The Putnam Examiner

Cornell Cooperative Director Announces Retirement

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Marjorie Keith, who has been synonymous with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Putnam County the past four decades, will be stepping down as executive director of the non-profit later this year.

Keith will call it a career by the end of the year after devoting her entire professional life to Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and the county in which she lives. Starting back in 1974, Keith could have never imagined she’d still be with CCE 44 years later, but she’s more than happy she is. Lauded for her work ethic and dedication to the organization, Keith said 5 years with CCE turned into 10 years, then 20 years and then 40 years. Now, she believes it’s time to usher new, creative blood into the leadership role.

“It wasn’t an easy decision because I like what I do,” Keith said in an interview. “And I believe in the Cooperative mission.”

CCE of Putnam is affiliated with Cornell University’s land grant university, working in the areas of agriculture, consumer horticulture, environment and natural resources, water quality, nutrition and community development.

“Looking back it’s been great,” Keith, who has been busy getting ready for the annual 4-H Fair, added.

Keith began her career in the county as a family consumer science program leader in 1974. She eventually rose to the position she holds today — executive director — in 1987.

Out of college, Keith called joining CCE a logical career opportunity. She either was going to go into public education or join an informal educational organization like CCE.

During her tenure, Keith can’t help but talk about all the great people she’s been able to work with, including wonderful volunteers and a staff around her that makes CCE run so smoothly.

During her interview, Keith conveyed gratitude to the number of volunteers than make Cornell’s programs and events so successful.

“I love what I do,” Keith said. “And it’s a great opportunity for somebody else.”

Applicants considering the position must demonstrate success with building relationships and collaborations, and fund development, and organization, finance and human resource management skills are a must, the job posting stated. A Master’s degree and six years of experience is required, according to the job posting.

President of the Putnam’s CCE board of directors, Greg Amato, offered high praise toward Keith for her work ethic the past four decades and her tenure as the leader of the non-profit. He noted the Cornell University campus even reaches out to her when they need guidance or assistance with a project.

Amato said he called it a “delight and honor” to work with Keith.

“There isn’t anything she wouldn’t do,” Amato said. “I’ve served on a number of the non-profit boards in Putnam County and for a long time I’ve described the Cornell Cooperative Extension board having the gold standard for an executive director.”

Keith also never takes any of the various volunteers for granted and expresses appreciation to everyone she works with, Amato said. That outstanding character comes from her family, Amato said, who has gotten to know Keith’s family, including her father.

“She would rather help you, than be helped,” Amato said.

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