Watertown native honored by Cornell University for steadfast engagement in Jefferson County

ITHACA, NY.– E. Hartley Bonisteel Schweitzer is a Watertown native who credits her community and family for setting the example of community engagement that she follows today.

Bonisteel Schweitzer, who graduated from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning with a degree in city and regional planning, is a community planner for the Development Authority of the North Country. She was named the latest recipient of the Cornell New York State Hometown Alumni Award for her “steadfast, proactive engagement in Jefferson County” at a Nov. 22 luncheon ceremony in Watertown attended by family, colleagues and Cornellians.

Launched in 2018, the Cornell New York State Hometown Alumni Award recognizes Cornell graduates who return to their home counties or regions to start or enhance a business or nonprofit. Honorees regularly volunteer and are deeply engaged in, and make an impact on, those communities.

Bonisteel Schweitzer lived briefly in New York City before returning home to Watertown, where she serves at the development authority as a resource to the communities of the region, helping to guide and advocate for their development and enhance their resilience. In that role, she also is a community liaison with nearby Fort Drum, home of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Bonisteel Schweitzer serves on numerous local volunteer councils and boards, including that of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

In accepting the award, Bonisteel Schweitzer thanked her hometown community, noting that it was an internship she got at age 15, conducting surveys for a local neighborhood improvement district, that set her career in motion. Through additional work and training opportunities offered by local nonprofit organizations, she and other interns began learning the importance and value of community planning.

“Here in Jefferson County, we have to grow our own,” she said. “We need to continually build opportunities for young people to get engaged and learn about working in this community.”

As part of the award, Cornell is donating $1,000 in Bonisteel Schweitzer’s name to Watertown Urban Mission’s HEARTH Program, which helps individuals and families who are homeless, or in danger of becoming homeless, find or maintain stable housing.