring “the very best in this next stage of your life.”
Opperman served as emcee. “What I really love about anniversaries is that they let us reminisce,” she said. “We can take stock of the journey we’ve made as part of this amazing institution and feel immense pride in the part we each play in the various achievements that Cornell has made over the years,” she said. “Our anniversaries also give us a moment to pause and reflect on our own lives.”
In that reminiscing context, Opperman highlighted national and Cornell events occurring at the start of each five-year anniversary period recognized. Among these: the Blizzard of ’93, when Cornell closed its doors for the first weather-related shutdown in more than 20 years, and the Ivy League Conference Championship 1988 Cornell men’s basketball team. Thirty-five years ago, Cornell received a grant to convert the 1.2 million holdings in its library catalog onto a computer system; 40 years ago, Rhodes was inaugurated; five years earlier, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art and the Ujamaa Residential College opened.
“It’s amazing and humbling to see how much Cornell is embedded in our lives, and we, in turn, are embedded in the culture of Cornell,” Opperman said.
If it weren’t for staff, “our campus would not run day in and day out,” she said. “Awardees – your efforts and commitment have helped propel Cornell to the forefront of higher education and support our consistent ranking as one of the most highly regarded universities in the world.”