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VCNG Leadership

Current VCNG leadership for the term 1 July 2015 through 30 June 2017:

  • Chair: Debra Howell
  • Vice-Chair: Edgar J. Johnson
  • Executive Liaison: Mary George Opperman
  • Historian: Emily Franco
  • Members-At-Large: Glenn Larratt, Edgar Johnson, Dave Juers, Keith Tidball
  • Community Liaison: Steve Headrick
  • Public Relations : Cassandre Pierre Joseph
  • Community Service (Team RWB): Jase Baese


Debra Howell is the Director of Information Technology for Infrastructure Properties and Planning at Cornell University. She has over 18 years of experience providing strategic direction in all areas of information technology. She received her Master of Industrial and Labor Relations degree from Cornell University in 2006 and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Debra served in the U.S. Army Reserves as a medic from 1993—2001 and is now an Office of the Secretary of Defense certified Master Trainer and spends her free time volunteering as an instructor for Army Reserves Family Programs and the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. She serves as Treasurer on the Cornell Club of Ithaca Board, the Vice Chair of Operations on the Board of the Friends of the Ithaca Youth Bureau, and is the Information Officer on the Board of the NYS ACE Women’s Network.


Edgar J. Johnson is currently a Staffing Consultant with Cornell’s Office of Workforce Recruitment and Retention, Division of Human Resources. His primary focus is proactive recruitment providing consulting services and assisting Cornell’s human resources community and hiring departments in the strategic development of talent pipelining with emphasis on increasing workforce compositional diversity to include military veterans. As a veteran of the US Army and Army Reserve, Edgar’s professional career in human resources span several sectors to include the military, healthcare, higher education, non-profit, and county and state government agencies. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis campus, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Le Moyne College in Syracuse.

Executive Liaison:

Mary George Opperman serves as Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Cornell University, which employs approximately twenty thousand staff and faculty across several campuses, including Ithaca and Cornell Tech in New York City. Prior to joining Cornell in 1996, Mary spent 13 years in the human resource function at Harvard University.
At Cornell, Mary’s portfolio includes oversight of the Division of Human Resources, the Office of Diversity and Compliance, Title IX Compliance, and the Center for Regional Economic Advancement. She is co-chair of Commencement and served as co-chair of the Charter Day Operations committee for Cornell’s Sesquicentennial in April of 2015. Mary is a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources. She is certified by the Society for Human Resource Management as a senior professional in human resources and is a graduate of SUNY Oneonta.
Cornell has received numerous workplace awards as a result of exceptional human resource programs under Mary’s leadership. These include being named AARP’s top U.S. employer for workers 50 and older two years in a row — making Cornell the first employer to receive this top billing more than once. Cornell has also been listed as a best employer for working mothers, prospective and adoptive parents, IT professionals, veterans, and women executives. In March 2015, Mary was selected by the editors of Human Resource Executive magazine as one of the 15 most influential women leaders in human resources.
Mary has also overseen development of Cornell’s innovative Center for Regional Economic Advancement, and partnered with Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College to found Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, a New York State-funded new business incubator in downtown Ithaca.
Mary describes her mission at Cornell as a commitment to promoting a values-driven culture that focuses on streamlined processes so that the university is socially, economically and environmentally responsive. She is particularly interested in creating meaningful growth opportunities for top talent, and advancing succession and development plans which address the retirement of key faculty and staff, while attracting and engaging employees who energize the university with new perspectives and expectations.
Mary is an active supporter of her community, and has served on numerous boards of local and national organizations, including the TIAA-CREF Advisory Council, Challenge Industries, the Tompkins Cortland Community College Foundation, the Community Dispute Resolution Center, the Workforce Investment Board, the Women’s Opportunity Center, and the United Way of Tompkins County. She served as the AAU-HR Institute Inaugural Board Chair. She is currently active on the boards of Kendal at Ithaca, Foodnet, Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, Tompkins County Area Development, the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County, the Paleontological Research Institution, as well as a member of the Governing Body for the New York HR Leadership Summit.


Following her graduation from Cornell University in 1992, Emily Franco was commissioned in the Army Quartermaster Corps and, after her Officer Basic Course, became Rigger Certified. She served tours in Korea and Germany, coordinating the logistics of troop movement and managing supply and maintenance warehouses. She left the Army as a Captain and returned to the US to work with Deloitte and Touche, LLC, consulting on corporate relocations and economic development projects. In 1998, Emily returned to her hometown of Ithaca to become the General Manager of The Rose Inn, a luxurious country inn with 23 guest rooms and a restaurant. Then she was drawn back to Cornell and the logistics field as the Purchasing Manager for Campus Life. In addition to routine purchasing requirements, she managed procurement of furnishings for the new residence halls of the Cornell West Campus Initiative and the opening requirements for five new Cornell Dining units. In her current role she manages the relationship between The Culinary Institute of America and the School of Hotel Administration and promotes their joint collaborative degree program.

Members at Large:

Dave Juers received his “greetings” while attending graduate school at Rutgers in 1968, entering the US Army in September, and doing Basic Training at Ft. Bragg, followed by Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Polk. He then trained at Ft. Benning as an Off-leash Scout Dog Handler, and in September 1969, together with his dog, Satan, shipped out to Vietnam. In country, he served with the 46th Infantry Platoon, Scout Dog (IPSD), attached to the 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division at Tay Ninh. After 56 missions walking point, with his 2-year service over, he returned to the States and completed his Masters Degree in Zoology at Rutgers. He subsequently worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole before coming to Cornell in 1984 with the Soils Testing Laboratory. He then worked for several companies in Ithaca before returning to Cornell in 2011. Dave is currently a Network Engineer with the IT Service Group in the College of Engineering. He has a son, Eric, 22, and a daughter, Elizabeth, 29. Dave has participated in the Ithaca High School “Soldier’s Story Day” program for 15 years

Glenn Larratt served in the deck force of the destroy U.S.S. Conolly (DD-979) from 1986-1988, and in the Navy Reserve from 1990-1993. Glenn has worked in various Information Technology positions since 1983, most recently as a Senior Security Engineer with Cornell Information Technologies since 2005. Glenn is married to the former Elizabeth Fleming, and they have twin sons, Colin and Connor, who just finished kindergarten.

Dr. Keith Tidball, of Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources, enlisted in the Michigan Army National Guard in 1990 as an E1 Infantryman, A Co/ 225th Infantry 38th ID. He recounts the ironic story of nearing completion of Cold Weather Operations School in the deep snows of Camp Grayling and sitting in the NCO club while wearing snow camo watching President Bush announce US involvement in the deserts of Kuwait on TV. Motivated by the images and the mission, and in an effort to increase his chances for eligibility for elite training schools, Tidball transferred to the Kentucky Army National Guard, B Co/129th Infantry 35th ID. He was selected for Officer Candidate School, which he completed in 1993 at the Kentucky Military Academy at Fort Knox. He was commissioned and served as an Infantry platoon leader until receiving a career ending eye injury. Despite the injury, Tidball continued his service by becoming an International Affairs specialist in the US Foreign Service (USDA/FAS/ICD), where he served as a Subject Matter Expert in natural resources management in conflict and disaster settings throughout the world, including multiple deployments in Central America, Southern Africa and Asia. Most recently, Tidball served as co-founder and Associate Director of the Civic Ecology Lab at Cornell. He now leads a team called SPEAR where he researches how outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship can enhance individual, family, community and social-ecological system resilience, especially among veterans and others in or recently returning from combat or disaster zones. Tidball also continues his military service as the Operations and Training (S3) officer for the 10th Brigade, New York Guard and is an active member of the American Legion and the Military Officers Association of America.

Community Liaison:

Steve Headrick served over 10 years on active duty in the United States Navy as an officer and instructor pilot in multiple aircraft including the T-6A, E-6B, T-2C, T-45A, and T-34C. He is employed by Morgan Stanley. Steve holds a Civil Engineering degree from Virginia Tech and a Master of Business Administration from the Johnson School at Cornell University, where he was the president of the Johnson School Veterans Club. Steve is involved in the local community as the President of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, as the Co-President of the Johnson School Club of the Finger Lakes, as the President of the Ithaca Lions Club, and as an alumnus of Leadership Tompkins. He lives in Ithaca with his wife and two children.

Public Relations:

Cassandre Pierre Joseph is the Director for Diversity Engagement and Career/Life Programs at Cornell University. She works on the university’s diversity retention initiatives; in particular, the official university affinity/resource groups for faculty and staff, career/life programming, and child care center operations. She has a passion for supporting the vibrancy of diverse communities hence her interest in supporting the Cornell veteran community. She created and works very closely with the Veterans Colleague Network Group to advance initiatives across the university. Cassandre previously held positions as the Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion at Cornell University; Program Manager for Work/Life Operations at Cornell University; and Work/Life Consultant at Workplace Options for the UAW-Ford Family Consultation & Referral Service in the metropolitan area of Detroit, MI. Cassandre received her Bachelor of Science in Family Community Services with a focus on Early Childhood Development from Michigan State University. She obtained her Master’s in Training & Development with a focus on Organizational Development from Oakland University. She is the advisor to the Cornell University Haitian Students Association and the Cornell University African Dance Repertoire. She was awarded the Outstanding Advisor Award in 2010 and again in 2012 for her exceptional commitment to the students.

Community Service (Team RWB):

Jase Baese was born and raised in New Braunfels, Texas. After graduating from Trinity University in San Antonio in 1994 with a B.S. in Business Administration, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Ordnance Branch of the U.S. Army. Jase served a three year assignment in Germany, including six months in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of IFOR/SFOR. Jase has worked at Cornell University and lived in Lansing since 1998, he is currently an Information Technology professional in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. Jase has been the captain for the Ithaca Team Red, White and Blue community since February of 2014 and encourages anyone interested in health and fitness, no matter what level you are at, to connect with Team RWB.

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