Helen Steh, center, of Transportation and Delivery Services, receives the Steve Wright Bridge Award for 2023, presented to her by Rick Burgess, vice president of Facilities and Campus Services, for a video produced by the division’s Diversity and Inclusion Council. The video team joined Steh and Burgess on stage: Patrick Vrooman, from left, Lyndsi Prignon, Grace Dembia, Carson Lopez and Phil Woodin.

Facilities division praises, applauds Cornell’s quiet heroes

Chas Porter, a pipefitter who coordinates the annual campus steam shutdown, is the winner of this year’s Keystone award from Cornell’s Division of Facilities and Campus Services (FCS). It is the division’s highest honor.

The division met July 26 for an awards breakfast in Barton Hall to praise and applaud the heroes who keep the students, faculty and staff on campus safe, productive and successful.

“One of our big utilities evolutions is the annual steam shutdown,” said Rick Burgess, vice president of the division, who led the award ceremony. “This involves literally months of planning and preparation. We accomplish maintenance and repair work that can’t be done while the steam system is running, and we do it in a very short amount of time. So coordination, making sure the work gets done safely and then restored safely, is an important part of the evolution. Chas has a pivotal role in making all that happen.”

Porter embodies teamwork – working with his own pipefitting shop, utilities, the grounds department, several zones, local contractors and utility providers, Burgess said. He also trains other pipefitters so Cornell has a good supply of local talent.

Johnny Payne of Building Care enjoys the Facilities and Campus Services awards ceremony July 26.

From building care to transportation to finance, FCS comprises more than 1,000 employees who keep the campus humming.

“The work of Facilities and Campus Services – by the nature of our service – often goes unseen. Our work is really appreciated and this is an opportunity for us to recognize the performance of the whole team,” Burgess said. “It’s also an opportunity to call out specific individuals when they really go above and beyond.”

The division’s Diversity and Inclusion 2023 Video team won this year’s Steve Wright Bridge award. The video effort – led by Helen Steh, manager of customer service in Transportation and Delivery Services – aims to draw a large and diverse pool of candidates for job opportunities.

Steh, a previous awardee, is in her third year as co-chair of the division’s Diversity and Inclusion Council.

Volunteers from FCS appearing in the new video are Shaquana Crispell, Martin Conlon, Grace Dembia, Amanda “Ace” Elmer, Brennan Fitzgibbons, Kenneth Knapp, Carson Lopez, Nathan Moseley, Lyndsi Prignon, Patrick Sherry, Gerald Towne, Patrick Vrooman, Jeremy Woodhull and Phil Woodin III.

”Let me just offer my personal congratulations,” Burgess said. “That video tells our story well. My thanks to everybody involved in front of the camera, as well as all the folks behind the scenes in making this happen. You’ve done a fantastic job.”

The “One Cornell” Partner Award went to Robert R. Hoon, senior associate general counsel, and Jared M. Pittman, associate general counsel, from Cornell’s Office of General Counsel.

Hoon advises FCS on facilities, capital construction and complex business transactions. He received the partner award for his expertise and creativity on the Cornell University Borehole Observatory (CUBO) project, where he worked with FCS and outside legal counsel to create solid contracts.

Pittman advises FCS on land-use matters and administrative proceedings, including zoning, building fire code, historic preservation and real estate. He also provides guidance on energy, environmental regulation, government relations and transportation.

Cheryl Brown, an environmental project manager, and Kara Bugis, senior water compliance engineer, both in Environmental Health and Safety (FCS), won the “One Cornell” Award. Brown and Bugis pioneered the development of a process that allowed Cornell to demonstrate and document compliance for the Lake Source Cooling project.

Additionally, three staff members and a group won Cornerstone Awards:

  • Community Service: Careen Arsenault, a sustainability coordinator in Energy and Sustainability (FCS), for her volunteer work on the division’s Green Ambassador team, the United Way committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Council;
  • Developing Others: Josh LaPenna, director of facilities in Energy and Sustainability, for his work educating students, staff, faculty and the community on the power, heating and chilled-water plants;
  • Effectiveness Improvement: Stacey Edwards, senior engineer, central energy plant, for her work fostering relationships with Cornell shops, local contractors, suppliers and support staff; and
  • Distinction in Teamwork: The CUBO team, which supported Earth-source heating research objectives for the borehole project. Team members are Tammy Johnson (project manager), Jon Minarski (project coordinator), and Travis Fisher (director of project Management), from Engineering and Project Management; Frank Perry (construction manager), Sarah Carson (director of campus sustainability) and Careen Arsenault (sustainability coordinator) from Energy and Sustainability; Brenda Frank (contracts manager) of Facilities and Administrative; Chas Porter (pipefitter) in Facilities Management; and Andrew Fowler (project manager) at Cornell Tech.

Burgess also announced the division’s “Employees of the Quarter” Awards:

  • Tom Aldrich, building coordinator of Day Hall, for running to the scene of a car accident in May involving a pedestrian at Campus Road and Feeney Way. Also, when a pipe burst – pouring 30 gallons of water a minute – on the fourth floor of Day Hall in March, Aldrich’s familiarity with the building allowed him to turn off water valves quickly, saving further damage;
  • The 2023 Dump & Run Team from Building Care, who brought tons of items left behind by students departing residence halls to the Ithaca Mall to sell. The Dump & Run Team is Kenneth Bennett, Tom Birkmeyer, Rose Carling, Kara Conklin, Victor Ducot, Rhonda Ellers, Rebecca Hays, Doug Hill, Kendra Marshall, Patty Sharpe, Liza Spaulding and Sharon Unser. The money was donated to community charities; and
  • Campus-2-Campus bus drivers, in the division’s Transportation and Delivery Services department, for their skill in navigating New York City and their ability to operate under difficult circumstances while keeping riders safe. One recent accident involved an errant leaf-spring hitting the front windshield – and shattering it – while on the highway. Another accident involved a dump truck with locked brakes that swerved into the Cornell bus’ lane. The driver controlled the bus after being sideswiped and forced into the median. The drivers are Terry Carr, Pat Foote, Arthur Hogan, David Horton, Ernesto Jofre, Artem Karandeyev and Ray Roe.

Media Contact

Lindsey Knewstub