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Employee Award Recipients

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - 2016

Robin BabcockAwardee: Robin Babcock

With Cornell since: 2013
Employed where: Greenhouse group
Contributions: Robin serves as the administrative assistant across campus greenhouse and growth chamber facilities. She played an invaluable role in the successful 2016 meeting of the Association of Education and Research Greenhouse Curators (AERGC) at Cornell. Her tireless efforts to coordinate a myriad of event details, as part of a team, ensured that the meeting was informative and enjoyable. Robin also has a strong customer service approach, and her can-do helpful nature endears her to staff, faculty and students alike. Lastly, Robin is a shrewd purchaser, and continually reduces significant expenses with common and unusual supply orders through her purchasing and negotiating savvy.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - 2016

Erik VergasonAwardee: Erik (Gus) Vergason

With Cornell since: 2003
Employed where: Farm Services
Contributions: Erik is a field assistant at Farm Services. As part of a small and effective team, he works to meet the University’s need for agricultural support services and organic waste collection and composting. In a challenging transition year for Farm Services, shifting away from the production of commodities for sale and towards increasing provision of applied support services, Erik provided honest, timely and critical feedback on the process, and maintained a strong work ethic. As part of a team effort, Erik participated in completing numerous value-added essential farm projects, including the installation of agricultural fencing, a high tunnel and a culvert. Also, Erik’s ability to work as a team, his sense of humor, and his thoughtful eye towards safety are all highly appreciated.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Fall 2015

Bonnie FergusonAwardee: Bonnie Ferguson

With Cornell since: 1998
Employed where: Administrative group at Roberts Hall
Contributions: Bonnie keeps our Roberts Hall office running smoothly and efficiently every day. She tirelessly organizes, schedules, and plans with great attention to detail. If Bonnie manages an event such as the CALS Core Value Staff Awards, you can be sure that things will go off without a hitch. Bonnie artfully juggles many responsibilities and has the foresight to anticipate and remediate potential problems before they arise. She keeps the CUAES director on track, and during the past year she was instrumental in assuring a smooth transition to our new director, Jan Nyrop. She also helps to keep the rest of the CUAES crew in Roberts Hall coordinated, working as a team, in good spirits, and supplied with coffee and chocolate (essential to the good spirits!). Bonnie handles any concerns that come her way with honesty, thoughtfulness, and grace — a talent that few people possess. Her skills and approach have allowed her to successfully defuse occasional tense situations. Everyone who talks to Bonnie leaves with a smile. With her outgoing and warm personality, she can put anyone at ease. Bonnie’s keen sense of humor brightens every day, and makes work much more enjoyable for all of her colleagues.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Spring 2015

Andrew Leed Awardee: Andrew Leed

With Cornell since: 1977
Employed where: Plant Growth Facilities
Contributions: Andy has been absolutely instrumental in the success of two large capital projects this year: the construction of a brand new conservatory and a new greenhouse range at Guterman. His know-how with facilities design and function, and his attention to detail, are impressive. There are many bits and pieces of a greenhouse that have to work harmoniously and reliably for it to be functional and effective for research, teaching and outreach. Andy’s leadership in ferreting out problems, and diagnosing and brainstorming solutions, has made a world of difference in both of these projects! In the past year, Andy has also been a key participant in a number of high-level tours of CUAES plant growth facilities. He is a wealth of knowledge about a wide array of plant material and can capture the scope of numerous research projects in a way that makes sense to diverse audiences. Thank you Andy for your continued engagement in critically important facilities projects and outreach!

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Fall 2014

Mike Davis​Awardee: Mike Davis

With Cornell since: 1997
Employed where: Willsboro Research Farm
Contributions: Mike Davis, Willsboro farm supervisor, is a dedicated and enthusiastic supporter of applied agricultural research at Cornell, with a commendable focus on supporting Northern New York agriculture. Through his leadership, he has actively maintained and diversified the research and extension programs at Willsboro and Chazy, including work with juneberry, willow, and agronomic and specialty vegetables, and serves as an active and critically important collaborator for many of the projects conducted on site. In the past year he took particular initiative to strategically divest some farm equipment and actively plan for future improvements to equipment and facilities. Mike is always happy to share his broad knowledge and experience with faculty, students, farmers and the Northern New York community. His engagement and positive attitude make it a pleasure to work with him!  

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Spring 2014

Kendra HutchinsAwardee: Kendra Hutchins

With Cornell since: 2010
Employed where: The Tower Road Greenhouses
Contributions: As a Greenhouse Grower, Kendra cares for a diversity of plants while supporting greenhouse users ranging from researcher groups and class instructors to the Hortus Forum undergraduate horticulture club.  She is very organized and structures her days so that both time-sensitive and ‘should get done someday’ projects get finished.  Kendra is great at clearly communicating with her greenhouse users and makes sure everyone connected with a project is informed whenever anything of note happens.  Kendra is quick to help colleagues when they need assistance, and readily volunteers to pitch in with group projects. She participated in our greenhouse Lean initiative last year and headed up the communications team.  She led this team in creating a series of helpful documents for greenhouse users, and recently finished the last of those documents after many months of meetings and revisions. Her organization and persistence kept the effort moving forward and produced a first-rate result.
What her supervisors say about her: Kendra is fearless in tackling new projects.  She is willing to figure out new computer software, look up and interpret scientific papers, and try new propagation techniques.  Kendra has tremendous editorial talent and many of us rely on her proofreading and word-wizard skills.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Fall 2013

Tim DodgeAwardee: Tim Dodge

With Cornell since: 2001
Employed where: Campus Area Farms (CAF)
Working style: Tim oversees 12 distinct farm areas with hundreds of acres, and a substantial amount of building space and equipment. Tim manages these resources and an ongoing array of requests for service very well and all in stride. Every field season, Tim is challenged to meet numerous programmatic requests for agricultural support, and he places great emphasis on the quality and quantity of service he provides. He is always willing to help, easy going and a pleasure to work with. Colleagues and CAF customers depend on his good nature, approachableness and can-do attitude, and he maintains a great relationship with researchers. Tim also does a particularly exceptional job in supporting multiple CUAES operations: from fulfilling occasional requests from the greenhouses and growth chambers for skilled services and equipment, to completing special projects such as mobile storage units for LIHREC, to hosting the Harvest Luncheon and grilling chicken for large crowds at field days.
What his supervisors says about him: Tim’s focus on service benefits his operation and the many who rely on his good work. Tim has a solid base of agricultural knowledge and competencies and he recognizes and responds to diverse needs. His exemplary efforts are essential to the success of many important research projects. Whether Tim is arranging water-saving trickle irrigation for sensitive crops, proactively monitoring and spraying for late blight, installing deer fence or shoveling snow off of high tunnels in the dead of winter, Tim strives to be ever helpful and responsive to all.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Fall 2013

Paul StachowskiAwardee: Paul Stachowski

With Cornell since: 1995
Employed where: Musgrave Research Farm, Aurora NY
Working style: Paul manages 450 acres of research and crop production farmland in Aurora, and his efforts are absolutely essential to the success of many research programs. Paul seizes every opportunity to improve and expand the capacity and performance of the farm, and to maximize efficiencies. He makes smart business decisions and has the courage and initiative to experiment with new practices and ideas. He has promoted and implemented numerous facility improvements on the farm, and as a result Musgrave is looking better than ever. For example: managing a wood pellet boiler, that heats the farm while saving $6,000/year; renovating the farm break room; installing secure seed storage made from repurposed growth chambers; and installation of a modern weather station. Paul’s friendly demeanor, positive attitude and genuine kindness make it very pleasant to work with him. He is considerate and laughs often.
What his supervisors say about him: Paul is a top-notch supervisor for the Musgrave Research Farm. Even though he always has a full plate, he is highly motivated to make the most of every opportunity, to provide premier support for research, teaching and outreach. He has made creative and informed efforts to improve the quality of his research fields, including: installation of drainage lines on 28 acres; experimenting with novel strategies for cover cropping and side dressing; and adopting no-till cropping systems. Paul is always looking for possibilities to improve sustainability at Musgrave. He operates with integrity and is respected by his peers. Paul is making a real difference.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Spring 2013

Anja TimmAwardee: Anja Timm

With Cornell since: 2008
Employed where: Administrative group at Roberts Hall
Working style: Anja is a dedicated team player, and she constantly manages a diverse range of job responsibilities with skill and professionalism.
What her supervisors say about her: Anja is certainly well deserving of appreciation. She is responsive to operational needs and requests and she does a great job of prioritizing work demands. She is very good at anticipating needs before they arise and manages to keep the ag. operations director from falling flat on his face. Anja is instrumental in designing, creating, and organizing nifty outreach materials for farm field days and special events, and this year is no exception. Anja plays an active role in CUAES' Sustainability Action Team. She has been invaluable in implementing tree-planting and team building events and is always an active participant. Staff across operations appreciate her responsiveness, engagement and humor.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Fall 2012

Kimberlee GoodwinAwardee: Kimberlee Goodwin

With Cornell since: 1977
Employed where: The Tower Road Greenhouses
Working style: Kim is always there to back up her crew members, smooth over bumps in the road, and help them with their jobs. She is the well of calm and stability for the Tower Road greenhouses; someone you can depend on to get a job done right and solve whatever problem comes up - with poise and a smile. Kim has a way of bringing excellent organization to anything she works on, and tries her best to get that to rub off on others. She always follows up to make sure repairs get done, plants are safe, clients’ needs are met and everyone in her group is doing well. She starts every work day early, and her responsibilities don’t end when the day is over – Kim regularly handles after-hours facility emergencies and greenhouse alarms. She deals with clients, visitors, students and staff alike with tact and a helpful can-do attitude that exemplifies what a service organization should be all about.

What her supervisors say about her: Kim keeps everything running well, juggling more projects, tasks and requests than it seems humanly possible. She might tell you that her memory isn’t what it used to be, but she seldom drops a ball, no matter how hectic her day is. She often gives me a friendly reminder of something I need to move higher on the priority list, and gives sage advice aimed at keeping me from getting myself into trouble. Kim manages to be helpful and cheerful almost no matter what urgent requests or emergencies come up. I’ve never known anyone who cared more or took more pride in doing her job well.

A notable accomplishment: With many of the greenhouses that Kim oversees now equipped with computerized environmental controls, she has become proficient in working with the new Argus control systems. By diving into hands-on practice, always asking questions, and plenty of late night alarm calls, she’s learned enough that she’s now an Argus trainer for her staff of growers. This helps them to provide the best plant growing environment and meet sustainability goals by saving energy.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Spring 2012

Julie BlahaAwardee: Julie Blaha

With Cornell since: June 2009
Employed where: The “Green Greenhouses” near Kenneth Post Lab
Working style: Julie can be a bit quiet, but she’s always observing and learning. Reliable, self-motivated, goal oriented and thorough, she is dedicated to understanding the job and doing it correctly. She’s always ready to lend a hand to help out a coworker.

What her supervisors say about her: Julie does an excellent job of prioritizing responsibilities, carries out her work with care, and completes every detail. She’s always looking out for the clients’ best interest, and cares deeply about the work she does to support their research. On her own initiative, she will do extensive research on any area of her job she is unfamiliar with, such as the cultural needs of new plants. Julie’s peers look up to her as a positive role model and she garnishes respect from all who work with her.

A notable accomplishment: Julie does an exceptional job caring for the challenging plants in the tropical agroforestry collection. As Horticulture Professor Ken Mudge says, "Julie has done an outstanding job with the care of the tropical house; it looks the best it’s looked in a long time."

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Fall 2011

Rick RandolphAwardee: Rick Randolph

With Cornell since: 2008
Employed where: Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm
Working style: Rick is a "success is in the details" type of person. A perfect fit needed to successfully support the types of field research projects at Freeville. He is willing to make himself available to any last minute request for help regardless of his current task. His assistance is appreciated by researchers, staff and students.

What his supervisors say about him: I depend very much on Rick for his accomplishing many tasks including, performing the majority of field prep, pesticide maintenance applications and the training and supervision of two temporary employees. He is here early, before hours to help plan the day's activities and stay's late to finish what's started. Together we discuss farm plan strategies, employee and facility needs, and budget management to name a few. His abilities are real and evident to researchers in that he is contacted directly for his knowledge, services and decision making abilities. Rick is an ideal candidate for future responsibility and leadership roles. I personally consider him a highly valued employee and friend.

A notable accomplishment: Rick began work at Freeville as an "apprentice" pesticide applicator. After completing and documenting 3 years of field experience, studies, training and testing he is now a fully certified Commercial Pesticide Applicator. Additionally, Rick recently completed Horticulture Department course work in "Principles of Vegetable Production" to further his abilities to assist researchers at Freeville. His class project on commercial carrot production became immediately useful in support of a USDA carrot trial this year. Rick's many responsibilities also include servicing and repairing all types of farm equipment. His approach to equipment stewardship is a personnel one in that he operates, repairs, and services all equipment as if it were his own. All tractors, trucks, trailers, and equipment are inspected, serviced, and repaired, followed by a thorough cleaning, waxing, and polishing each winter. The trucks and tractors look and function like new each spring. Of his own initiative, Rick regularly contacts equipment suppliers and negotiates reduced or even free repair parts, conserving our equipment maintenance funds. This summer Rick has worked many overtime hours, since a co-worker was out with an injury.

Employee Appreciation Award Recipient - Spring 2011

Nick Van EckAwardee: Nick Van Eck

With Cornell since: 1989
Employed where: Growth Chamber Crew
Working style: Nick is easy going but focused on getting the job done right

What his supervisors says about him: Nick’s previous experience as a plant growth chamber user helps him understand researchers’ needs - he’s always looking out for their interests and is very responsive to their requests. Nick’s team works like an experienced pit crew to quickly repair down chambers while safeguarding sensitive research plants. This is quite a challenge, considering that they maintain over 120 growth chambers ranging from 2 year old state-of-the-art units to 1964 antiques using vacuum tube controllers. When Nick responds to an after-hours emergency, I know that he’ll do whatever it takes to solve the problem.

A notable accomplishment: His stewardship of the growth chamber crew has brought Nick kudos from the facility users. He and his crew are able to keep the growth chambers up and running with 60% of the labor force once required. In addition, they have measured the electricity usage of the chambers and shared that information with users. Now researchers are much more diligent in letting Nick know when they are between projects and which chambers can be shut down. Nick has been instrumental in bringing the new Weill Plant Growth Facility on line and is heavily involved in a project to renovate 22 walk-in chambers for improved performance and efficiency. These efforts have made impressive energy and cost savings for CALS, helping CUAES and the University move toward greater sustainability.

Employee of the Quarter - Fourth Quarter 2010

Steve McKayAwardee: Steve McKay

With Cornell since: 1984
Employed where: Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm
Working style: Steve is an exceptionally hard working and dedicated individual who cares deeply about the work he does in support of research, teaching and extension. He is committed to every size research project and sees it through from beginning to end, keeping all fields and plots well utilized. Steve is known for his attention to detail and can answer any question regarding research conducted at the farm during the past 20 years, either by memory or by swiftly sifting through his impeccable records.

What his supervisors say about him: Steve continues to seek improvements at Freeville and shares these innovations with the other farm managers. For example he has altered crop rotations and cover crops to reduce input needs, generated revenues through new cash crops including rye, corn, vegetables, and field corn. He has pushed an agenda of sustainability by, among other things, closing a facility during winter months to reduce energy costs and our carbon footprint.

A notable accomplishment: His efforts along with the other staff at the farm made the recent Northeast Collegiate Weed Science Contest a great success. The high quality of the dozens of plots prepared for the event was impressive. In response to Steve's help with a Freshman plant science class the instructor had the following to say about Steve. "We are very lucky at Cornell to have… exceptional leadership and management at these facilities that allows access to our students as well as provides important research and pubic service for the students to see first-hand." We also want to recognize Steve for his leadership and coordination of donating over one million pounds of produce to local food pantries.

Employee of the Quarter - Third Quarter 2010

Melissa MaddenAwardee: Melissa Madden

With Cornell since: January 2008
Employed where: CUAES Organic Coordinator, Dilmun Hill Student Farm, Ithaca, NY
Working style: Melissa is a wonderful mentor to the Dilmun Hill student farm managers. She is incredibly supportive and advocates tirelessly for the students as well as the farm.

What her supervisors and colleagues say about her: Melissa is very committed to her job. Student managers at Dillmun Hill typically stay for only one or two years. In spite of this high turnover, Melissa places a high priority on letting the students make managerial decisions. She offers enough support to help them avoid major mistakes, while letting them learn from minor mishaps. In her role as Organic Coordinator, Melissa is instrumental in advancing organic agriculture at Cornell by growing the organic program at Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm, organizing popular field days, compiling bi-annual reports of organic research projects, and creating a new organic website. Melissa is always open to suggestions, willing to explore new ideas and is committed to the best possible stewardship of the land.

A notable accomplishment: Melissa has brought continuity and a fresh perspective to Dilmun Hill. Her efforts have increased both the profile and the scope of Dilmun Hill activities. The farm used to hire two student managers per year. Through Melissa's leadership and advocacy, that number has grown to seven.

Employee of the Quarter - First Quarter 2010

Bill HuizingaAwardee: Bill Huizinga

With Cornell since: 1998
Employed where: Farm Services, Ithaca, NY
Working style: Bill approaches all projects in an efficient and logical manner that maximizes the use of available time and resources. Both he and the Farm Services crew are always willing to put in the extra hours and effort to get the job done.

What his supervisors say about him: Bill runs Farm Services as though it were his own farm, while putting a strong emphasis on the “Service” part of Farm Services. His skills and abilities are a great match for the many challenges posed by a large and diverse farm operation providing services to over a dozen academic departments and other Cornell organizations.

A notable accomplishment: Bill was instrumental in the negotiation and logistics of moving over a hundred individual pieces of Department of Corrections (DOC) farm equipment donated to Cornell when the DOC farms ceased operations in 2009. Bill coordinated the transportation of all equipment, which was distributed to numerous CALS farms and facilities across New York State. Bill’s management of this massive project was impressive, with all equipment removed and transported safely to its destination within the strict time limits and regulations requested by the state.

Employee of the Quarter - Fourth Quarter 2009

Jeff StaytonAwardee: Jeff Stayton

With Cornell since: May 1990
Employed where: Musgrave Research Farm, Aurora NY
Working style: A motivated self-starter with solid knowledge and experience. Strongly goal oriented, reliable, adaptable, a real team player.

What his supervisors say about him: Jeff's knowledge and experience of the Musgrave farm is invaluable. He knows how things work and how to get tasks done. Jeff is always willing and his input extremely valuable to all farm users.

A notable accomplishment: Jeff had made the transition for the new farm supervisor as easy and smooth as possible. He was and is willing to share his knowledge and experience in all areas of the farm's operation. Jeff communicates very effectively with his supervisor and he gave excellent information so the farm's research and production goals were met.

Employee of the Quarter - Third Quarter 2009

Bill ThompsonAwardee: Bill Thompson

With Cornell since: November, 1978
Employed where: The Green (KPL) Greenhouses on Tower Rd.
Working style: Dedicated, reliable, goal oriented and self-motivated. If Bill says he's going to do it, you can consider it done.

What his supervisors say about him: Bill is an exemplary employee, and the "go-to guy" for historical information about KPL. He's grown everything from roses to transgenic corn, and is both a Dramm Sprayer repair expert and a Dosatron Injector guru. Bill often has the job done before he is even asked to do it.

A notable accomplishment: Bill started a recycling program at the KPL greenhouse many years ago and still keeps everything from light bulbs to empty soda bottles going to the right place.

Employee of the Quarter - Second Quarter 2009

Scott AnthonyAwardee: Scott Anthony

With Cornell since: December, 2000
Employed where: Guterman Lab, Greenhouses
Working style: Dedicated, reliable, enthusiastic, goal oriented, sharp attention to detail

What his supervisors say about him: Scott, a greenhouse grower, has been an exemplary employee from his first day in Guterman. A team player in every respect, he is known as the "soil king" by his coworkers.

A notable accomplishment: This year Scott spearheaded an effort to minimize weeds and pests by laying fabric down over the gravel floor in his greenhouse area.