July 1, 2005
As I assume the position of Interim President of Cornell today, I want to say a few words to all Cornellians, both on and off our campuses. The past few weeks have been an unsettling period. President Lehman’s resignation was an unfortunate event for many reasons, and it has generated lingering questions in our community because it came suddenly and without extensive explanation. As you may have read, President Lehman and the Board of Trustees have agreed that his and the institution’s best interests will be served by foregoing more open discussion. Despite the understandable frustration that creates, I am confident that they have acted in the university’s interests.
Cornell’s Board of Trustees has asked that I serve as Interim President until a new President is named and assumes office. During my ten years at Cornell, eight as President and the last two as Professor of Classics and History, I have developed strong loyalty and commitment to this great university, as well as deep admiration for its students, faculty, staff, alumni and Trustees. The sense of pride I felt as President of Cornell was matched only by the fulfillment I gained from teaching its students and pursuing scholarship with my faculty colleagues.
During the past three weeks I have spoken several times with Provost Biddy Martin, Dean and Provost for Medical Affairs Antonio Gotto and Dean of the Faculty Charles Walcott. I have also talked with a number of Trustees about the coming year. In all these conversations we have agreed upon the need to maintain and indeed to enhance Cornell’s current academic priorities during this interim period, and to build momentum for Cornell’s coming capital campaign. Cornell’s faculty has created and honed the research and educational goals the deans have brought forward to the Provosts. By shaping the capital campaign to support these academic plans we will insure their realization in the next few years. The case statement for the campaign is well along the drafting process and closely reflects the academic initiatives developed by the faculty over the past several years.
It is also important to build upon Cornell’s close and productive relationships with its wider communities, including Ithaca, New York City and beyond. Recent initiatives in and around Ithaca, particularly the soon-to-be-opened downtown office building and the comprehensive transportation study, illustrate the value of town-gown collaboration. Cornell’s new initiatives in New York City, and its growing international presence demonstrate the significance of our University’s role in research and education. And we continue to enhance and highlight our historic mission as the Land Grant University of New York State, a mission that gives Cornell much of its character and identity.
I call upon all Cornellians to assist the University in the next year in whatever ways they can. A search committee is now being formed to identify our next President, who will lead Cornell in fulfilling its ambitious goals. No matter who is chosen, we can be confident that Cornell will continue to be one of the top research universities in the world, a creative generator of new knowledge, a wise teacher of generations of students and an institution serving the needs of the State of New York, the nation and the world.
Hunter R. Rawlings III
Interim President, Cornell University