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Golden Courtyard fountain

“Humble Leader” Celebrated

The Thomas P. Golden Courtyard was dedicated to a cherished ILR colleague whose extraordinary leadership advanced employment, equity and

Golden courtyard banner

societal inclusion for people with disabilities.

More than 100 people attended the dedication, which featured remarks by ILR Dean Alex Colvin, Ph.D. ’99; Janel Haas Golden, Thomas’ wife and the mother of their children, Sophie, Kaleb and Josiah; courtyard benefactor K. Lisa Yang ’74 and Ariel Avgar, Ph.D. ’08, ILR’s David M. Cohen Professor and senior associate dean for Outreach and sponsored research.

The courtyard design includes a waterfall structure, accessibility beyond ADA standards, year-round plantings, an open-air roofed section, seating and enhanced Wi-Fi and power outlets. It will be a place to gather with colleagues and friends, study and teach, and meditate and reflect.

Golden unveiling
(L to R): Ariel Avgar, Ph.D. ’08, K. Lisa Yang ’74, Janel Haas Golden and ILR Dean Alex Colvin, Ph.D. ’99 officially dedicate the Golden Courtyard.

“With the heartfelt love and vision that Lisa Yang provided with her gift endowing this courtyard in honor of Thomas, students, faculty and staff will enjoy the beauty, serenity and accessibility that the design elements of this courtyard provide,” said Colvin, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn '69 Dean and Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution.

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.

Janel Golden
Janel Golden, Thomas' wife, addresses the crowd. 

“I’m not sure how he would feel about today because he was one of the most humble human beings I have ever known,” said Thomas’ wife, Janel.

“The many accomplishments and accolades he achieved in his lifetime were never talked about by him … Thomas always gave credit where credit was due and was most uplifting to those whom he worked for and who worked for him. He would be extremely touched, as we are, by the outpouring of love and support for our family.”

The courtyard was designed by Environmental Design and Research, a woman-owned landscape architecture firm out of Syracuse that created the vision laid out by Yang, along with a Cornell University committee and an ILR subcommittee headed by David Lippincott, the school’s associate director of facility management.

“Lisa had a vision to make this a space where students could gather, and that’s why you see the details that we put in, like the power outlets and the Wi-Fi halo,” said Lippincott. “The courtyard has always been a way for students to get from one side of campus to the other, but hopefully, now they will see it as a place where they cannot be in such a hurry but stop and take the time to sit and enjoy the space. And, actually, we’re already starting to see that happen.”

In the ceremony’s closing remarks, Yang added, “I only knew Thomas a couple of years, unfortunately, and in that short time, I was astounded at his lifelong commitment and profound professionalism and dedication to bettering the lives of people with disabilities. I hope this courtyard will be a legacy to his spirit, his love of nature, a place of refuge and calm, and inclusive utility.”

Golden award winners
(L to R): Laurie Rocker, Michelle Alvord, Kim Osmani, and Katrina Nobles. Not pictured: Rachel Joseph. 

During the dedication, Avgar announced the inaugural winners of the Thomas P. Golden Employee Recognition Award – Michelle Alvord, Kim Osmani and Laurie Rocker, all of the Yang-Tan Institute; Rachel Joseph of ILR’s New York City office, and Katrina Nobles of the Scheinman Institute.

The award, also established by Yang, comes with a monetary gift and is designed to recognize colleagues who exemplify some of Golden’s characteristics.

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