NEW YORK — Yesterday marked the New York City leg of the inauguration of President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, with a range of events split between the Weill Cornell Medical College campus and the Cornell Extension programs of the five boroughs.
Medical campus events began with a continental breakfast featuring speeches by a range of Cornell community members and guests. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made one of the first addresses. “Anyone who could write a book called 1000 Ways to Win Monopoly Games can probably run a university,” Bloomberg said.
“Cornell is a very important part of New York City,” Bloomberg said, adding, “Cornell makes an enormous difference in the world.”
He ended his address with some speechmaking advice for Lehman: “Brevity is the key. They want to know you’re there, that you’re smart, but they also want to go home.”
Also at the breakfast, Peter C. Meinig ’62, chair of the Board of Trustees, delivered a speech.
“Never before has an inauguration reached the halls of the medical college,” he said. “We are entering a new era. Walls are coming down.”
Stressing the power of interdisciplinary and transnational work, Meinig said, “Already, contact and collaboration has energized the Ithaca as well as Weill campuses.”
Lehman also addressed the crowd. He referred to his inauguration as a “double homecoming” because of his personal ties with both Cornell’s Ithaca campus during his undergraduate years and his childhood affinity for New York City, which he regards as “the nerve center of national intellectualism and politics.”
Sanford I. Weill, chair of the Board of Overseers of the medical college and CEO of Citigroup, closed the breakfast with a few remarks.
“We are lucky to have a Cornell graduate and leader who is thinking about the globe and how education can make the world a better place,” he said.
The next event of the day was an inaugural symposium held in Weill Cornell’s Uris Auditorium. Speakers included Dr. Anthony Fauchi M.D. ’66, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, along with Lehman.
In introducing Fauchi, Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of the medical college, relayed President George Bush’s 1988 response to the question “Who are your heroes?”
“Uh … uh … Tony Fauchi!” he answered.
Fauchi presented a talk entitled “Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases of the 21st Century.” He focused on the nature of the “delicate universal and perpetual balance” that exists in the battle between human beings and microbial diseases, noting that “those of you with any interest in infectious diseases will never be out of work.”
Fauchi talked about what he called “deliberately emerging” infectious diseases, namely those which arise from acts of bioterrorism.
“Although casualties from acts of bioterrorism have been relatively low, the fear and disruption they have caused have not,” he said.
Fauchi also noted some good coming from the newly galvanized spending into biodefense research.
“Even if we never get another biological attack, we can relate our work to truly emerging and reemerging diseases,” he said.
Lehman then presented his inaugural address to the filled auditorium.
“In my remarks this morning, I would like to talk about how Cornell’s leadership in the sciences is associated with a strong culture of intellectual collaboration. And I would like to talk about how that culture has spawned a longstanding and ever-expanding presence for Cornell in New York City,” he said, reiterating a theme of the day.
“Great universities must continue to advance scientific understanding of our world’s unifying forces,” Lehman continued. “As a society and as a university, we therefore have a stake in nurturing the background conditions that make it more likely that two or more researchers will develop a fruitful collaborative relationship.”
“Cornell’s presence in New York City began over 100 years ago because an intellectual imperative required us to locate our medical college here,” Lehman said. “Today, intellectual imperatives have led Cornell to nurture an ever-expanding presence within the five boroughs that goes far beyond medicine and the life sciences.”
After the breakfast and symposium, a press conference was held in the faculty lounge of the medical college. Gotto began the conference.
“Lehman has a vision for the medical college, University and our branches as well as how the University will contribute to making the world a better place,” he said.
Lehman opened discussion with a few comments on what “this week is about.”
“Inauguration gives us a chance to think about long-term deep questions. What is the purpose and design of the University?” he said. “We are approaching the questions in stages over the course of this week.”
He then went on to talk about what he believes Cornell’s role is as a transnational university.
“What is significant about a transnational perspective is that it operates on two levels. It is at once universal and pluralistic,” he said.
Lehman added: “The goal of higher education should be to nurture a transnational perspective, to nurture scientific understanding of unifying forces.”
“What is it that higher education needs to be doing to prepare people for life in this century?” he asked. “I’m going to be calling on all members of the Cornell community to be engaged in that.”
After the medical college events came to a close, Lehman, Meinig and other members of the Cornell community moved to 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue to plant a honey locust tree. The tree planting was the first of many in Jennifer Hoos ’04’s senior honors project as an urban and regional studies major.
“This event is particularly exciting to me, because I have been involved with this project from the very start,” Hoos said in an address to a small crowd huddled on the corner around the tree, “when a few concerned Upper West Siders wrote to their City Council member with concerns about the condition of trees in their neighborhood.”
Hoos worked with City Council member Gale Brewer (D-6th) over the summer where she became alerted to concerns over the plight of street trees.
“It officially began on a very hot summer day, by leading the ‘Brew Crew,’ Gale’s summer interns, to take an inventory of the street trees within the district — specifically noting the problem tree pits that were either empty, damaged or dying,” Hoos said.
After Hoos relayed her story, Brewer addressed the crowd.
“Cornell means a lot to us; it’s a place that makes our neighborhoods better, which is what we care about in the City Council,” she said.
Lehman, Meinig and Brewer all took part in the ensuing ceremonial tree planting along with Student Assembly representative Josh Bronstein ’04, a “Brew Crew” summer intern who helped with the tree effort, and William Castro, the parks commissioner of Manhattan.
The final event of the day was an exposition of various New York City Cornell ventures presented in the Industrial and Labor Relations Cooperative Extension offices on 16 East 34th Street. Presentations ranged from the Cornell Theory Center’s Wall Street computational clusters to ILR Cooperative Extension projects dealing with substance abuse and the workplace.
Lehman gave a short address at the expo.
“No other New York university has a mandate for public outreach and research like Cornell. Our public
mission goes far beyond our land-grant colleges,” he said.
“Cornell is a university for the state, for the nation and for the world,” Lehman said in closing out the day.
Archived article by Brian Kaviar