Collaboration celebrated at 2015 Town-Gown Awards

Chris Kitchen
Diane Levitt, senior director of K-12 education for Cornell Tech, left, and Luvelle Brown, superintendent of the Ithaca City School District, stand for a photo at the 2015 Town-Gown Awards.

Chris Kitchen
Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars hold a food drive at the 2015 Town-Gown Awards event to benefit the Ithaca Kitchen Cupboard. From left: Stephen Dreznick, Rachel Chuang, Salma Shitia, Reed Geisler, Tucker Shea, President Elizabeth Garrett, Jessie Reeves, Leah DeWitt, Sady Ramírez Ossa, Brycen Holland, Ziyad Durón.

Chris Kitchen
Marcia Fort, retired director of Greater Ithaca Activities Center, receives a 2015 Town-Gown Award for more than 31 years of service in the local community. Behind Fort is John Gutenberger, senior advisor in the Office of Community Relations and former mayor of Ithaca.

Collaboration was the word of the day at the 2015 Town-Gown (TOGO) Awards, held Nov. 14 at Ithaca High School to recognize town and campus partnerships that improve the quality of life in Tompkins County and the Ithaca area. Community and campus members also thanked 14 leaders leaving high-profile elected, appointed or nonprofit positions.

“The university, the city and the county have a long history of cooperation for mutual benefit, and as a relative newcomer, I am grateful for this positive atmosphere and the opportunity to move still further in our relationship,” said Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett, addressing her first TOGO gathering.

She noted that Cornell has worked with the city to obtain funding to help eradicate hydrilla in Cayuga Lake inlet and that Cornell staff in Washington, D.C., have been involved in efforts to support federal funding for Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit.

Garrett also announced that she signed a new agreement to extend for another six years the Community Housing Development Fund, established in 2009 and funded by the city, county and Cornell. The fund has assisted in the creation of more than 200 affordable housing units that have been or soon will be constructed in our community, she said.

Garrett highlighted collaborations whose representatives were recognized with TOGO awards: 

  • a partnership between the Cornell Local Roads Program and the city of Ithaca’s Department of Public Works, which included the Local Roads Summer Intern Project to collect pavement condition data and, using Cornell software, produce a maintenance schedule for the city.
  • funding provided by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County to help the Cornell Men of Color Council hold a conference promoting networking and peer mentoring between professionals and area high school students.
  • a community food system proposal led by the Department of Development Sociology and the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, along with others, in cooperation with Engaged Cornell.
  • campus and community public safety units, including the Cornell University Police and Environmental Health and Safety departments, who with the Ithaca police and fire departments, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Cayuga Heights police and fire departments “work every day to ensure our safety and well-being.”
  • a collaboration between the Ithaca City School District and Cornell Tech in New York City that involved teaching computer coding to elementary students. “In the years to come, I expect to see more such across-the-miles projects and more benefits to Ithaca and Tompkins County as Cornell Tech grows,” Garrett said.

Quoting Henry Ford, who said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success,” Garrett said she believes “at the broadest level,” Cornell and Tompkins County are working together and achieving success together, and “that is something I am both proud of and grateful for, and look forward to continuing.”

Those leaving positions who were recognized with TOGO awards at the event were: Marcia Fort, director of Greater Ithaca Activities Center; town of Dryden Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner; Ithaca Common Council member J.R. Clairborne; Ithaca City School District Board of Education members Jay True and Eldred Harris; Karen Friedeborn, youth program administrator at the Ithaca Youth Bureau; Bruce Estes, former managing editor of The Ithaca Journal; Michael McGreevey, vice president for advancement at Wells College; Betty Falcao of the Tompkins County Health Planning Council; Brigid Hubberman, former director of the Family Reading Partnership; and Alphonse Pieper, former executive director of Historic Ithaca.

Garrett also thanked the 10 Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars who held a food drive before the event to benefit the Ithaca Kitchen Cupboard.

The Office of Community Relations, led by Director Gary Stewart, hosted the ceremony, now in its fifth year.

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