Agnes Morris, technical assistant for the radiation safety section of Environmental Health and Safety, is known for bringing her department together. But she did not coordinate the Nov. 29 EHS gathering at the East Hill Office building: This one was held in her honor.
Morris was recognized by her colleagues, friends and family as the 191st recipient of the George Peter Award for Dedicated Service. Begun in 1980, the George Peter Award is Cornell’s longest-running universitywide peer-recognition staff award, named for a staff member who served on Cornell’s board of trustees and actively participated in the life of the university until his death in 2008.
“George Peter was a very good friend of mine,” said Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, in presenting the award to Morris. He would be “very proud” Morris was selected for this award, Opperman said, because Morris exemplifies qualities Peter valued: She is caring, dedicated, practical and insightful, with a can-do attitude. Quoting one of 12 nominating letters of support, Opperman said, “I have never met anyone who is a better example of what it takes to be a good person at home, in the community and at work.”
Through the years, Morris has been responsible for receiving and coordinating the timely delivery of radioactive materials, compiling and maintaining records and correspondence required for safety and compliance, and helping people navigate the complex regulatory environment of EHS. But beyond fulfilling these responsibilities, Morris organizes the department’s social activities, including summer picnics, lunches, holiday celebrations, retirement gatherings and chili cookoffs.
Joanne DeStefano, executive vice president and chief financial officer, thanked Morris, on behalf of the university and the broader community, for the accomplishments she has had over her past 34 years at Cornell.
Christine Stallmann, associate vice president for environmental health and safety, drew attention to the four generations of family members present at the event: Morris, her daughter Terri, granddaughter Jessie, great-grandson Cole, and great-granddaughter Paige. All told, there are “75 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who love and support Agnes,” she said.
Morris also “avails herself to our department as if we were her own family, offering us support in our time of need and celebration,” Stallmann said.
Ted Murray, director of EHS Operations and Morris’ supervisor, has worked with Morris since she joined Cornell. Morris supported and trained six radiation safety officers, and has attended more Radiation Safety Committee meetings than anyone else in the department, he said. “When Agnes speaks, you listen,” he advised.
A number of current and former EHS employees who had been Morris’ supervisors at some point in her EHS career “zoomed in” remotely. James Grieger, director of the Office of Research Safety at Clemson University, called in from a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, to thank Morris for her support. Tom McGiff, now a safety engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said he couldn’t “possibly think of anybody more deserving of this award.” Jerry Gordon, from Saudi Arabia, extolled Morris’ organizational skills. Mark Jadick from Arizona congratulated Morris on receiving the award. And from South Dakota, David Rynders recalled how, when he first came to Cornell, Morris would bag up any extra food from office events for him to take home.
Noting that the award “was a total surprise to me and one I never thought of receiving,” Morris extended her gratitude to her current and former co-workers for nominating her. “It has been a pleasure working for Environmental Health and Safety over the years and continues to be. Even with the many challenges and changes over these years, I find it a great department to work in. I think of my co-workers here as my extended family.”
Craig Wiggers, chair of the Employee Assembly, which sponsors the George Peter Award, closed the program by thanking Morris for “the example you have set for all of us.”