July 16, 2003

Lehman Asks Senior V.P. to Resign

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Just days after assuming his role as Cornell’s 11th President, Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 wasted little time in putting a new vision of the university’s relations department into action. As part of this restructuring, vice president of university relations Henrik N. Dullea ’61, was asked to resign.

“For Cornell to continue providing leadership in teaching, research and public service, we must sustain a broad array of vibrant relationships,” Lehman said in a Cornell News Service release on July 3rd. “We must extend ourselves to ensure that our friends and neighbors — local, state, national and international — all understand how they might participate in, and benefit from, Cornell’s pursuit of its distinctive intellectual mission. And we must listen carefully, to ensure that we are good citizens within the many communities that are affected by our work on campus.”

As part of the plan, the department of university relations will be split into a department of government and community relations as well as a department of community and media relations. The former will focus on “strengthening ties to the many governmental and community organizations that have a stake in Cornell’s success,” an area especially critical to Cornell’s statutory colleges in the wake of severe cuts in state funding this past spring as part of the governor’s proposed budget.

Those proposed cuts led former President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Dullea to lobby Albany and speak with legislative leaders. Stephen Phillip Johnson, assistant vice president for government affairs, will serve as the interim vice president of the new department.

The community and media relations department will lead the activities of several departments that are responsible for ensuring that members of the public, as well as the university community, are well informed about activities at Cornell.

“That includes printed materials, the Web site, publications such as the [Cornell] Chronicle and photography,” said Linda Grace-Kobas, the interim vice president for community and media relations.

The release described the change as “a move to strengthen the university’s outreach,” but no details of what changes exactly will take place have been made available. Dullea had previously led the university relations department for 12 years, spanning the terms of two university presidents.

Dullea declined to comment beyond furnishing The Sun with copies of his open letter to his department and his letter of resignation, in which he acknowledged that he had been asked to resign by Lehman, and that he was doing so effective June 30th.

Dullea also stated, “I have long believed that incoming university presidents, governors and other chief executives should have the ability to reorganize their administrations and build their own team. The president-elect has graciously invited me to continue to serve Cornell in the coming year as Senior Consultant to the President, and I look forward to doing so.”

“President Lehman considers these to be very important strategic areas, and with two vice presidents instead of one they will get more focus,” Grace-Kobas said. She declined to speculate as to how Lehman’s approach would differ from Rawlings’. She added that she didn’t think that the university’s media relations would be changing drastically.

Search committees have been created for both departments in order to fill the new vice presidential positions. Francille Firebaugh, vice provost for land grant affairs and special assistant to the president, will chair the search committee in government and community relations. Robert J. Swieringa, dean of the Johnson Graduate School of Management, will lead the search committee in communications and media relations.

“For now we are still dealing with the departments as they were under the old division,” Grace-Kobas said. “A search committee has been formed. Once that committee has determined priorities and job descriptions, we will have a better idea as to how things will be.”

Archived article by Gautham Nagesh