Over 1,000 members of the Cornell community gathered on the Arts Quad Monday afternoon to honor President Elizabeth Garrett, who died Sunday night, with a moment of silence and a chimes concert.
In an email sent out to the Cornell community Monday, Board of Trustees Chair Robert Harrison ’76 announced Garrett’s death and urged Cornellians on campus to join in a moment of silence at 4 p.m.
After the email was sent out, a Facebook event titled “Moment of Silence in Honor of President Elizabeth Garrett” was created and shared by over 1,000 students online in efforts to encourage community members to unite in remembering Garrett.
“The event on Facebook was created in response to Chair Harrison and Dean [of the College of Arts and Sciences] Gretchen Ritter’s call for a moment of silence,” said Jacob Cohen ’16, one of the co-hosts of the event. “Various students from the senior class were involved. The creation of the Facebook event was not an attempt to take credit for or put our names on what was a beautiful ceremony. We felt strongly about the need to get the word out.”
In addition to the event on the Arts Quad, students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were also encouraged to join for a moment of silence on Bailey Plaza at 4 p.m.
People began to gather in front of the A.D. White statue around 3:45 p.m. for the event. Members of the Cornell Emergency Medical Service, Cornell University Police and even students in sports uniforms were present to hear the chimes ring.
The concert opened with Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and included songs such as “Over the Rainbow” and “The Hill.”
“It was such a shock that President Garrett died so suddenly,” said Diana Herrera ’19, after the event. “I honestly thought she would make it. Standing in silence with everyone made it much more real.”
Many professors canceled classes occurring at 4 p.m. so their students could attend the gathering.
“I felt that it was terribly important that the students and instructors have the chance to pay their respects to President Garrett,” said Prof. Jeremy Searle, ecology and evolutionary biology, who encouraged students of his Evolutionary Biology and Diversity class to join the moment of silence on the Arts Quad.
After the conclusion of the moment of silence, community members were also able to sign a condolence card that students plan to send to members of Garrett’s family. The idea for the card was initially proposed by Chris Arce ’19 and his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.
“We thought this would be a nice gesture of how much we appreciate her, even though her time was short here,” said Jung Won Kim ’18, one of the organizers of the card-signing.
After the chimes concert, members of the Cornell University Chorus and the Cornell Glee Club gathered together to sing “The Cornell Evening Song” on Ho Plaza.
“The turnout was truly moving,” Cohen said. “In my time at Cornell I have never seen so many students come together in one place for a common purpose.”
He added that he believed the massive attendance for the event was symbolic of Garrett’s legacy and her contributions to the University.
“In many ways, the greatest challenge and duty of a president is to bring people together,” Cohen said. “Watching over 1,000 Cornellians come to honor President Garrett on the Arts Quad was a symbol of her leadership and the all-too-short, yet strong legacy she has left on this campus.”