Leading Cornell renamed in honor of Sam Bacharach

Twenty-nine Cornell staff members graduated this semester from Leading Cornell, a nine-day leadership program to develop staff with potential for advancing to key leadership positions.

Kathryn Burkgren, associate vice president of organizational development and talent management, left, and Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, present Samuel Bacharach with a plaque.

Their graduation celebration April 12 opened with a special resolution and plaque presentation recognizing Samuel B. Bacharach, the McKelvey-Grant Professor of Labor Management and director of the Smithers Institute, who has led the course’s design and facilitation since its inception in the fall of 2009. The program has been renamed in his honor.

“It is because he shared the generosity of his time, innovative ideas and knowledge that the Samuel B. Bacharach Leading Cornell program exists and has been so instrumental in advancing the growth and development of our university leaders,” said Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, who called Bacharach a “wonderful longtime friend and colleague.”

“Sam is the key founder of this program,” Opperman said. “His self-effacing personal style belies his deep understanding of individual motivation, group dynamics and the strategy behind effective interactions in the workplace. We owe Sam such a debt of gratitude for all he has done, and continues to do, on behalf of the Cornell workforce.”

Bacharach was flattered and astonished by the recognition, he said.

“For years,” he said, “I spent time working with major corporations trying to understand what it takes to move agendas and create change, and about 14 years ago I realized that there are few major corporations more complex than large research universities. Leading Cornell was an effort to teach agenda-moving skills to those who have to create change in that complex environment.”

The program is based on “pragmatic leadership,” asking participants to apply leadership concepts and methodologies to a real project sponsored by Cornell’s senior leaders, he said.

To develop the program, the Bacharach Leadership Group worked with Opperman and her staff. Yael Bacharach, an executive coach, and Kathryn Burkgren, Cornell’s associate vice president of organizational development and talent management, serve as the program’s co-trainers, along with Chris Halladay, currently vice president for human resources at Lehigh University.

The resolution expresses the “genuine appreciation” of the Division of Human Resources, and all Leading Cornell graduates, for Bacharach’s service and leadership at Cornell University, as well as an expression that this close working partnership with Bacharach continue into the future.

“This recognition means more to me than any book or article that I’ve ever published,” said Bacharach, who has two recent books published by Cornell University Press – “The Agenda Mover: When Your Good Idea Is Not Enough” and “Transforming the Clunky Organization: Pragmatic Leadership Skills for Breaking Inertia.”

“There is nothing I’ve enjoyed more in my 40-plus years at Cornell than to work with the participants of Leading Cornell,” he said, “and I am committed to staying actively involved in this program.”

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Gillian Smith