Cornell University: Facilities, campus services staff recognized for achievements

An expert in helping Cornell facilities comply with state codes was awarded the Division of Facilities and Campus Services’ highest honor.

Mike Niechwiadowicz, Cornell’s building code program manager, received the Keystone Award on July 20 in Barton Hall at the division’s annual awards ceremony.

Niechwiadowicz helps Cornell engineers, project managers and designers find the best balance of cost, safety, operational effectiveness and compliance, all in the spirit of collaboration, said Rick Burgess, vice president for facilities and campus services (FCS).

“He brings a sense of calm and a positive attitude to everything,” Burgess said. “Sometimes these are very thorny conversations. And what Mike does, very, very effectively, is to set all that aside and work on solutions.”

The event recognized excellence among the 1,000 FCS staff who keep the university running, in areas from trades to building care to finance, engineering and project management, transportation and delivery services, groundskeeping, facilities maintenance and university architecture.

“The whole purpose for us getting together here today,” Burgess said, “is to recognize accomplishment, to come together as a team and really commend and celebrate those who have gone above and beyond and distinguished themselves … for their outstanding job.”

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Credit:Noël Heaney/Cornell University
Helen Steh (fourth from left) received the Steve Wright Bridge Award at the Facilities and Campus Services annual awards event July 20 at Barton Hall. Steh is manager of customer services in Transportation and Delivery Services.

Helen Steh, manager of customer services in Transportation and Delivery Services, won the Steve Wright Bridge Award for demonstrating significant, ongoing commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion. Steh has co-chaired the FCS Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the past two years.

Steh understands “that people should be treated equally, provided a safe place for expression and have a sense of belonging,” said Bridgette Brady, senior director for Transportation and Delivery Services. “She is one of the kindest, most empathetic people I know.”

The One Cornell Partner Award went to Lisa James, director of Student and Campus Life Facilities, for leading the smooth maintenance and operation of 186 buildings. The award honors staff who workedacross units, cultures and other boundaries to positively impact an FCS campus partner or Cornell as awhole.

Melissa “Mel” Banta, building and facilities coordinator, was honored with the One Cornell Award, not only for her work managing several key buildings including Day Hall but also for her professionalism and kindness.

In addition, four staff members won Cornerstone Awards.

The Campus and Community Service Award went to Vicki Davis, assistant to the director of Utilities Distribution and Energy Management, for her extensive volunteerism, including 12 years leading her local Girl Scout troop and organizing the improvement of a local park.
The Dedication to Developing Others Award went to three Grounds Department staff – Brett Nieves, landscape manager; Kevin McGraw, senior operations manager; and Les Sills, construction operations manager – for their commitment to mentoring others and contributingto successful succession planning.
The Effectiveness Improvement Award went to Chris Rogers, interim finance manager, for creating financial dashboards that helped FCS staff analyze data, ensure accuracy and enable better decision-making. The award honors a staff member who implemented an innovativeprocess improvement that significantly saves FCS time or money.
The Distinction in Teamwork Award went to the COVID HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) Response Team, which evaluated and improved ventilation and indoor air quality in 250 major buildings to reduce the spread of the COVID virus.
Michael Parker, an HVAC control technician, was among the hundreds of FCS staff who participated at the event, which included breakfast and door prizes.

“It’s good to see what everybody else does and how they contribute to the university,” Parker said. “There are a lot of essential people here doing a lot of essential things that nobody knows about.”