Skip to main content

Office Professionals event focuses on gratitude, service

Buffet line at professionals day
Lindsay France/University Photography
About 600 staff attend the 2016 office professionals celebration April 20.

Not everyone in the audience of 600 received a door prize at the Jennie T. Farley Office Professionals Celebration April 20, but thanks to Cornell offices, local businesses and the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, about one in 10 did, winning hotel stays, gift baskets, and other goods and services.

“If you were a winner, be sure to thank and give back to our local vendors,” said Marilyn Willkens, executive staff assistant to the vice president for human resources and co-chair of the event with Traci Morse, program coordinator of the Scheinman Institute at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), and Kathleen Snyder, special events manager for the Office of the President.

Willkens asked audience members to share the roles Cornell has played in their lives, noting that without her first job at Cornell, she never would have met her husband. Others at the Barton Hall event shared how Cornell helped pay for child care and their children’s education; their careers; and how Cornell is a safe place to come out.

Showing gratitude and participating in public service were the central themes of the celebration. In opening remarks, Kevin Hallock, the Kenneth F. Khan Dean of the ILR School, thanked the office professional in his office, Theresa Woodhouse, for making his work as dean “better every single day.”

“She is careful, smart, organized, anticipates things and has remarkable judgment,” he said.

He noted the special meaning that the office professionals celebration has for ILR, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary: The late ILR faculty member Jennie T. Farley started the event with colleague Alice B. Cook in 1988 with a brown bag lunch.

Keynote speaker Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, said Cornell’s office professionals are “all part of something very big,” because Cornell’s mission of “providing education, nourishing creativity, fostering important research and carrying out many forms of public service and public engagement” does “a lot of good work in the world.”

She continued, “That happens because of your work, your skills and your dedication to excellence in support of the academics who advance these efforts.”

Opperman said the late President Elizabeth Garrett believed in public service and was proud of Cornell’s land-grant mission to contribute to the public good. “So many of you, I know, share that kind of belief in community service,” Opperman said. “When you look around Tompkins County and surrounding communities, you’ll find Cornell students, faculty, staff actively engaged on a daily basis.”

Mary Opperman
Lindsay France/University Photography
Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, speaks at the office professionals celebration, April 20.

Opperman drew attention to Eileen Whang, dependent care consultant in human resources, and Gary Stewart, director of community relations, who are, respectively, president and vice president of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. She also cited Laurie Miller, service learning coordinator for the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, who serves on the board of the Child Development Council; Susan Riley, deputy director of community relations, whom Garrett appointed to boost the Cornell United Way campaign; and staff who participate in such activities as Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare, the BackPack Program and Cornell Elves.

Acknowledging the past year as difficult, Opperman said, “It can be helpful during these times to reach beyond ourselves. We can focus on what we have, not on what we don’t have, and we can be grateful for what we are to one another,” she said.

Opperman called Willkens and Diane Jacobson, administrative assistant, “rainbows in my cloud.” She also said she was grateful to “so many of you” who are “rainbows in somebody else’s cloud.”

“Thank you for all you do to make Cornell a great university, for all you do for our community, for our students and for each other,” she said.

Media Contact

Melissa Osgood