September 3, 2008

University Bids Farewell To Provost Biddy Martin

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As a gift to the outgoing provost, President David Skorton proclaimed that the dining room in the A.D. White House would now be called the “Carolyn ‘Biddy’ Martin Room.”
The announcement was made yesterday at a special event, where about 150 staff, faculty, students and alumni gathered under a large, white tent on Bailey Hall plaza to bid farewell to Martin, now chancellor of University Wisconsin-Madison, her alma mater.
“A.D. White House is where I have spent some of my best times at Cornell. It is one of the most beautiful and important houses on campus. And to have something related to the humanities named after me means the world to me,” said Martin.
The dining room once belonged to the 19th century philanthropist Peter Cooper before former president Deane Malott brought the room to Cornell in 1953.
[video:node=31377:fids=all] Apart from dedicating a room in honor of the longest-serving provost in Cornell history, Skorton also presented Martin with a photo album. Upon opening the album, Martin, already blushing fiercely, laughed while telling guests that she was depicted as “Bucky Badger,” the mascot of Wisconsin-Madison.
“It is great to be there [in Wisconsin] again, but it is also hard for me to leave Cornell. I love it here. I flourished here. This is an excellent institution and one of the greatest institutions in the world,” said Martin, who has been in Wisconsin for two weeks already and has begun her new post as Chancellor.
Currently Martin is staying in the Statler Hotel. For several times in her brief address, she expressed her admiration for the campus’ beauty and described the view of West Campus from her room’s window.
“There is no more beautiful place than the Cornell campus,” said Martin, who promised to come back and visit frequently.
In his speech, Skorton praised Martin for “her brilliance, excellence in execution and her ability to keep an eye on the ball under the big tent.”
“How can I briefly describe the impact of a quarter of a century?” he asked rhetorically at the beginning of his speech. Martin became a faculty member of Cornell in 1983 before assuming the post of Provost in 2000.
Skorton also produced a laundry list of Martin’s achievements and contributions at Cornell during her tenure, including the founding of several institutes and projects, the promotion of diversity on campus and the introduction of the recent financial aid plan.
“The word ‘diversity’ is used so often, but she found concrete ways in changing the campus climate and bureaucracy. The bold and courageous new financial aid plan [also] maintains and promotes social-economic diversity,” Skorton said. [img_assist|nid=31388|title=Bye bye, Biddy|desc=Former University Provost Biddy Martin says goodbye to her peers on Bailey Hall Plaza yesterday.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]
At the end of the event, a long line was formed with guests waiting patiently to talk to Martin. Among them was Kara Capelli ’09, who once interviewed Martin in a WVBR-FM radio show and listened to her State of the University Address.
“She answered everyone’s questions in a very personal way. There was no political jargon. She is a very nice and genuine person,” said Capelli.
Other guests and co-workers alike also lavished praises on Martin.
“She is a phenomenal person. She is very smart and also very fair in everything she does. She is an excellent, excellent provost,” said former Trustee Bob Appel ’53, who called Martin his “good friend” and flew up from New York City to bid her farewell.
Marie Friess, who works at the office of the vice provost, described Martin as “very personable.”
“Everything I know of Biddy [Martin] is superlative. She has always had a smile on her face when she walked by. It is quite nice for a person at that level,” said Friess.
Perhaps Trustee Robert J. Katz ’69 put it best: “One of the best three hours I have ever spent at a Cornell-related matter was sitting with Martin at a rainout Yankees stadium, talking about everything.”