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Winners of the 2018 President's Awards for Employee Excellence, presented during a luncheon Nov. 13 at the Statler Ballroom, with Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life.

Staff honored with President’s Awards for Employee Excellence

Brandon Fortenberry, director of Cornell Catering, accepts the ONE Cornell award on behalf of his team.

Twelve individuals and three groups received President’s Awards for Employee Excellence Nov. 13, which honored staff members in five new categories including the first-ever team award, emphasizing the collaborative nature of work at Cornell.

Around 200 honorees, nominators, supervisors and senior leaders from across campus gathered for the sixth annual High Five Employee Recognition Luncheon in the Statler Ballroom to recognize the employees. Their achievements ranged from developing an incentive system to bring student dining workers back to campus early to implementing the new universitywide time and attendance tracking system to creating and facilitating hundreds of mental-health workshops.

“Great work is everywhere on this campus,” said Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman. “When we work together and we highlight each other’s successes, it is noticed, and noticed broadly.”

Ninety-three nominations were submitted for the four awards granted to individuals, and 14 nominations for teams totaling more than 100 people for the ONE Cornell team award. The full list of nominees and awardees can be found on the 2018 Wall of Fame webpage.

The employee excellence program began in 2011 with three awards, five top honors and 61 nominees. After reviewing the program this year, a committee developed five new awards that align more closely with Cornell’s ideals.

From left: Award winners Suzanne Cohen, Catherwood Library; Catherine Thrasher-Carroll, Skorton Center for Health Initiatives; Ellen Miller, Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology; Matthew Johnson, Cornell Dining; Lauren Morgenstern, Alumni Affairs and Development; Lauran Jacoby, Human Resources; and Kerry Howell, Cornell University Wellness Program.

“The stories we hear through this awards program are remarkable,” said Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life. “It can be challenging to capture all of our universitywide successes when we’re frequently looking ahead. I’m grateful that we have opportunities such as this to highlight the accomplishments of our dedicated employees and celebrate together as a community.”

The awards and winners:

The Mission-Possible Award, for supporting the university’s core mission of learning, discovery and engagement:

  • Rachael Lynch, clinical administrative assistant for sports medicine in Cornell Health, who compiles medical paperwork for more than 1,200 student athletes;
  • Ellen Miller, administrative assistant for the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, who supports a research group consisting of five labs with 60 researchers; and
  • Lauran Jacoby, senior consultant, staff and labor relations, in the Division of Human Resources, praised as the “ultimate team player” through many changes to her team over the past decade.

The Game Changer Award, for developing or implementing a new approach:

  • Brooke Hollis, associate director of the Sloan Program in Health Administration in the College of Human Ecology, and executive director of the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures, who launched and built support for the Institute for Healthy Futures;
  • Matthew Johnson, administrative manager for Cornell Dining, who developed an incentive program that brought 82 student workers back to campus early to fill critical dining positions; and
  • Adi Grabiner-Keinan, lecturer and director of the Intergroup Dialogue Project, who has led her team in new collaborative projects including workshops for staff and faculty and training for Greek leaders.

Culture of Belonging Award, for creating and supporting an open, inclusive, welcoming and equitable workplace environment:

  • Brandon Senior, assistant director of advising and diversity student support for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who has increased programming attendance for all students and expanded their internship opportunities;
  • Catherine Thrasher-Carroll, mental health promotion program director in Cornell Health’s Skorton Center for Health Initiatives, who partnered with the Steve Fund to help improve mental health in students of color, and created and facilitated hundreds of workshops; and
  • Lauren Morgenstern, associate director of class programs for the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development, recognized for building trust with colleagues, student workers and alumni.

The Thoughtful Leader Award, for bringing out the best in others: 

  • Kerry Howell, director of the Cornell University Wellness Program, for implementing a new vision for her department and helping team members adjust to new workloads;
  • Rob Michaels, associate director of network and systems services for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, for bringing together the network and systems groups from the Statler Hotel and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management’s IT departments; and
  • Suzanne Cohen, collection development coordinator at Catherwood Library, for her mentorship, leadership and contributions in bringing top resources to Cornell.

The ONE Cornell Award, for a group that implements a project or solves a problem to positively impact Cornell and the community:

  • The Workday Time Tracking Project Team, with 24 employees across departments, who implemented the time and attendance system now used by 12,000 employees;
  • The Soup and Hope Planning Committee, whose members have developed and cultivated the 10-year-old series combining soup, bread and inspirational talks; and
  • Cornell Catering and Concessions, which successfully took on a role with Cornell Athletics as vendors, team caterers and operators of the Moakley House restaurant.

Media Contact

Gillian Smith