Six staff members receive awards for excellence

By: Nancy Doolittle,  Cornell Chronicle
November 9, 2016

Interim President Hunter Rawlings and Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman recognized six award recipients – out of nearly 100 nominees – at the fourth annual High Five Employee Recognition Award Luncheon Nov. 7. Attending were many nominees, their guests and supervisors, and those who nominated them.

“The people we recognize today are not only skilled in the narrow sense of their specific job description, but they are also skilled in shaping the work environment for their colleagues,” Rawlings said. “They collaborate, they engage and they motivate the people who are around them.”

Two staff members were recognized for individual excellence, two for management excellence, and one received the President’s Award for Excellence.

A new award, the President’s Award for Innovation in Diversity and Inclusion, was given to Marc Magnus-Sharpe, the Lindseth Director of Cornell Outdoor Education.

“Our employees come from all walks of life. They are an incredibly diverse group,” said Rawlings. “We are committed to increasing the diversity of our workforce in all respects.”

Magnus-Sharpe is known for recruiting and hiring practices that advance diversity within his unit, said Opperman. Magnus-Sharpe also has worked with Cornell’s Precollege Program to connect with more than 200 students from diverse backgrounds, and he led efforts to raise more than $800,000 to renovate and upgrade the Lindseth Climbing Center, she said.

The Individual Excellence Award is given to staff members who are dedicated to the university’s values, positively impact their work environment, are flexible and motivated, and foster collaboration. It was awarded to Richard Clark, manager of facilities for Molecular Biology and Genetics, and Vince Kotmel, physics undergraduate lab manager.

Clark’s nominators said he is known for his can-do attitude, his good nature, his ability to solve problems and his willingness to help with any project, including decommissioning labs. He is “one of the most conscientious staff members I have known,” said one.

Kotmel is known for his kindness and the support he gives to more than 40 professors and senior lecturers. He has been involved in several outreach programs, such as the Mad Scientists’ Week at the Ithaca Child Care Center Camp and Cornell’s Bring a Child to Work Day.

The Management Excellence Award was given to Holly Potter, manager for on-campus recruiting and corporate client services at Johnson, and Robert Van Brunt, administrative manager for the Department of Romance Studies. This award is given to those who are dedicated to Cornell’s values, create an inclusive environment, are problem-solvers, and act with foresight and professionalism, said Opperman.

Potter is known for her commitment to work/life balance for employees. She “genuinely cares about the students, faculty and staff,” and is seen as a “true ambassador of the career management center and Johnson student services as a whole.”

Van Brunt is known for recruiting “the best people possible” and giving them the support they need; coordinating and leading meetings among faculty; and has proven that “a respected leader is someone who respects others in return.”

The President’s Award for Excellence, “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters,” is given to leaders at all levels who “live the university values; demonstrate inclusiveness, collaboration and respect; and further the university’s mission through their strategic planning and leadership,” said Opperman.

Lisa Yager, executive staff assistant in the president’s office, received the award. She is known for her ability to handle complex tasks with “quiet grace, confidentiality and the ultimate level of competence”; for handling multiple tasks simultaneously; and for “her care and attention to others.”

“We value the talents, ambition and knowledge of our staff because those qualities are key to making Cornell a great place to learn, conduct research and work,” said Opperman. “It’s very rewarding for me to have this opportunity to recognize such exceptional staff members.”

This article originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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