Mary George Opperman serves as Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Cornell University, which employs approximately twenty thousand staff and faculty on campuses in Ithaca, Geneva, New York City and Qatar. 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 Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, Title IX Compliance, and the Center for Regional Economic Advancement. 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. She has her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Oneonta in political science and her master of science degree in organizational behavior from Cornell University.
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 collaborated with Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College to found Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, a New York State-funded 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. She is currently serving on the boards of Kendal at Ithaca, 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, and Ithaca College. She is also a member of the Governing Body for the New York HR Leadership Summit.