Cornell President Martha E. Pollack stands with the recipients of the 2019 Cornell Town-Gown Awards Dec. 7 at Ithaca High School.

Cornell’s town-gown awards honor ‘community treasures’

To nurture cooperation between Ithaca’s community groups and Cornell campus organizations, the ninth Cornell Town-Gown Awards – nicknamed the TOGOs – recognized three key partnerships at a ceremony held Dec. 7 at Ithaca High School.

TOGO partnership awards were given to the Finger Lakes Independence Center and its Cornell connections at the Deaf Awareness Project and the ILR School’s Introduction to Disability Studies; the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and Big Red Consultants; and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance with CU Downtown.

Barbara Mink ’86, left, receives her Cornell Town-Gown Achievement Award from Cornell President Martha E. Pollack.

Barbara Mink ’86 received this year’s Cornell Town-Gown Achievement Award for her work as a journalist, her five years as chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, her membership in the Greater Ithaca Art Trail and her 10 years as director of Ithaca’s Light in Winter Festival.

New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-125th Dist., received a special award for her leadership on educational matters and issues of importance to women and families, including health care, daycare and the licensing of midwives.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Cornell President Martha E. Pollack noted how Ithaca is closely knit.

“I’m getting close to three years in Ithaca … and this really feels like home to me,” Pollack said. “From the bookstores to our amazing public library to Treman State Park to the Farmers Market, it’s so wonderful to be a part of this community.”

Luvelle Brown, superintendent of the Ithaca City School District, told the gathering this program was among his favorites.

“We get to hear about all the amazing partnerships … all the great things we do as a community,” he said. “We get to honor community treasures.”

Mary George Opperman, Cornell vice president and chief human resources officer, left, presented Cornell Town-Gown Awards to Jan Lynch, executive director of Finger Lakes Independence Center; Amy Jo DeKoeyer, the center’s coordinator of deaf services; Becky Hill, assistant director for Facilities and Campus Services, Cornell Human Resources; and Lucia Gomez ’21, president of the Cornell University Deaf Awareness Project.

One such gem is Cornell’s connection to the Finger Lakes Independence Center (FLIC), which dates back to 1988. The university was a founding sponsor of FLIC’s Tompkins County Job Fair, and the group’s leadership has often met with Cornell officials on disability and inclusion issues. This year’s award reflects FLIC’s collaboration with the university’s Deaf Awareness Project and the ILR School’s Introduction to Disability Studies class.

The TOGO awards were presented to Jan Lynch, executive director of FLIC; Amy Jo DeKoeyer, FLIC’s coordinator of deaf services; Lucia Gomez ’21, president of the Cornell University Deaf Awareness Project; and Becky Hill, assistant director for Facilities and Campus Services, Human Resources.

Cornell’s Big Red Consultants, composed of first-year Cornell MBA students, met with leadership from the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to conduct research on flight service and community engagement. One direct result was the start of air service between Ithaca and Dulles International Airport, near Washington, D.C.

The partnership awards were given to Michael S. Hall ’68, airport director; Randy Allen ’68, senior lecturer in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; and MBA student Angira Jhaveri.

Since 2016, the Ithaca community has formally welcomed new Cornell students with a dance and musical festival early each September on The Commons, all thanks to the partnership between Cornell’s Carol Tatkon Center for First-Year Students and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. The TOGO awards were presented to Margherita Fabrizio, director of the Tatkon Center and creator of CU Downtown; and Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-125th Dist., thanks ceremony attendees for her special Cornell Town-Gown award.

Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Shirley M. Collado, president, Ithaca College; Orinthia Montague, president, Tompkins Cortland Community College; Martha Robertson, chair, Tompkins County Legislature; and Bill Goodman, supervisor, Town of Ithaca.

Cathy Klimaszewski, associate director and the Ames Curator of Education at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, received a TOGO for her service to the Cornell community.

Fifteen retiring community leaders also received TOGOs: 

  • Rick Bair, pastor, St. Luke Lutheran Church;
  • Ray Benjamin, assistant superintendent of streets and facilities, City of Ithaca;
  • Pat Buechel, director of probation and community justice, Tompkins County;
  • Dan Governanti, executive director, Kendal at Ithaca;
  • Brad Grainger, school board, Ithaca City School District;
  • Alice Green, Dryden Town Board;
  • Marcia Lynch, public information officer, Tompkins County;
  • Julia Mattick, executive director, Tompkins County Workforce Development Board;
  • Kate Pierce, OBGYN & Midwifery Associates;
  • Nancy Pringle, executive vice president and senior adviser to the president, Ithaca College;
  • Sally Schwartzbach, associate director, The Learning Web;
  • Lee Shurtleff, director, Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response;
  • Irene Stein, chair, Tompkins County Democratic Party;
  • Liz Walker, co-founder, EcoVillage; and
  • Cindy Whittaker, highway supervisor, Town of Caroline.

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Abby Butler