CIRG History

It began with a Customer Feedback Session for retirees at the Company's Administrative Center on May 12, 1994. To "prep" for the session, Pat Lesso polled several retirees about "life after the Company." She found they felt "left out" - out of touch with an organization and with people who had been a major part of their lives for many years. Jenny Barenthaler suggested regular coffee hours with speakers; Rita Haradon who had worked in Corporate Communications suggested a "chatty" newsletter to list current retirees, provide the latest company information and offer stories from and about retirees. Lesso then sent these comments in a memo to Jamie Houghton.

In a mid-June note back to Lesso, Jamie agreed the ideas were good, and suggested the retirees form a retirement group. For the company's part, Jamie said it would furnish a place to meet and would provide access to speakers, videotapes and the like. In his note, he said: "This effort could go a long way to keeping friends connected and developing new communication networks for people." That quote, a cornerstone to establishment of the Corning Incorporated Retirement Group, serves as a frontispiece for the group's newsletters and, over the past year, its new web site at

That summer, Jenny Barenthaler, Louise Fernandes, Dottie Moore, Marian Smith, and Rita Haradon joined Lesso and laid the ground- work for a program of twice-a-year informational meetings and newsletter mailings.

In September 1994, the retiree group's first newsletter was printed and a copy was sent to Jamie for inclusion in the September issue of CORNING WORLD. At the same time, Pat sent a letter to Amo, inviting him to be honorary chairman and to speak at our first meeting on November 1. He responded that he was honored to accept both invitations. He continues as honorary chairman.

The group's initial leaders - all women - added six men to their numbers to create a board of directors comprising: Jenny Barenthaler, Herb Dann, Louise Fernandes, Willis Ford, Fran Gehl, Rita Haradon, Pat Lesso, Dottie Moore, Tom Scheb, Jim Smith, Marian Smith and Ken Sugawara.

On November 1, more than 175 people attended that first informational meeting in the Headquarters Building Auditorium. Jamie sent a videotaped message of congratulations on the group's accomplishments in just a few short months. After Amo's presentation, Larry Aiello gave a financial report and Kirk Gregg gave a benefits update. A questionnaire distributed at the session provided input for planning future events. Coffee and cookies in the Riverfront Café followed the program.

Six weeks later, the first CIRG Christmas Party was held December 15 in the Riverfront Café with coffee, cookies and a visit from Santa. Santa was impersonating Tom Kreseski… or was it the other way around?? At any rate, it was an enjoyable success and set a tone to be followed every year since.

The group was formalized in March 1995 when all board members, including Amo, signed the Corning Incorporated Retirement Group Charter. Among the signers was John Ingalls, who replaced Sugawara on the board after Ken sold his house and moved south. The charter provisions called for a program of two informational meetings, two newsletters, two holiday functions (a July picnic and a Christmas party), and two group trips a year.

While the charter did not call for it, the practice of monthly gatherings came into being with a session on April 12 at 8:30 a.m. (presumably after the still-employed folks had gone off to their offices) when 32 retirees gathered in the Riverfront Café and chatted among themselves over coffee.

Amo's initial informational meeting was followed May 3 when more than 200 people including 50 from the Bradford (Pa.) Plant heard Bob Gilchrist's presentation on the Corning Competes program, Sandy Helton's report on the company's financial results, and Mike Donnelly's discussion of health benefits.

Ten days later, 36 retirees formed the first CIRG tour group and visited the State College (Pa.) plant. The trip included a lunch stop at the Gamble Mill Tavern. Then, on May 19, 34 members who went by bus to Atlantic City made the first of many CIRG casino-oriented trips.

The first CIRG summer picnic was held July 8 at Craig Park in Painted Post with 69 retirees and guests in attendance. Main entertainment was the show put on by The Granny Dancers.

Thus, by the summer of 1995 - slightly more than one year since the idea was first proposed - the CIRG was a going operation with a regular schedule of informational meetings, social events, the camaraderie of group tours and monthly informal coffee gatherings at the HQ Café.

In 1998, the monthly coffee sessions moved toward regular sessions with speakers on topics of general interest to all. In February, the guest speaker was Marty Muggleton of the Greater Corning Area Chamber of Commerce. Mike Gossie, editor of The LEADER, was our April speaker. Corning Enterprises was the subject of the May informational meeting given by Dick Rahill. He was followed by Roger Ackerman in May, Terri Checkosky of Green Meadows in June, Sheriff Walter DeLap in July, and Steuben County Administrator Dan O'Donnell in August. In September Tom Blumer described the expansion in the R&D operations at Sullivan Park. Steuben County Executive Tom Tranter was our speaker in October. In November, Dr. Joseph Mathey told retirees about getting health and medical information on-line. He was followed in December by Ann Millhollen and Lary Lukefer who discussed insurance and other retiree benefits.

By the end of 1998, the current pattern of monthly coffee gatherings at the Riverfront Café was firmly established. Held the second Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m., they are open to all Corning Incorporated retirees and their guests. The plan of offering two group tours a year has, by popular acclaim, expanded to as many as 10 a year. And the CIRG has taken a fund-raising leadership role in the annual Relay For Life event held in June, having raised more money than any other participating groups to help battle Cancer.