Rotary celebrates exceptional local employees

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At noon on Oct. 23, dozens attended Ithaca Rotary’s weekly meeting to watch its annual Pride of Workmanship Awards, which recognizes community members for their outstanding work performance in their organization. Four employees were given the awards this year, and, to hear their nominators tell it, they were well deserving of the appreciation.

This year’s winners are Dan Cole, manager at The Pack n’ Ship Store, Ashley Dickson, office manager at Dermatology Associates of Ithaca, Gary Horvath, lab services supervisor at the Boyce Thompson Institute, and Matt Stratton, department business administrator in the department of food science at Cornell University.

The awards, which have been going on for over two decades, consistently seek to celebrate employees at both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions who go “above and beyond the call of duty,” embody the spirit and mission of their organization and help their organization reach its goals.

“We’re really trying to recognize people who are the unsung cog in the wheel that makes things go,” said Kati Torello, head of the Pride of Workmanship committee at Rotary. “That’s someone who really takes pride in doing the very best job that they can do to make everybody else’s life around them as easy as it can be.”

Torello said that, historically, the winners have come from practically all types of organizations, and this year was no exception.

Cole has been working at The Pack n’ Ship Store on the Commons for two years now, and he said he truly enjoys his work.

“It’s really fun being in the middle of everything right on the Commons,” he said. “I enjoy interacting with people and not knowing what’s going to come through the door at a given moment and just having to be prepared for it.”

Indeed, that can-do attitude is what nominator and Rotary member Mary Berens noticed when she would often come into the store as a customer.

“I can remember after my very first transaction with Dan at the helm,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is so effortless. He’s got the solution. … I know there’s really a reason why I come down and do this.’”

Cole’s boss, Joanne Lamoureux, is also a Rotary member. She said that she had seen Cole’s incredible work ethic before but didn’t want her position at Rotary to influence the decision, so she’s glad Berens was able to nominate him.

“I was especially pleased for Dan’s award to come because I think the recognition of a satisfied customer is the best possible accolade for someone who works in customer service,” Lamoureux said. “He’s smart, warm and friendly and efficient and has an exceptional memory. He’s possibly more compulsively organized than I am and manages the business as if it were his own.”

Cole said he did not expect to receive the award but is happy just the same.

“I’m humbled,” he said. “It really caught me by surprise. Rotary’s a great organization, and it’s really just an honor to be recognized like this.”

Dickson has been at Dermatology Associates of Ithaca for five years, and she said she has truly grown as a person and as a professional while working under Dr. Josephine McAllister, who nominated her for the award.

“I’ve always had a passion for the medical field,” Dickson said. “The best part of my day is the team that I have. I have the most amazing team, and they make my day so easy.”

McAllister said that Dickson is a hard worker who helps to keep Dermatology Associates running smoothly by providing coaching for team members, building relationships with vendors, ensuring accountability, keeping patients happy and much more.

“Ashley has become an exceptional team leader whose work we rely on in vital ways, seen and unseen, throughout every moment of the workday and beyond,” McAllister said. “[She] brings us joy and energy and courage every day, helps us to achieve more as a team together than we ever would’ve thought possible.”

Like with Cole, Dickson said the award was unexpected but welcome, and she’s looking forward to going back to doing what she loves.

“I actually was working from home that day … and I got the email, and it took me a while to really let it sink in that Dr. McAllister had nominated me and that I was selected,” she said. “I’m proud to work and do what I do every single day.”

Over at the Boyce Thompson Institute, Horvath has spent eight years with the independent research organization, and he said he loves working for “the Cadillac of companies.”

Sophia Darling, vice president for finance and operations and corporate treasurer at BTI, nominated Horvath but did not attend the ceremony. Accompanying Horvath instead was BTI Financial Controller Pete Radez.

Radez said that he and Darling both have witnessed Horvath’s dedication to his work and are forever thankful for all that he does.

“Gary Horvath not only personifies the spirit of Boyce Thompson Institute; he helps to drive it,” Radez said, reading from Darling’s nomination letter. “In a quick-paced organization of highly trained and experienced researchers, his tireless efforts contribute to directly support the forward motion that will yield scientific discovery.”

Horvath said he was taken aback by the news of his nomination and win, but he has his coworkers to thank for his performance.

“It’s a great place to work for,” Horvath said. “I do have to give credit to all the people I work with. … It’s really easy to be a good employee when you work with good employees.”

Stratton, in addition to his duties as business administrator, is also the CFO of his department, and nominator Robert Gravani, Rotarian and professor and director of the National Good Agricultural Practices Program at Cornell, said he is glad to have Stratton as part of the team.

“What always impressed me about Matt is that he’s willing to roll up his sleeves and do things above and beyond the call of duty that certainly isn’t in his job responsibility,” Gravani said. “If I were dangling from a cliff and needed a rope to be rescued, I would certainly want Matt Stratton on the other side of that rope.”

Stratton expressed a similar sentiment toward his coworkers and his department and said it was “amazing” to be recognized in such a way.

“I really believe in what they do,” Stratton said. “You give so much of your time to work, and it’s really nice to be recognized by a colleague.”

And that recognition all around is exactly what the awards are about, Torello said. With 15 to 20 submissions on average every year, the decision is a tough one, to say the least, but she said it is well worth it.

“I get inspired by what I read of the people that do the things they do,” she said. “In a society that, at this point, has become so ‘me’ oriented, it’s really motivating and inspiring to see people who aren’t inspired by just the ‘me.’”

Rotary President Frank Towner said Pride of Workmanship strongly aligns with Rotary’s model of “service above self,” and it is important to let the winners and others know that their work is crucial and appreciated.

“Every human needs to have a little help, a little recognition, a little self-esteem builder, a little acknowledgement that what I’m doing in the world is good,” he said. “So, this addresses that.”

Ithaca Rotary meets Wednesdays at noon at Coltivare.

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