Six custodians from the University’s facilities services were recently recognized for their outstanding work at Cornell with $500 awards.
The awards –– which were created by Phil Bartels ’71 and his wife Susan –– were started in 2008 after a custodian gave cookies to their daughter while she was studying in Duffield Hall late at night. That act of kindness prompted Bartels to create awards specifically for custodians at Cornell.
“The aim for this award is to reward our custodial staff within the department of building care for going above and beyond what they’re asked to do,” said Juliet Parsons, a project associate at facilities services.
Parsons said the awards — which were presented at a ceremony in December — also aim to recognize an often-underappreciated group of people on campus.
“Another aim is to bring more attention to the great work that our custodians do every day,” Parsons said. “They are hard-working people. They have difficult jobs and aren’t given a lot of credit.”
Patrick D. Sherry, a Martha Van Resselaer Hall custodian, expressed excitement and surprise at being selected as an award winner.
“I was shocked to win this award. It’s a great feeling to be recognized for the work that you do,” Sherry said.
Gloria Grady, a custodian who works on West Campus, echoed Sherry’s sentiments.
“I was shocked, surprised and humbled that [I won] an award for what I just consider just doing my job,” she said.
In addition to his award, Sherry’s daughter –– who is studying nursing at Monroe Community College in Rochester — received a $5,000 scholarship.
“The great part [about the awards ceremony] was my daughter was there and it meant so much for my family to have that kind of reward,” Sherry said.
Working as a custodian comes with a variety of challenges, the award winners said.
“The most strenuous part is dealing with the weather, like [Tuesday’s] ice storm,” Sherry said. “We make sure everyone can get to class without breaking an arm and limb … We’re dealing with extra precautions.”
Still, the award winners praised Cornell as an excellent place to work.
“[Cornell] can’t be matched. I’ve been here for 12 years and it’s a great place to be,” Sherry said. “It’s a tight-knit group. Its a great place for your career.”
Sherry also said he was grateful for the opportunity to meet the Bartels in person at the award ceremony.
“[The Bartels] are such nice people to be able to talk to and they are also down-to-earth,” he said.
Grady also expressed appreciation for the Bartels’ generosity.
“It’s awfully generous of [the Bartels] to recognize the work we do,” she said.