President Emeritus Hunter R. Rawlings III will return to the Hill once again to serve as interim president after he was unanimously appointed by the Board of Trustees Thursday.
Rawlings will take the helm of the university on April 25, succeeding President Elizabeth Garrett after her death from colon cancer on March 6. Rawlings, 71, will serve until Cornell’s 14th president assumes office, with an international search to fill the position set to begin in the coming months, Board of Trustees Chair Robert Harrison ’76 said Thursday.
As Cornell’s 10th president, Rawlings served from 1995 to 2003. This will be his second term as interim president, the first of which took place between 2005 and 2006 after President Emeritus Jeffrey Lehman ’77 resigned.
“It is an honor to once again be called to help lead this great institution,” Rawlings said. “There is much momentum around Beth’s vision, and I will work with Mike [Kotlikoff], the leadership team, deans, faculty, students and staff across our campuses to continue building the university’s strengths around those priorities.”
Rawlings will follow Provost Michael Kotlikoff, who became acting president as President Garrett underwent surgery last month, as the next leader of Cornell. Harrison described Kotlikoff’s leadership as exceptional and thanked him for his service “during what has been an unprecedented and challenging time for Cornell.”
“President Garrett built a strong leadership team, and we have set an ambitious agenda,” Kotlikoff said. “I look forward to working with Hunter, who knows Cornell so well and is so highly regarded by the faculty. His inspired leadership and experience make him the perfect choice.”
Rawlings — the current president of the Association of American Universities, a post he will leave in May — made his mark on Cornell during his presidency through the launch of Cornell’s Residential Initiative, which resulted in freshman moving to North Campus and the creation of the West Campus house system.
In 2001, Rawlings inked the deal that lead to the creation of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, now known as Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar. He also established the Presidential Research Scholars program and held appointments in the Departments of Classics and History.
Harrison said he believes Rawlings is “uniquely suited to take the helm of Cornell at this time of transition.”
“Cornell University is indeed fortunate that Hunter has agreed to step forward once again to lead through a time of transition,” Harrison said in a statement. “The board’s unanimous vote is evidence of the respect for his leadership at Cornell and as one of the nation’s premier advocates for higher education.”
Rawlings was the president of the University of Iowa from 1993 to 2003 before his time at Cornell. He earned his Ph.D. in classics at Princeton University in 1970.