Wellness Program's McKinney receives Opperman Award

Mary Opperman, Beth McKinney and Brigitt Schaffner
Robert Barker/University Photography
From left, Mary Opperman, Beth McKinney and Brigitt Schaffner.

Beth McKinney, director of the Cornell University Wellness Program and a former employee-elected trustee, received the Opperman Award for Staff Advocacy at the second annual Kudos luncheon May 7, sponsored by the Employee Assembly (EA).

EA Chair Brigitt Schaffner surprised McKinney with the award after recognizing staff members who were the recipients of kudos submitted to the EA website this past year. Kudos recipients and those who submitted them were invited to the luncheon at Taverna Banfi; more than 50 people attended.

 “There are some days – in some cases, many days – that we get help and support from other people, sometimes in a big way, sometimes small ways,” said Schaffner. “By doing this, they show us they care, and by showing us they care, they build and help support the community that we all work and live in.”

Schaffner provided several examples of kudos received this year: Jean “is always welcoming, always willing to help no matter what the request”; Jason “always demonstrates a very positive attitude. He is always willing to listen to all views before rendering a decision”; Katherine “always has a smile and goes above and beyond to foster respect and diversity … her help and energy keep us all more inclusive and better members of our caring community.”

In recognizing McKinney on behalf of the EA, Schaffner said McKinney advocates for the whole Cornell community: “She is the driving force of the Wellness Program. She works nonstop to ensure that all staff have options to achieve wellness.” McKinney also took a lead role in shaping the administration’s responses to the Employee Survey, keeping the team focused on what would benefit staff, Schaffner said.

Schaffner presented McKinney with a plaque that recognized McKinney’s “outstanding leadership in being an active voice for staff and her commitment to encouraging and supporting employee excellence.” The recognition includes an award of $500.

Surprised and visibly touched by the recognition, McKinney recalled the moment last year when the EA announced its establishment of the Opperman Award for Staff Advocacy and bestowed the inaugural recognition on its namesake, the vice president for human resources and safety services. McKinney said following in Opperman’s footsteps is a little daunting: “I cannot even believe I have this award. I will do my best to live up to it, taking seriously the care of employees at Cornell.”

Later, McKinney said: “I am totally honored and humbled that people felt I was deserving. I just want the best for employees; I want every employee to love working at Cornell as much as I do.”

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