Approximately six months after the sudden departure of former President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, Cornell’s Board of Trustees announced Saturday that Dr. David J. Skorton, current president of the University of Iowa, will become the University’s 12th president. He will assume the position on July 1.
The announcement was made at a noon press conference in the Beck Center of Statler Hall.
Skorton will hold faculty appointments in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill-Cornell Medical Center and Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering.
His wife, Dr. Robin Davisson, will have faculty appointments in Cell and Developmental Biology at Weill Cornell Medical Center and in Biomedical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Today is a terribly, terribly exciting day,” said Peter Meinig ’62, Chair of Cornell’s Board of Trustees.
He said Skorton was unanimously elected.
Calling Cornell a “great jewel of international higher education,” Skorton said that his appointment is an “emotional, intellectual homecoming” because he has colleagues at Cornell and in Ithaca and because of his connection to Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III.
Rawlings, Cornell’s 10th president and current interim president, had the post at Iowa until he came to Cornell in 1995.
“The people in Iowa right now are not thinking very well of Cornell,” Meinig joked.
Skorton said that Rawlings gave him his start in university administration. His appointment as Iowa’s vice president for research in 1992 was one of Rawlings’s first appointments as Iowa president.
He attended Rawlings’ inauguration on October 12, 1995.
He said that he and Rawlings did not talk about the Cornell presidency until recently because they both independently believed communication about the position to be inappropriate.
Skorton, 56, held the presidency at the University of Iowa for just under three years and was a member of the faculty and administration there for 26 years, beginning as an instructor in 1980.
Amir Arbisser, a Regent at the University of Iowa and close friend of Skorton, said Skorton told him in a phone call Thursday that he was resigning to take the Cornell position.
“[Skorton’s departure from Iowa] is going to leave a hole here, and its an extremely difficult decision to make, but the bottom line is it’s extremely hard to be a president at a public university and [Skorton will] have a freer hand at a private university like Cornell,” Arbisser said.
When asked why he chose to leave Iowa for Cornell, Skorton said, “I am here because Cornell represented an unusual opportunity and challenge that I did not think would come up in my lifetime and was too good to pass up.”
He called Cornell a “distinguished institution,” with a “balance of disciplines,” discussing Iowa and Cornell’s shared interest in both the sciences and humanities.
Skorton said that he had “no reservations whatsoever” about taking the position based on the sudden departure of Lehman. He said that he has “great respect” for Lehman and that he is looking forward to talking to him.
He added, however, that he believed it to be “none of his business” what happened between the Board of Trustees and Lehman.
“Show me a university where there aren’t difficult situations to deal with, and I’ll tell you that you aren’t looking hard enough,” Skorton said.
Rawlings will remain Cornell’s interim president until Skorton begins in July. Skorton said that he is not sure when he will be more present on the Cornell campus.
“I am not going to instantly turn my back on Iowa,” he said.
When asked about possibly repeating Lehman’s “Call to Engagement” in which the campus was asked for submissions about what direction they would like to see Cornell go, Skorton said that while “most presidents view that as an innovative way to find out about the campus, [he] will first and foremost be listening.”
He said that he will be listening through meetings, forums, and “calling bingo in the dorms at night.”
“Students are the heart and soul of the university,” Skorton said.
In addition, he said that “the place where the university is located automatically becomes part of [his] community,” adding that he will be heavily involved in the City of Ithaca.
He also said that he wants to know “what students, faculty and staff think about our international relationships,” adding that he knows about the University’s plans and aspirations in that area.
“I want to give credit to President Lehman for pulling Cornell in that direction,” Skorton said.
As for the ongoing capital campaign, Skorton said that the “theme and thrust of the campaign are exciting,” but that he would “like to add some ideas of his own.”
He recently completed a billion dollar capital campaign at Iowa.
Skorton is a certified cardiologist and held joint professorships in internal medicine, electrical engineering and biomedical engineering at Iowa, and is a jazz musician. He hosts a weekly Latin Jazz radio program called “As Night Falls” on KSUI, the University of Iowa’s radio station.
Diana Daniels ’71, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, said that they narrowed the search down to three strong candidates and that one of the candidates was a woman.
“You don’t have to be a man or a woman or of a particular racial or ethnic group to deal with the issue of diversity. It will be a very important part of [Skorton’s] administration,” Daniels said.
“I am glad that we found what I consider to be an outstanding president for Cornell,” she said.
Saturday night, Rawlings introduced Skorton to a packed Lynah rink before the start of the hockey team’s game against Clarkson. He also presented Skorton and Davisson with Cornell hockey jerseys.
Said Skorton and Davisson, “We appreciate the welcome and we only have one thing to say: Let’s go Red!”
Archived article by Eric FinkelsteinSun Managing Editor
The men’s and women’s track teams had another outstanding weekend as they both won the Upstate Challenge. The Red hosted the event, which featured athletes from Buffalo, Colgate, Ithaca College and Syracuse.
Senior Jamie Greubel won the pentathlon with a school-record 3,731 points, and was also a NCAA provisional qualifier. Over the past few months, Greubel has made significant improvements in several of the events which compromise the pentathlon.
“If she had only improved in one event, her score would not have improved as much as they did, said women’s head coach Lou Duesing.
Greubel’s forte may have been in the hurdles, but her effort and improvement in the long jump, high jump and 800 meters have reflected in her overall performance. Her leap of 18-9 1/4 in the long jump is strong enough to qualify her for the ECACs as it is.
Junior Morgan Uceny also had a great day, breaking the Barton Hall record in the 1,000 meters in only her second performance in the event. Uceny crossed the line in 2:49.21, the fourth-best time in Cornell history for the distance. Cornell swept the top-6 spots in the event, as Uceny was followed by classmate Nyam Kagwima, who finished in 2:56.65. Both Uceny’s and Kagwima’s times were ECAC qualifiers.
The 1,000 was not the only event where the Red dominated the first several places, as it seemed to be a trend throughout the day.
“Going into it, I think they knew their competition would be a teammate, and they did not let it get in the way,” Duesing said.
In the field, junior Sarah Wilfred tied the school record in the high jump, clearing 5-8 3/4. Senior co-captain Sheeba Ibidunni won the weight throw with a heave of 60-3′. The sand was also a place where the women saw success. Freshman Mallory Biblio won the long jump with an ECAC qualifying 18-8 1/2 while junior Karen Snyder won the triple jump (37-6 3/4.)
The men also had a good showing. They won 11 events, set one new school record, one freshman record, and saw five IC4A qualifying performances.
Sophomore Jordan Lester broke his own school record in the 60 meter dash, finishing in 6.79 seconds. Classmate Adam Seabrook won the 500 in an IC4A qualifying 1:05.66, while yet another sophomore, Mike Smayda, won the 1,000 meters with an IC4A qualifying time of 2:29.89.
Also winning their events were sophomore Saidu Ezike (60 meter hurdles, 8.28 seconds), classmate Jason Brown (mile, 4:20.71), freshman Marcel van Eeden (400 meters, 50.23), and senior Gordan Hall (800, 1:55.54).
The Red continued to show its depth in each event, sweeping the first six slots in the 400 meters and top-3 in the 800.
Junior Evan Whitehall led the team in the field, winning the pole vault with an IC4A qualifying jump of 16-10 3/4, just ahead of freshman Peter Thompson and sophomore Jim Bowden.
Freshman TJ Rotoro also had an outstanding weekend, breaking the school freshman record in the heptathlon with 4,424 points.
“I am very happy with the weekend – not only because of the marks but because of how people competed,” Duesing said. “The kids went out there and got to it. They’ve been working hard and it shows.”
Archived article by Erin GarrySun Staff Writer