Over 130 Cornellians participated in the Elizabeth Garrett Memorial 5K on Sunday, which raised awareness for colon cancer and gave student athletes the opportunity to honor Cornell’s late President Elizabeth Garrett, according to Jesse Saldaña III, Program Assistant for Athletics Alumni Affairs and Development.
“Olivia and Luke [thought of it] probably in early February, right around when it was publicly announced the President Garrett had colon cancer,” Saldaña said.
Wherry said she wanted the race to show her respect for Garrett, who she said was a strong advocate for Cornell athletics.
“I was trying to come up with a way to honor her within the athletic community because we all felt she had a huge presence,” Wherry said. “She was very committed to supporting the Big Red, so I thought a 5K would be a great way to honor her.”
“One of the administrative assistants was able to talk to President Garrett and what we heard back was that she was really incredibly touched and grateful,” Saldaña said. “She very much gave her blessing.”
Saldaña said the initial goal of raising awareness for colon cancer changed after Garrett’s death.
“It became really a way to celebrate what President Garrett meant to the student athletes,” he said.
Wherry added that the race “became that much more important to each of us after [Garrett] passed away.”
“We were even more determined to honor her with this event,” Wherry said. “Our goal was not to have another memorial service, but rather to celebrate her life and her impact on the community.”
The race’s name — “A Moment of Grace” — was a tribute to Garrett’s speech to student athletes at the beginning of fall semester, in which she urged them to “carry themselves with grace both on and off the field,” Saldaña said.
In a speech at the beginning of the event, Wherry emphasized that the race’s purpose was to remember Garrett, rather than grieve for her.
Joel Malina, vice president of university relations, echoed Wherry’s message in his speech, saying that Garrett would have enjoyed the race.
“It was a festival atmosphere,” Malina said. “Beth would have been so pleased to see everyone exercising and having a good time.”
Malina added that the event aligned with Garrett’s vision of Cornell.
“Today’s event was a terrific example of Cornell students coming together to support each other and a great cause,” Malina said. “It very much reflected Beth’s spirit and love for our University and our community.”
Proceeds from the race will be donated to student scholarship and colon cancer research funds created in Garrett’s memory, according to the event’s website.