Anyone who has ever hopped aboard a TCAT bus or rode the Campus-to-Campus service to and from New York City has benefited from the legacy of William Wendt, who has served as Cornell’s director of Transportation and Mail Services for the last 32 years. Wendt will retire on March 1, the University announced Monday.
Wendt also played an instrumental role in the 1998 consolidation of three separate public transit systems — which were previously run by the University, the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County — into the current county-wide Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit system. The new, unified arrangement created a public-private partnership that not only reduced the redundancy in public transit services but also employed resources more efficiently.
Helen Steh, commuter programs administrator, applauded Wendt’s role in fostering a close relationship between the University and the TCAT system.
“Bill Wendt developed a strong liaison with TCAT, one that is important to have, because the University will certainly continue to work closely with TCAT in the future,” she said.
Wendt also played a prominent role in the development of the popular Campus-to-Campus bus service, which connects the Ithaca campus to the University’s medical school in New York City.
A recent initiative carried out under Wendt’s direction was the “transportation-focused Generic Environmental Impact Statement” report. The document, completed in 2008, examined the future of Ithaca’s transportation with the expected growth of the local population over the next decade.
Under his leadership, the University’s transportation and mail services department received a wide variety of national recognition and accolades. Most recently, the department received the “Best Practitioner” award from the Community Transportation Association of America in 2009.
The Environmental Protection Agency joined in the praise, designating the University as one of the best workplaces for commuters from 2004 to 2008. The University’s transportation system is also cited regularly as a case study in articles that investigate effective campus transportation, according to David Lieb, the department’s assistant director for public information.
“Cornell has been at the forefront of alternative or sustainable transportation since before those terms were even in the vernacular,” Lieb said, highlighting Wendt’s ability to think ahead and envision different transporation models that might cut costs and make commuting more convenient.
Joseph Lalley, director of facilities operations, will assume responsibility of transportation and mail service upon Wendt’s retirement.
Steh called Wendt an inspirational leader who always thought ahead but remained patient and attentive to his employee’s immediate concerns.
“[Wendt] has done so much for the community, both in Ithaca and at Cornell. He was always at on the cutting edge of things,” Steh explained. “He was instrumental in so many of the [commuter] programs around here. He has a lot of respect for all that he’s done.”
John Earl, transportation and mail services administrator, echoed Steh’s sentiments.
“[As director of transportation] he got things done. He made things happen. He really brought out the best in everyone around him, and empowered everyone in the department,” Earl stated.
A retirement reception was held in honor of Wendt yesterday afternoon at the Moakley House. In spite of Wendt’s departure, Lieb did not feel that Wendt would remain idle for long.
“After 20 years of working with [Bill], I can’t foresee him sitting still for a moment,” he said.
Original Author: Lawrence Lan