David M. Cohen ’73 and Russell Hernandez '88 took home ILR's Groat and Alpern awards for career achievements and service to the ILR School. 

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ILR alumni honored at Groat and Alpern Award celebration

An ebullient crowd of some 400 people gathered at The Pierre in Manhattan Thursday to honor Russell Hernandez ’88, 2022 Alpern Award winner, and David M. Cohen ’73, 2022 Groat Award winner.

Alexander Colvin, Ph.D. '99, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn '69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman '75, M.S. '76, Professor of Conflict Resolution, introduced Hernandez as a generous, kind, hard-working person who treats people with respect and compassion, no matter who they are. 

He is also a person who shares his thick Rolodex of contacts with ILR whenever needed, Colvin said, noting the 2018 ice storm that stranded 50 students who had bussed to New York City for the day to attend ILR’s Sports Leadership Summit.

Within minutes, Hernandez, a hotel and restaurant developer, had booked hotel rooms for the ILRies. 

“He took care of the situation. It’s the kind of guy Russell is. He helps people out,” Colvin said, noting that Hernandez was instrumental in helping ILR secure its office space at 570 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan

Hernandez, a frequent visitor to campus during the past 10 years as his three children completed their Cornell degrees, said he has stayed at the Statler Hotel 78 times, noting that ILR is part of his extended family. 

“I will always be a part of ILR. I will always be part of Cornell. I will always be supportive of everything and anything I need to do to help you guys – I’m there.”

Colvin, in introducing Cohen, said, “His knowledge, his experience, his depth of insight on labor relations is without par.”

Cohen said he is grateful to ILR and Cornell. “I stepped out of my parents’ car at the bottom of Libe Slope 53 years ago. Almost the entire course of my life since then bears the Cornell imprint.”

He shared a vignette about spending Christmas Eve at his Long Island Railroad office with one of his daughters, Ellen, when she was five. They went in for what was to be just a morning visit, but ended up staying into the evening due to a spontaneous opportunity to negotiate a labor contract that had been stalled for three years. 

After watching cartoons all day, Ellen told her father, “Daddy, labor relations is really boring,” Cohen chuckled from the podium. “It burst my bubble. But, of course, she was wrong. To the students out there, labor relations is great. I love labor relations. It is not boring.”

In closing his remarks, Cohen announced that he and his wife, Abby Joseph Cohen, A&S ’73, have endowed the David M. Cohen Professorship for $3 million to recruit and retain top labor relations faculty. 

At the event, Colvin recognized four other alumni who received awards during the years the celebration was paused due to the pandemic. They are: Barry Beck ’90, 2020 Alpern Award; Kathleen Weslock, MILR ’83, 2020 Groat Award; Mary Zitwer Millman ’78, 2021 Alpern Award, and John Bickerman ’78, M.S. ’80, 2021 Groat Award.

Colvin also recognized one of ILR’s earliest graduates, Jerry Alpern ’49, MBA ’50, who attended the event. The Alpern Award, named in his honor, was established in 1997 to recognize professionals who provide service and support to ILR and whose career achievements are outside industrial and labor relations. 

Mary Catt is the ILR School’s director of communications.

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