Generator program team recognized with IPP's Keystone Award

Nancy Doolittle
From left: Bill Sitzabee and members of the generator program team: Dean Andersen, Joe Shields, Dave Hart, Jim Bovard, Chris Wayman, Bob Murray and Jessica Sczepanski.  Absent is  Allen Phelps.


About 800 staff gathered June 13 in Bartels Hall for the ninth annual Infrastructure, Properties and Planning (IPP) Employee Celebration. The event highlights the contributions of staff who have gone “above and beyond expectations” during the past year.

The most prestigious award, the Keystone Award, was given to the generator program team: Dean Anderson, Jim Bovard and Joe Shields from Facilities Management; Chris Wayman from Facilities Engineering; Eric Featherson  and Jessica Sczepanski, both electricians; and retirees Dave Hart and Allen Phelps, who were also recognized for their long-term commitment to the program.

This team maintains 92 emergency generators on the Ithaca campus and works to ensure the installation of new generator equipment meets university standards.

“Interruption of building power can mean failure for long-running research experiments involving equipment or impact to critical campus infrastructure in dining, community centers, or residence halls,” wrote Robert Murray, architectural engineer, in nominating the team, adding that the generator program team has earned recognition for their care and support of these university assets, and for providing a reliable source of backup power. “All members are passionate and efficient, and exemplify excellence,” he wrote.

Four Cornerstone Awards were presented:

  • The Cornerstone Award for Effectiveness Improvement was given to Kevin Samson for his leadership of the elevator program. All facets of this program, especially in regard to cost, service and communication, have improved, wrote Vincent Knapp, mechanical engineering section manager, whose nomination of Samson was seconded by Jim Gibbs, Facilities Management director.
  • The Cornerstone Award for Distinction in Teamworkwas awarded to the team that, for the past two years, managed the Lynah Rink roof: Aaron Debolt, Ethan Dennison, Josh Dennison, Joel Mashanic, Mark Watermen, Dan Jones, Chris Lampmen, Keith Walker, James Overhiser and Matthew Reiter. This team was nominated by Erik Grey for their efforts to ensure the integrity of the roof, even during the heavy snowfall of Storm Stella in March 2017.
  • The Cornerstone Award for Dedication to Developing Others was given to three staff members – Kristi Cooley, Dan Klinger and Mike Baker – who with their can-do, positive, customer-focused attitude changed the culture and morale of their unit by streamlining their unit’s services and processes, providing more consistent and efficient operations, and elevating customer support and satisfaction.
  • The Cornerstone Award for Campus or Community Service went to Sarah Zemanick, who has been called “a champion of sustainability both internal and external to Cornell.” Zemanick successfully protected carbon reduction efforts for Cornell and other organizations statewide by mobilizing a statewide coalition to ensure the preservation of renewable energy credit standards. Zemanick is highly regarded by student leaders, faculty and civic leaders in Tompkins County and Albany, and was nominated for this award by staff from Cornell’s Energy and Sustainability, Facilities Engineering and University Relations offices.

Named in honor of Steve Wright, former director of Planning, Design and Construction and longtime champion of diversity and inclusion, the Steve Wright Bridge Award was presented to Debra Howell, director of IPP information and technology. Howell, who is an active member of the IPP Diversity Council, was pivotal in creation of the IT Career Framework Committee to encourage self-development and leadership; facilitated Cornell’s Emerging Leaders Program and is a lead facilitator for many Turning Point programs each year; started the “IT Reads” program, which develops skills through shared reading thought exchange; and chaired and led the IPP United Way committee for the past two years. Most recently, she was elected the information officer on the executive board for the New York State Chapter of the American Council on Education Women’s Network.

The event also celebrated all members of IPP and their contributions to the mission of Cornell. Jim Kazda, senior director of Contract Colleges Facilities and the campus manager, recognized seven IPP staff members who received degrees and several outstanding students and faculty whose achievements and innovations took place in buildings maintained by IPP staff. He also highlighted major events – such as Dragon Day, Commencement and Reunion – the work of Cornell Cooperative Extension and the radical collaborations that depend upon the work of IPP staff. “If we take pride in our work and provide support for all the folks around us, we will all have a significant role in all that is done at this university – teaching, research and extension,” he said.

Also recognized was IPP’s Rewards and Recognition Committee, which organized this awards event: Dan Schied, Donna-Marie Parker, Dustin Darnell, Erik Eshelman, Jean Curran, Julie Parsons, Kristin Gutenberger, Sue Kern Wilkins, Tom King, Vicki Davis, Laurrie Coffin and Michele Johnson.

Bill Sitzabee, interim vice president for IPP, who will leave in July to assume a post at Pennsylvania State University, opened the event and thanked the “entire IPP staff” for the “chance to work with some of the greatest folks here at Cornell.”