November 4, 2002

President Delivers Last State of the University address to Trustees

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Hundreds of Cornell alumni filled the Statler Hall Auditorium on Friday to hear the last State of the University address by the outgoing President Hunter R. Rawlings III. In his speech, Rawlings emphasized the University’s contribution to the world in complicated times.

“Today the world needs what Cornell continues to create: character and above all else, that unique blend of theoretical and applied knowledge, fundamental inquiry and active public engagement that has been a hallmark of Cornell from its beginning,” Rawlings said.

The speech was the highlight of an annual weekend of discussions, seminars and committee meetings held by the Cornell Board of Trustees and the Cornell University Council.

The board, which has final decision making authority for University policy, worked throughout the weekend in closed sessions.

Speaking at the address, Peter Meinig ’61, chair of the board said that Cornell is going through a process of change. He described the role of the Presidential Search Committee, which is searching for Cornell’s eleventh President.

“It is our goal to find a new President who can embrace the vision we have in place,” he said.

That vision includes advancing the New Life Sciences Initiative, building top-notch faculty and improving undergraduate living and learning, according to Meinig.

Jeff Estebrook ’80, chair of the Cornell University Council, an advisory council of more than 700 alumni, gave a presentation highlighting Rawlings’ seven-year career as University president.

Estebrook hailed Rawlings for envisioning and positioning Cornell as “the best research university for undergraduate education in the country.”

“We can confidently say that this is an invigorated, healthy and resilient university,” he said.

Estebrook’s slide presentation also included humorous photos of Rawlings dancing the “Macarena” with the Cornell mascot.

Estebrook said that Rawlings took off his suit coat and made a slam dunk on a basketball court the first time he met him. “In my mind, Hunter has been making slam dunks ever since,” he said.

Student-elected Trustee Funa Maduka ’04 said that Rawlings “has made an impact upon this school. He contributed to the fact that we’re number one in alumni fundraising.”

In his speech, Rawlings described a grim situation, focusing on the “financial, political and ethical” ramifications of Sept. 11.

“Reading the front page of the newspaper has now become a shocking education,” he said, citing prospects of war with Iraq, future terrorist acts, stock market declines and projected cuts in the state budget following election day tomorrow.

“Yet, against this background of anxiety, Cornell has remained confident in the cogency of its contributions,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings commended the faculty who tackled these issues and Antonio Gotto, dean of the Weill Medical College, for the success of the medical school in Qatar.

Rawlings also praised for the Frankenstein project. “Frankenstein is not just a reading assignment; it is an intellectual project. It requires close reading of a kind that has become rare in our ‘sound-bite,’ cable TV world.”

The $500 million New Life Sciences Initiative received a major boost this weekend when Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and others announced that Cornell will receive $25 million for the Life Sciences Technology Building. It will be the largest scientific building on campus when completed.

“Only Cornell has the scope, the scale, the breadth of resources to pull off something of this magnitude,” Rawlings said.

Archived article by Peter Norlander