December 15, 2002

Alumnus recalls fond memories

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Before Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 became the president elect of Cornell University and the current dean of the Michigan Law School, he was a Monopoly whiz.

As a Cornell sophomore in 1975, Lehman wrote a book titled 1000 Ways to Win Monopoly Games.

He co-authored the book with fellow student Jay Walker, who lived across the hall from him freshman year in Class of ’17 Hall. They frequently played the Parker Brothers board game with other dorm residents and later began entering tournaments. A publishing company approached them with a request that they write a book about Monopoly, and the two friends spent winter break in Walker’s fraternity house, working diligently to complete the book in just five weeks.

Lehman recalled “the intense commitment that was required to produce a manuscript in such a short period of time. What was amazing,” he said, “was I felt like that’s the sort of thing an undergraduate is supposed to do at Cornell.”

Today, Lehman’s expertise surrounds the American welfare state. He has published 22 articles and numerous opinion pieces on the subject. And as dean of the Michigan Law School, he has demonstrated a commitment to educational diversity by defending the law school’s affirmative action admissions policy in front of the Supreme Court.

Lehman will bring that commitment to Cornell, which “in its very essence is meant to be a diverse institution, where people from every walk of life, from every set of background experiences that one can have, come together to pursue instruction in any study,” he said. “And what I think I will bring to Cornell is the experience of, for the past five years, having worked to articulate those values in a different context.”

“Jeff established an extraordinary record of achievement during his nine years as dean of one of our nation’s outstanding law schools,” said Edwin H. Morgens, Cornell trustee and chair of the presidential search committee in a statement. “He is a distinguished scholar, whose research addresses a wide range of issues at the intersection of law and public policy — from higher education finance to corporate taxation to welfare reform.”

“Jeff has such a good grasp of the essentials of higher education policy,” President Hunter R. Rawlings III said. “The transition, I think, will be a smooth and easy one.”

Lehman is also the first Cornell alumnus to serve as president. “Cornell has never been far from my heart,” he said. “By the time you graduate, Cornell is in every cell of your being.”

The University might be in his genes, anyway: Lehman is the second of three Cornell generations.

“His father attended Cornell and graduated from it, his son Jacob is a freshman at Cornell, so he has the added advantage of a deep familiarity with this place, and also a love and passion for it that come out in everything he says when he speaks of Cornell,” Rawlings said.

Lehman’s parents, Leonard, a 1949 Cornell graduate, and Imogene, were in Ithaca Saturday to celebrate their son’s appointment.

Lehman will assume the presidency on July 1, 2003. He expects the first months to be a period of continued learning at Cornell.

“For the past 26 years, I have been studying Cornell from a distance. The next six months will be a time when I will have the opportunity to study Cornell up close,” he said, “