Annual dinner honors long-serving staff members

Susanne Hawk
Jason Koski/University Photography
Susanne Hawk, 35-year awardee, talks with Professor Robin Davisson and President David Skorton.
Mary Opperman
Jason Koski/University Photography
Mary Opperman is recognized for her long-standing advocacy of staff.
Tanya Grove
Jason Koski/University Photography
Tanya Grove announces the new Opperman Award, to be given semi-annually to those supporting staff excellence.
Steve Haner
Jason Koski/University Photography
Steve Haner, 45-year awardee, at the 58th annual Service Recognition Dinner.

With 25, 30, 35, 40 or more years of service to Cornell, 310 staff members were honored at the 58th Annual Service Recognition Dinner, held April 17 in Bartels Hall.

Remarks by President David Skorton, Vice Presidents Mary Opperman and Susan Murphy, and chair of the Employee Assembly Tanya Grove – and musical performances by the student group Jazz Voices during dinner and by the Backtalk Band afterward – paid tribute to the dedicated service of Cornell’s employees.

Opperman opened the event with thanks to the 165 awardees in attendance, noting that their service represents more than 4,620 years. “All your efforts and dedication have helped us push Cornell to the front ranks of world universities,” she said.

Opperman said the university has been through challenging times, but “thanks to your loyalty, determination, patience and good humor, we are rising above and pushing past the challenges.” She highlighted staff responses to communities in need, including relief efforts led by Cornellians in Ithaca and at Weill Cornell Medical College in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last fall – and, more recently, the signs saying “Sending Love to Boston” created by children at the Cornell Child Care Center. “Our compassion in this community fills me with pride,” she said.

Skorton thanked awardees “for your contributions to Cornell and for everything you do to make our campus and community a better place.”

He recognized five people celebrating 45 years of service:

  • Joan Lord, who worked in the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development, retired in January, having “played a very special role in welcoming new staff members in her division.”
  • Joy Wagner, executive staff assistant to President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes. Wagner became a U.S. citizen last fall.
  • Joan Brink, a library administrator in preservation conservation in Olin Library, who is “an incredibly well-organized person.”
  • Judith Eastburn, who spent most of her career in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and retired last spring.
  • Stephen Haner, assistant director for Building Care, Facilities Services, who designed the building care protocol for Commencement.

At the close of his remarks, Skorton called Grove to the podium so that she could surprise Opperman with an Employee Assembly resolution that establishes an award in her honor.

“The Employee Assembly extends their appreciation and gratitude to Vice President Opperman for fostering a positive environment where staff are valued contributors to the campus community and its mission,” Grove said. She also cited Opperman “for her continued efforts in creating a culture that allows staff to thrive at home and in the workplace.” Opperman’s husband and daughter were present for the recognition while her son joined online.

The Opperman Award, Grove said, “will be given semiannually by the assembly to an employee who consistently demonstrates their commitment to encouraging and supporting staff excellence.” Grove thanked Skorton for establishing a financial commitment to future award winners through his office.

Said Opperman: “Cornell means a great deal to me … the people in this community are very special and, as you know, I believe that the staff create the support web that makes all this work. I feel very honored to be part of this community, and I just can’t thank you enough.” She said that she considered this recognition “a capstone achievement in my career.”

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Joe Schwartz