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Golden Courtyard

Courtyard Commemorates Beloved Leader

In honor of a cherished colleague whose extraordinary leadership advanced employment, equity and societal inclusion for people with disabilities, the ILR School will dedicate the Thomas P. Golden Courtyard on Wednesday.

“Thomas had a profound impact on state, federal and international policy and practice, and on disability professionals around the world, Cornell teammates, students and the countless individuals with whom he shared his enormous energy, warmth and joy for life,” said Ariel Avgar, Ph.D. ’08, ILR’s David M. Cohen Professor and senior associate dean for Outreach and sponsored research.

Golden, executive director of the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute of Employment and Disability Institute, died on Nov. 1, 2020, at age 57. As an institute leader for 29 years, he oversaw dozens of initiatives that have improved access to work for adults and teens with disabilities. In a memory book created by the Yang-Tan Institute, colleagues remember Golden’s brilliance, heart, hilarious hijinks and many interests.

“In recognition of Thomas’s passion for gardening and outside spaces, Lisa Yang has provided generous support to recreate ILR’s upper courtyard in honor of Thomas’s transformative and enduring impact on the Yang-Tan Institute,” Avgar said.

“Lisa’s vision for this space is to be an outdoor extension of our work area – an outside ‘room’ where people can collaborate, teach, reflect and connect,” Avgar said. “Thomas was a bridge builder. The social piece was so important to him. This space gives us more places to collaborate on projects and get to know one another personally, as Thomas did with so many of us. We also hope the space will become a destination for the Cornell community.”

Alex Colvin, ’99, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn '69 Dean and Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution, said, “The Thomas P. Golden Courtyard will be a place for the ILR community to come together to share conversation, connection and friendship, echoing the wonderful spirit that Thomas brought to his work and life.”

The courtyard design includes a waterfall structure, accessibility beyond ADA standards, year-round plantings, an open-air roofed section, seating and enhanced wifi and electricity.

The dedication will be held from 11 a.m. to noon in the courtyard adjacent to King-Shaw Hall. Speakers will be Avgar, Yang ’74, Colvin and Janel Haas Golden, Golden’s wife and the mother of their children, Sophie, Kaleb and Josiah.

A panel discussion by eight institute and ILR colleagues about Golden’s legacy will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday in 423 King-Shall Hall and on Zoom. Avgar will moderate.

In a memory book created by the Yang-Tan Institute, colleagues shared remembrances of Golden’s brilliance, heart and hilarious hijinks.

Golden worked with numerous New York state agencies, including the Adult Career and Continuing Education Services – Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Education, the Office of Mental Health, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Labor.

He served on the National Council on Disability’s national advisory group on enforcement of federal disability civil rights laws and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Youth Supplemental Security Income Recipients and Employment Transition Community of Practice. He had served on the national Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel, spearheading efforts to reform payment structures. He was also a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Golden taught in the Disability Studies Program, served in the Faculty Senate and was a faculty adviser to the Cornell Mock Trial Association.

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