Office professionals recognized for their caring, contributions

Nancy Doolittle
A Cornell employee receives one of many door prizes given away at the Jennie T. Farley Office Professionals Celebration April 26.


Twenty-nine years have passed since ILR School professors Jennie T. Farley and Alice Cook held a National Secretaries Day symposium and brown bag lunch for an audience of about 50.

On April 26, more than 600 office professionals attended the Jennie T. Farley Office Professionals Celebration and had the opportunity to welcome Cornell’s new president, Martha E. Pollack, eight days into her tenure.

Saying that staff are the unsung heroes of the university, Pollack accepted a welcoming gift of an orchid from the event’s planning committee. Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, thanked Pollack for attending and said that Farley, who co-founded the Women’s Studies Program and was widely known for advancing the status of women workers, would be pleased that Pollack is at the university’s helm.

Opperman also thanked Cornell’s office professionals for the work they do. She said office professionals are always ready to take on new technologies and adapt to organizational changes, and outside of work they can be found engaged in volunteer efforts, caring for children and parents, helping friends and neighbors, or getting involved in sports or the arts or other activities. Calling them “the magicians who every day transform the often overwhelming and seemingly impossible into reality,” Opperman urged the audience to remember to “take care of yourselves.”

“I am inspired by the resourcefulness and compassion of our office professionals,” she said. “We celebrate your contributions today, and we depend on them all year long.”

Juxtaposing the past and the future, keynote speaker Greg Morrisett, dean of the Faculty of Computing and Information Science, highlighted how technology has disrupted certain kinds of work since the advent of the personal computer and the internet, but also has created new opportunities.

While emerging technologies may affect work in the future, especially in areas such as admissions and employment hiring, Morrisett said, people should not be too worried that automation will eliminate jobs, because other things will come along that will require new jobs, or require the caring and thoughtfulness that only people can provide. “We have to be willing to learn and adapt to new systems,” he said.

Cornell is the ideal place for doing that, Morrisett said. Here, “you get to see the future early on.”

“All of us get a chance to influence the next generation and orient their thinking around the right way to adapt and to use these technologies,” he said. “You are not machines; you are caring, careful, committed people. That matters so much more than a machine.”

The program also featured entertainment from student groups Touchstones, After 8 and Sabor Latina Dance Ensemble, and many door prizes.

The event was sponsored by the ILR School, the Office of the President and the Division of Human Resources.