President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, brandishing a giant pair of scissors, cut the red ribbons that marked the inauguration of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ newly renovated Garden Avenue Complex on Friday afternoon.
A moderately sized crowd of faculty, students, alumni and friends huddled beneath three marquees to avoid the rain and witness the opening of what Lehman called a “world class facility.”
ILR dean Edward J. Lawler gave the welcoming address, and said the interlocking red ribbons — which read “ILR Advancing the World of Work” — symbolized the cross-current of ideas that the ILR school aims to promote. ILR brings the “study of labor and management under one roof,” Lawler said.
According to Lawler the project’s funding had been threatened “at more than one time,” and he expressed his gratitude to the individuals and organizations who had contributed to its eventual success.
Lehman praised the work of the architects and builders, saying “the results are really just spectacular.”
“There are now four floors of high-tech meeting space, and a fifth floor amphitheater with all the technology that’s needed to support an active learning environment,” Lehman added. “As the only building on campus dedicated to conference facilities, the Garden Avenue Complex has been in demand since August.”
Some of the organizations who have already made use of the center include the Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Communication Workers of America. Lehman went on to praise the work of the ILR school, in particular the service values of its extension division.
“The commitment to service which is the legacy of our land-grant roots continues to hold special meaning for [Cornell], and ILR is in many ways one of the preeminent examples of that on this campus,” Lehman said.
“I am confident that with the opening of the Garden Avenue Complex, ILR will provide an even higher level of service, in training the leaders of labor and management, informing the public policy debate, and setting the pace for the workplace of tomorrow,” Lehman added.
The ribbons were held by honored guests: Lois Gray, the Jean McKelvey/Alice Grant Professor Emeritus of Labor Management Relations; Stuart GraBois, executive director, N.Y. District Council of Carpenters Benefit Funds; Judge James J. Lack, of NYS Court of Claims; and Kenneth Kahn ’69, chair of the ILR Building Campaign Committee and president of LRP Publications, Inc.
Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, the ILR school hosted a celebratory dinner at Trillium, featuring speeches by Ronald Seeber, associate dean of ILR, and Dennis Hughes, president of NYS American Federation of Labor — Congress of Industrial Relations.
Hughes, who has been president of the of the NYS AFL-CIO since 1999, discussed some of the challenges currently facing the labor movement and stressed the importance of the ILR school to this movement in both the state and the nation.
“The success of this school is monumental in every way. But the question for us is: will we be able to carry that success into this next century?” Hughes asked. “An important school like this needs constant vigilance. An important idea, like the ILR school needs us all to participate; it needs us all to take notice of where this field of labor relations is going.
“It needs us all to be part of a meaningful solution that satisfies, not only the end users of both sides, but the state of New York, the USA and the world … Because good ideas start here in New York State, good ideas prosper in New York State, and this school is probably the best example of what those ideas can do,” Hughes said.
The dinner also recognized Gray’s career — Gray joined ILR’s extension faculty in 1946 and became associate dean and director of the extension in 1976. The respect held for Gray by the ILR school was reflected in the two standing ovations she received and the words of Seeber.
Gray’s honors and awards are “far too numerous to mention,” Seeber said. “The list [of Gray’s awards] reflects the diversity of her contribution to the field of industrial and labor relations, to Cornell University and to the wider society.”
As first director of the ILR school’s Buffalo extension office, Gray helped to establish the principles which are still in place in the extension division today, according to Seeber.
“With all of us she has been unfailingly kind, and firm in her resolve to do the right thing,” Seeber said. “She is the complete and true definition of colleague and mentor.”
Gray responded by saying, “what you’re really recognizing is the important role that the extension division has played in building this institution … And therefore I want to share it with all my colleagues.
“The new facility, which is stunning and so exciting, offers tremendous opportunities for us to apply our imaginations and our abilities … and to work together to do what we all want to do: keep ILR the top,” Gray said.
The amphitheater on the fifth floor of the renovated conference center has been named after Gray.
Archived article by James Heath