Alumni honored at the Groat and Alpern Event

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It wasn't a typical start to the annual ILR School Groat and Alpern Awards ceremony.

In a room filled with the energy of close to 500 alumni, students, staff, faculty and ILR friends and family, Dean Harry Katz quieted the crowd and asked everyone to join in a moment of silence for Professor Clete Daniel.

"We've been flooded with emails from alumni and students talking about how Clete changed their lives. Clete will be deeply missed," Katz said Tuesday.

Daniel, who joined ILR in 1973, died Sunday in his Ithaca home. A memory book is posted online.

In accepting the Groat Award, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris called Daniel "brilliant and irreverent." Daniel was Harris's faculty advisor.

"Clete would not be the least bit impressed with my award," said Harris '83. "He'd be more interested in knowing what I've done lately for workers."

Harris reflected on recent coal mining and other worker tragedies, noting that these events "remind us that labor and employment law and policy matter."

He thanked ILR for "equipping me to play a small role in dealing with issues that matter most to America's working families."

The night's other winners included Laurie Berke-Weiss '71, who also received a Groat Award, and Seth "Yossi" Siegel '74, JD '78, recipient of the Alpern Award.

The Groat and Alpern Awards are the highest honors given to ILR alumni for professional achievements and service to the school.

Berke-Weiss, co-founder of the law firm Berke-Weiss & Pechman LLP, said she was "honored and humbled" to receive the Groat Award. She thanked many in the audience, including her mother and father who "encouraged her to apply to ILR."

She praised ILR for giving her an "intellectual grounding" that not only prepared her for a career in law, but gave her "practical skills to help clients solve employment problems taking into account the human dimensions."

One of only 15 women in her freshman class, Berke-Weiss said she believes that ILR can help advance the status of women at work by training future workplace leaders who are sensitive to inequality and other issues that impact working women.

Siegel, when giving his remarks after receiving the Alpern Award, began by calling it "probably the oddest award given by any organization, anywhere."

"It celebrates the life achievements of someone who went through four years at ILR but then went on to something entirely different. In 36 years, I’ve never once been involved in labor negotiations."

Siegel's career has taken him down many different paths. He has started and run several successful businesses in areas including marketing, entertainment and investment banking, among others. He stressed that ILR prepared him well.

"ILR offers its students a blend of the theoretical, academic and philosophical, but you're also seeing and studying the practical. My education at ILR helped shape my world view and think about how any action or policy would touch people in their everyday lives."

For the second year, the Groat and Alpern Awards ceremony was held at The Pierre hotel in New York City.

The Groat Award is given in memory of Judge William B. Groat, who played a pivotal role in founding the ILR School.

The Alpern Award is named for Jerome Alpern '49, MBA '50 in honor of his lifelong commitment to ILR. It is given periodically to an alumnus or friend whose career accomplishments have been primarily outside the field of industrial and labor relations.

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