Cornell students and administrators gathered on the Arts Quad Friday for an interfaith prayer service commemorating President Elizabeth Garrett, who died of colon cancer Sunday in her home in New York City.
Kartik Ramkumar ’16, president of the Cornell Interfaith Council stressed that Garrett had always recognized the importance of interfaith collaboration and said he wanted to honor her legacy at the service.
“I wanted to create a space where we could come together and pray together for not just President Garrett’s family, but also the enormous burden that we feel now,” Ramkumar said.
The event was also created to provide Cornellians with an inclusive space for grieving, according to Jordan Berger ’17, vice president of the Interfaith Council.
“It’s really important that we’re able to bring together the interfaith community in times that the community really needs healing, and to be able to create a sense of community,” Berger said. “We really need to make sure that we’re creating a supportive community for everyone.”
At the service, representatives from a number of religious organizations on campus shared prayers from their respective traditions about coping with loss and adversity.
Rachel Chuang ’16, a member of Cornell Cru, expressed her support for the Cornell community during a time of profound loss.
“In these tough times, I believe that God really draws near to us,” Chuang said.
Samir Durvasula ’17, treasurer of Cornell’s Hindu Student Council, asked attendees to remember President Garrett “as alive in each and every one of us.”
“President Garrett may not be here with us in a physical form, but her soul lives on … through all of us who remember her and her impact on all the students she cared about,” Durvasula said.
Aaron Mallenbaum ’17, president of Cornell Hillel, reminded students that people from all over the world have experienced the same feelings of loss, asking attendees to keep in mind those who face similar suffering.
“As we remember the legacy of President Garrett and pray for her family to be comforted, it’s also important to keep in mind that there are many other individuals across the world who are suffering from illness and suffering from cancer,” Mallenbaum said.
The interfaith service was “extremely meaningful” because it was able to unite people of different faiths, according to Brandon Cohen ’18, chair of cultural programming for Cornell Hillel.
“A lot of times, we separate [religious organizations] because they have different names attached to their religion, but in reality we all hope for the same thing,” Cohen said.
Saim Ejaz Chaudhary ’17, a member of the Muslim Education and Cultural Association, said the service’s power came from its inclusion of the entire Cornell community.
“We pray for the loss, we pray for the departed soul and we come together as a community, as a whole, to help each other out in these times of difficulty,” Chaudhary said.