As part of Cornell University’s 8th Annual Staff Celebration Week, President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 gave a speech to staff members entitled “Reflections on the Past Year” yesterday. Sponsored by the Employee Assembly (E.A.), this event took place exactly 52 weeks after Lehman’s inauguration as the University’s 11th president in October 2003.
Pam Dusseau, the E.A. chair elected to represent Cornell staff to central administration, introduced Lehman to numerous staff members gathered in Barton Hall.
Lehman began by thanking the Cornell staff for welcoming him to Cornell, calling them “remarkably service oriented and committed to the University’s future” and complimented them on their “willingness to grow and change with the University.”
Much of Lehman’s speech dealt with the results of his “Call to Engagement” campaign, which consisted of a series of eight categories of questions which he posed to the community earlier last year. Lehman thanked the staff for sharing their thoughts with him at various functions throughout the year, including a “pizza with the president” event also sponsored by the Employee Assembly, and for sharing their concerns and reflections with him in writing. He mentioned that he received over 700 written responses from “thousands of students, faculty and staff who weighed in to tell me about their hopes and dreams.”
“After all that talking, listening and reading, I learned a lot about the Cornell family, “Lehman said, calling the Cornell community both “witty and deadly serious, concise and verbose.”
Lehman mentioned that he would give his State of the University address in two weeks, but wanted to share several observations with the staff in advance. After reading responses to the Call to Engagement, Lehman said he began thinking of how to bring Cornell into the future of the 21st century while embracing its unique past as a land-grant institution committed to learning and higher education.
Lehman stressed that a 21st century Cornell education must have a dual purpose of providing its students with substantive knowledge in order for them to become literate adults, but must also help them to “lead lives of consequence and satisfaction.”
Cornell’s goal, he said, should be to help students build their intellectual curiosity, analytic power and cultural literacy. Lehman acknowledged that technology could help students become more active learners, but stressed that it should not be substitute for “a form of instruction that actively engages the student and professor together.”
Lehman said that the University staff would play a vital role in bringing his goals and visions for Cornell to life. He praised the “terrific job that the staff of Cornell does everyday”, noting their visible presence at “sparkling events such as the Duffield Hall inauguration” and also their “contribution to daily life, such as keeping the grounds beautiful and well tended year-round.”
While acknowledging that it is not easy to work at Cornell, Lehman thanked the staff for their personal sense of pride in their work and in the mission of the University. The “hardest work is still ahead of us” Lehman said, in closing, “but I’ m glad to have all of you as part of the team.”
From Lehman’s speech to the “delicious” foccaccia sandwiches afterwards, the event proved a success.
“I was very pleased with the turnout,” said Donna Goss, executive vice chair of the E.A.
Lehman will deliver the State of the University Address during Trustee/Council Weekend on Oct. 29 and 30.
Archived article by Samira Chandwani
Sun Staff Writer