News of President Elizabeth Garrett’s death has prompted an outpouring of support from Cornellians and political figures, all honoring the former president’s achievements and legacy.
Former Cornell President Emeritus David Skorton called Garrett a “dynamic, decisive and hugely accomplished person.”
“This is the true meaning of tragedy,” said Skorton, Garrett’s predecessor. “It’s a very hard day for Ithaca, for Cornell University, but beyond all those things, it’s the human tragedy of a life cut off at a young age.”
Provost and Acting President Michael Kotlikoff called Garrett “a visionary leader,” saying that the legacy she leaves behind will be her ability to inspire Cornell’s continual improvement.
“Her greatest legacy will be for this generation of Cornellians — faculty, students and staff — to build on Beth’s fearless dedication to discovery and learning, and her incredible energy to make her vision for Cornell University’s future a reality,” he said. “We are all deeply saddened by her passing, and I extend my profound condolences to her husband, Andrei Marmor, to her family, and to the community of thousands and thousands of Cornellians, here in Ithaca and around the country and the world.”
Gretchen Ritter ’83, the Dean of Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an email to students that she was “unbelievably saddened” to learn of Garrett’s death, calling her “not only our president, but our colleague.”
“Beth was an inspiration to me, and I know she served as an inspiration for many other faculty and students here at Cornell,” she said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) also expressed his condolences to Garrett’s loved ones and all Cornellians, calling the former president a “visionary leader who was wholeheartedly committed to furthering the education and growth of those around her.”
The governor also remarked upon Garrett’s ability to challenge the established order, commending her for the steps she took as Cornell’s first female president.
“Elizabeth devoted her life to creating a better future for everyone, and she understood that in order to accomplish that, part of her responsibility as a leader was to boldly challenge the status quo,” he said. “As the first woman to lead Cornell University as its President, she lived that promise herself.”
Cuomo called Garrett’s passing a great loss “not only for her University, but for our state.”
Assemblymember Barbara Lifton (D-N.Y.) also sent her sympathies to Cornell’s campus this
afternoon, writing that she was “devastated to hear the news.”
“[Garrett] was a lovely, warm and accomplished woman who was poised to be a great leader at Cornell,” she said. “My sympathies to her husband, family and to the entire Cornell community.”
Michael Lane, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature also released a statement mourning the loss of President Garrett, calling her “brilliant, witty, savvy and sincere in her commitment to the community.”
“While our partnership with her was just beginning, her vision and good will shall endure,” he said. “She will be missed by all who knew her.”
Mayor Svante Myrick ‘09 echoed these sentiments, calling Garrett a “remarkable, talented and brilliant leader” in a Facebook post today.
Sen. Mike Nozzolio (D-N.Y.) also conveyed his condolences to Cornellians, saying he was “honored” to work closely with Garrett during her eight month tenure as president.
“Together we worked on numerous Cornell initiatives, and I am grateful for her many discussions and guidance throughout those endeavors,” he said. “Elizabeth’s impact on Cornell University, while too brief, was significant.”
Student trustee Yamini Bhandari ‘17 said Garrett was “a guiding voice for Cornell” crediting the former president’s “energy and spirit” for challenging Cornellians to examine how to improve the University.
“Throughout my interactions with President Garrett the consistent theme was her infectious spirit of excitement for approaching the challenges of this university,” she said. “Her bravery in spite of the immense challenges throughout her presidency are personal attributes that I can only hope to one day emulate.”
Bhandari emphasized that despite the loss sustained by the the Cornell community sustained in Garrett’s passing, her vision for the University will live on.
“This is truly a loss for the university community and to all who knew her,” she said. “Her lasting legacy of a vision for this school and vitality she brought to issues of higher education, and humanity more broadly will forever be remembered.”
Student Assembly vice president of internal operations Mitchell McBride ‘17 also called Garrett an “inspirational woman” who was committed to the fight for change.
“She knew we had to fight for the change we need in this world,” he said. “She did that every day of her life, from her clerkship at the Supreme Court, to her research on direct democracy, to her compassion for making Cornell great.”
Chris Arce ‘19 said he and his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, proposed the idea of gathering to sign and send a card to Garrett’s family today, adding that the idea was met with tremendous student support.
“Students immediately jumped on the idea of sending a card to her family to show support and a countless number of people have offered to help,” he said. “It’s a tragic loss and we are grieving as a family today but we are coming together to pay our respects for our President.”