Bill Gilbert, safety first laughter second

The work of the safety manager is never done. But, for Bill Gilbert, Senior Manager, Environment, Health and Safety at The Corning Museum of Glass for more than 17 years, it’s time to pass on the baton. Or, in Bill’s case, his high-vis vest and hard hat. At the end of last year, Bill announced his retirement, effective March 31, 2022.

Bill Gilbert

Since 2004, Bill has brought light and levity to the Museum’s many safety trainings without ever losing sight of the seriousness of the message at hand—safety first! Because of Bill Gilbert, safety at The Corning Museum of Glass has become a priority and a topic that our staff cares deeply about. That’s no easy feat, but Bill’s passion for the subject and years of experience matched with his empathy, charisma, and sense of humor have made his safety presentations legendary. For many staff, there are memories of accidents, events, projects, trips, slips, and falls that will always remind them of Bill.

The culture of health and safety that Bill has established will be his legacy for many years to come. Bill began his tenure at the Museum as Safety Manager, but as his reputation grew and his role expanded Bill developed into a trusted colleague and leader whose watchful eye was on everything and everyone. His responsibilities were broad and included everything from chairing employee teams focused on health and wellness to collaborations with Corning Incorporated to ensure capital projects were undertaken with precision, care, and minimal impact on daily operations. Every special project the Museum undertook involving staff both near and far also needed Bill’s seal of approval, including the GlassBarge tour of New York State in 2018 and the many times the Hot Glass Team took to the seas with Celebrity Cruises.

Bill with Museum security guard Oscar Daniels at the opening of the New Glass Now, 2019.

Often the first person to arrive and the last to leave, Bill always knew what was going on at the Museum. During his walking patrols of the campus, he enjoyed checking in with staff and guests and was universally well known, liked, and respected. And his level of care extended beyond the Museum. He advocated for safety first in all things at work and at home, from sitting at a desk and perfecting your ergonomics (I’m correcting my position even as I write this) to cleaning out your gutters or traveling abroad and knowing the customs and dangers of your destination.

Bill will be deeply missed by all for his contributions and accomplishments, his congeniality and jokes, and his calming presence making sure that each and every member of staff felt safe. Not least of all, the Museum is indebted and grateful to Bill for his unceasing guidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a final challenge in his illustrious career.

As has been noted in several of the quotes below, Bill leaves behind big shoes to fill and his successor will need to be comfortable in the big, steel-toed variety. The Museum extends its sincerest thanks to Bill Gilbert for his service and we wish him the very best in retirement.

Ellen Corradini, former director of human resources and safety, Corning Museum of Glass, retired

“I worked with Bill as a colleague, then as his supervisor for the better part of 21 years. Bill is a consummate professional and it has been an honor and a privilege to work with him. Managing safety and health for any organization is not an easy job. Decisions have to be made that may be in the best interest of the organization but may not be welcomed by its employees. Bill always considered all sides and was universally respected by his colleagues while setting standards of excellence in health and safety for the Museum. He is a tireless and dedicated employee, working many additional hours night and day without complaining. His sense of humor and self-effacing demeanor have earned him a special place in the hearts of the Museum’s staff. His shoes will be very hard to fill, and I wish Bill the very best for a long, enjoyable, and well-deserved retirement.”

Karol Wight, president and executive director, Corning Museum of Glass

“When I came to Corning from Los Angeles, I was familiar with earthquake, brush fire, and mudslide safety drills. But I could never have anticipated that I’d know how to properly enter and work in an enclosed space or understand that Lockout/Tagout is really important. I can now read a placard for a hazardous material and know at a glance what the dangers are. All of this is possible because of the culture of safety at our museum, a culture embodied in the person of Bill Gilbert. Bill has been a respected and trusted colleague, and I have always appreciated his calm demeanor, matter-of-fact approach, and deep knowledge of his role and responsibilities. I have always been quietly proud of our culture of safety, knowing that if it were not present, we’d constantly be in a reactive, rather than proactive mode when ensuring the safety of our staff and guests. One highlight I can really call out is how we improved in our response to Red Cell drills. They seem a far-distant memory from our past two years of COVID response, but they were extremely important for staff awareness and responsiveness. I have gotten to know Bill a lot more over the COVID years and will never forget how he stepped into the role of being able to answer our many questions on what, when, how, and why we needed to get prepared and take action to protect our staff from the pandemic. His guidance has been invaluable, and I will be forever grateful.”

Karol and Bill with the Museum’s masked safety ambassador, Penguin Pierre, in 2020.

Alan Eusden, chief operating officer, Corning Museum of Glass

“Bill has had an enormous impact on the Museum, on our staff, and, although they did not always know it, all of our guests. He is an amazingly dedicated and hardworking leader, establishing our very important and deeply rooted culture of safety throughout the Museum. One of his great strengths is his ability to create personal relationships and connections with staff at all levels of the organization. We could not have had a better safety leader and guide through the entire pandemic, as he continued to earn the highest level of trust and respect from every one of us. It is an amazing legacy. I will miss him tremendously, but I also wish him all the best in this next, very well deserved, phase of his life. My deep thanks for everything he accomplished at the Museum, along with a fervent hope that his golf balls will travel even farther and straighter in his retirement. I also hope he continues to be a frequent Museum visitor!”

Lucy Dubin, chief human resources officer, Corning Museum of Glass

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Colin Powell

“Bill is a leader of substance, solutions, wisdom, and humor. We are abundantly grateful. And, expressing our appreciation is meager compared to what Bill has done for every employee, their families, and the Museum. We are certain of our vast gratitude and huge appreciation for him. He is a once-in-a-lifetime colleague and I am so grateful to have him in my life. I’ll never forget the way that Bill always acted with compassion and provided wise insights. Those whose lives he’ll touch going forward are the lucky ones. Our thanks to Bill as a great leader are unending.”

Beth Duane, chief marketing and visitor experience officer, Corning Museum of Glass

“Bill’s retirement marks the end of an era and the continuation of the rock-solid foundation of safety he built during his years at the Museum. I can’t imagine the shift in mindset required to move from a manufacturing to a museum operation and from a private business to a public venue. Bill’s “family” grew a whole lot bigger with the addition of thousands of guests. Staff gravitated to his compassion and humor when discussing dry or difficult topics or making hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. No matter, I always knew Bill took his role seriously and had the best interest of the Museum family in mind. Bill’s impact will remain long after his physical retirement. For me, “What would Bill do?” will forever drive my personal decisions around safety. Thank you for taking good care of your Museum family, Bill.”

Bill keeping an eye on safety on the deck of GlassBarge somewhere in New York State, 2019.

Joe Frick, sales associate and summer campus manager, Corning Museum of Glass

“When I think about Bill, it’s easy to list adjectives that describe the kind of leader he is: informative, resourceful, supportive, unassuming, committed, and sincere. He educated me as Campus Manager, trusted me to do it, and didn’t hover over me. He will certainly be missed by me.”

Tim Morgan, manager, inventory control, shipping and receiving, Corning Museum of Glass

“I’ve known Bill since we both started here at the museum 18 years ago. Up until 2020, Bill and I talked pretty much every day and ate lunch together most of those. He was always good for some obscure facts, good advice, and a humorous story for a daily chuckle. As an avid Texas Hold’em player and resident card shark, Bill would routinely re-live the previous evening’s ‘good wins’ and ‘bad beats’ card by card and talk about what strategy would have reversed the losing hands. There was always a conversation or two about the daily stock market trend and retirement too. For Bill, that retirement day has finally come. I wish him happiness, the best of luck, and a set of aces in every hand. Bill will be missed.”

Amy Schwartz, director, The Studio

“From his first day on the job, Bill became a strong partner for us at The Studio. He was always collaborative and reasonable, and 100% safety and people-focused. I love his dry delivery and sense of humor. He is leaving us with big shoes to fill.”

Bill with Museum glassblowers on one of the Celebrity cruise ships.

Warren Bunn, senior manager, collections and exhibitions, Corning Museum of glass:

“When people think of the ‘Safety Manager’ they often envision the person that swoops in and takes the ‘fun’ out of everything. Working with Bill really changed my perspective on this role as he came to the position with an openness to working with you to not only get the job done safely but help keep the fun and wonder in what we do here. During his time at CMoG, Bill made a significant change in helping the Museum realize a culture of safety and he will be greatly missed.”

Ann Bullock, senior manager, HR operations, Corning Museum of Glass

“I have worked with Bill for 34 consecutive years, which equates to at least 175 safety training sessions! As wonderful as every training session has been, the single most significant outcome of this time I am most thankful for is calling Bill my friend. It is not a stretch to say that his mark on both organizations we have worked at has been the same – extensive and remarkable – and that is not only due to his professional competencies but just as much about who he is as a person. Bill, I am truly happy for you and wish you a fulfilling and enjoyable retirement!”

Dave Togni, chief financial officer, Corning Museum of Glass

“The phrase ‘creating a culture of safety at the Museum’ is, and will always be, synonymous with Bill Gilbert. As the Museum’s first, and only, staff person solely responsible for safety, he built the Museum’s culture of safety through his ability to collaborate, be flexible, constantly engage, and share his unforgettable sense of humor during the many safety training sessions. I have a great deal of respect for Bill and will miss having him around to say, ‘Oh my goodness…can you believe that we want to do this crazy thing !?!’”

Bill’s last day at the Museum was March 31, 2022.

3 comments » Write a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: