Alex Colvin, Ph.D. '99, the Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution, unveils the new ceremonial banner at an event held May 7. Holding the updated flag are Patrick Raczka ’25 (left) and Tyler Bonaparte ’25 (right), who were part of the student team that created the winning redesign.

ILR School’s new banner reflects its breadth

For generations of ILR students, the school’s ceremonial banner – an apricot-colored background with burgundy hands representing labor and management shaking in front of a smokestack representing the workplace – was a fitting symbol of the school’s founding principles.

Lately, however, the banner began to feel dated to many in the ILR ranks, especially recent graduates, who often made their feelings known to Alex Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, the Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution at the ILR School.

Linda Lambert works on the new ILR banner.

“One of my favorite things to do as dean is to participate in Cornell’s Commencement ceremony,” Colvin said. “I walk up toward the front with the banner as the graduating students march through campus, and over the years, I’ve engaged in a series of discussions that have made it clear to me that the banner does not symbolize the modern, global reach of the ILR School.”

Colvin then set out to change the banner to reflect the school’s contemporary breadth, which includes labor and labor relations, human resources, business, law, government and social justice, while staying true to ILR’s founding principles. The new flag features a globe surrounded by the scales of justice, a wrench and gear, an open book and a portion of a bar graph. Two hands shaking at the center of the globe reflect ILR’s tenets of bringing workers and managers together to solve problems.

“We got rid of the smokestack, which was problematic in an era when we’re concerned about climate change, and ILR is at the forefront of that issue, thanks to our Climate Jobs Institute,” Colvin said. “But there is one element we’ve kept, and that’s the two hands shaking.

“So that’s the continuity to the history of the school and our tradition of being neither a labor school nor a management school, but a school that studies labor-management relations.”

The school’s leadership proposed the redesign as a group project in the inaugural offering of the “Introduction to ILR” class, required for all first-year and transfer students, in the fall of 2022. 

The students were assigned to teams to design a visual representation of the ILR School. All the designs were reviewed by ILR’s leadership team, and members of the ILR Marketing, Communications and Web Team, and members of the ILR Student Experience team, then narrowed to four finalists. The team of Sofia Parekh ’25, Tyler Bonaparte ’25, Mardi Singleton ’25, Patrick Raczka ’25 and Robyn Burger ’25 (now in the College of Arts and Sciences) was deemed to have the winning design.

“There was a range of really fantastic and creative ideas,” Colvin said. “And we pulled some aspects from different proposals, but that one group of students had the overall design that best encapsulated the modern ILR School. “As a class exercise, it was also a great way to get new students to really think about what the ILR School is all about.”

Once the design was settled, it was shared with Linda Lambert, an artist and expert seamstress who has sewed the banners for Cornell’s Office of Commencement Events for decades. In the past few years, Lambert, a Cornell retiree, has been tasked with making new banners for the Cornell Ann C. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration.

In addition to the design changes, the banner’s color palette was updated based on the academic color standards established by the Intercollegiate Commission in 1895.

It turns out that the banner’s original background color, apricot, represents nursing majors. So, while the new colors – copper and citron – are not radically different from the original shades, they align more closely with the ILR School’s various academic fields.

The new banner was officially unveiled to the ILR community on the last day of classes during an ice cream social held in Golden Courtyard.

Members of the winning team – as well as more than 50 ILR School students – were in attendance and able to get a first-hand look at the updated banner.

“When we designed it, we were very intentional with our design,” Bonaparte said. “So, it’s nice to see that other people saw the value in what we drew up. It’s very exciting.”

Julie Greco is a senior communcation specialist in the ILR School.

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Adam Allington