Honor Our Alumni: Johnson's 6th Annual Alumni Recognition and Celebration Awards Gala
A Celebration of Service
Johnson’s Sixth Annual Alumni Awards Recognition Dinner was a festive event, giving alumni a chance to reconnect while honoring those who have demonstrated extraordinary volunteer service on behalf of the Johnson community, as well as exceptional leadership and vision. The celebration took place Jan. 24, 2013 at Guastavino’s in New York City, a catering hall that boasts spectacular architecture and good food.
Following a cocktail hour on the cavernous main floor of the facility, about 250 guests proceeded to the dining room, where a slide show of past events and award recipients caught their attention. When everyone was seated, Roger O’Neill, MBA ’61, welcomed those present and introduced the school’s trustees and vice presidents.
Once dinner service was well underway, the program resumed, first with a eulogy by Rich Marin ’75, MBA ’76, chair of Johnson’s Advisory Council, for Professor Jerome “Jerry” Hass, who had died unexpectedly only days before. “It always struck me that everywhere I went on campus, you saw the footprint of Jerry Hass,” Marin observed, referring to the numerous projects to which Hass had contributed. “As an economist, he would have loved the idea that there was indeed an order imbalance on him as he moved on in life — because there was a lot more demand for Jerry than there was supply.”
Next, Dean Soumitra Dutta took the podium and called for a moment of silence for Professor Hass. He then lightened the mood with amusing anecdotes about how his colleagues helped him and his wife adapt to Ithaca after having lived in France. For example, one colleague shared his wine cellar so that the Dean and his wife wouldn’t miss the food so much. Dean Dutta then gave an update on the strategy for Johnson’s future. “The priorities are simple, yet profound. They can be described by three words: New York, Global and Cornell,” he said, adding that now that the priorities have been established, it is time to focus on execution.
The awards presentations began with the Henry P. Renard ’54, MBA ’55 Regional Club of the Year Award, accepted by Club President Donna Spinella ’78, MBA ’86, on behalf of the Johnson Club of Rochester. “We don’t have a large population of Johnson alumni in the Rochester area … but we make the most of what we’ve got,” she said. She explained that members’ passion for the arts, technology, and entrepreneurship prompt many activities, and that the city’s proximity to Cornell makes it easy to get faculty to come and visit.
The Robert J. Swieringa Young Alumni Service Award went to Jeffrey Kabel, MBA ’97, who is also a member of Johnson’s Advisory Council. “We’ve had a few difficult years with the economy … [but so many] busy and accomplished people really (pitched) in to try to help ... the graduates and future graduates [get jobs],” Kabel said.
The Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement went to Henry P. Renard ’54, MBA ’55. Renard’s career advice to the audience was: “Look to create something wonderful for yourself, your family, your clients and customers. …You should want to maintain your integrity and compassion … and make sure your moral compass is in line.”
The final speech was given by keynote speaker H. Fisk Johnson ’79, MEng ’80, MS ’82, MBA ’84, PhD ’86, recipient of the 2012 L. Joseph Thomas Leadership award, Johnson’s highest honor, in recognition of his exceptional demonstration of vision and leadership, sound business sense, and commitment to community. Johnson earned all of his many academic degrees from Cornell, including a BA in chemistry and physics, a master’s of engineering, an MS and PhD in applied physics, and an MBA. The His speech, “The Goodwill of People, The Only Enduring Thing in Business,” noted that while buildings and machinery may not last for a long time, a company’s reputation can endure.
Susan Spielberg is a freelance writer in New York City who has covered many Johnson events there.
Photography by Shelley Kusnetz