Cornell announced on Wednesday that Peter Meinig ’61, chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees, died Sept. 25 at the age of 78 in Colorado.
Meinig served as chairman from 2002 to 2011, overseeing decisions throughout his term such as the creation of the West Campus housing community, increasing financial aid and various leadership transitions in addition to leading the University through the Great Recession.
“Pete was a great friend and an incredible mentor,” Robert Harrison ’76, current chair of the Board of Trustees told the Cornell Chronicle. “He patiently involved me in decision-making during his last year in office and taught me what it really meant to act only and always in the best interest of the university. He led by example, placing his own family and his Cornell family at the forefront of his thoughts and actions.”
Meinig’s term as chairman spanned the terms of three Cornell presidents: Hunter Rawlings III, Jeffrey Lehman ’77 and David Skorton. Harrison succeeded Meinig in 2012.
“[Meinig] is a capable and experienced board member with a great love for Cornell and an ability to get things done,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III in a University press release after Meinig was announced as chair in 2002, The Sun reported.
Meinig received his BME from Cornell in 1962 and an MBA from Harvard University in 1964.
In leading the University through the financial crises of the Recession, Meinig provided details to the Board’s strategic planning process to Sun reporters in a March 2010 interview.
“Cornell, just as every other research university in the country, is operating in a constrained financial environment,” Meinig told The Sun. “We are the only institution that I’m aware of — of our caliber — that at the same time we’re addressing the financial pressures … we are also involved in a serious strategic planning effort.”
The Meinig family has been notable for their donations to Cornell. Meinig’s wife Nancy Meinig ’62 served as presidential councillors and co-chaired Cornell’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2015. The Meinigs are recognized as foremost benefactors of Cornell.
In 2015, Peter and Nancy Meinig were awarded Frank H.T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Awards, given to alumni for extraordinary service to Cornell.
The family provided program support to the Cornell National Scholars Program in 1998. This program was later renamed the Meinig Family National Scholars Program, currently with roughly 240 undergraduates in the program.
In 2007, Peter and Nancy Meinig donated $25 million for recognizing faculty life sciences research, establishing the Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigatorships in the Life Sciences.
“As many of you know, Pete and I were college sweethearts. … Romanticism is what brings a couple together but realism is what sees them through,” Mrs. Meinig said at a trustees dinner in May 2007, after announcing the gift.
“Our gift is the product of our romantic attachment to our alma mater as well as a realistic assessment of how much we could stretch to help Cornell remain at the forefront of research and teaching,” she added.
In 2015, the Meinigs donated a $50 million endowment gift, creating the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering — the largest single philanthropic commitment by individual donors to one of the university’s colleges in Ithaca, according to the University. This donation was also made with daughters trustee Anne Meinig Smalling ’87, Kathryn Meinig Geib MBA ’93 and Sally Meinig Snipes.
“This gift is an incredible continuation of the Meinig family’s generosity to Cornell and will strengthen the university in countless ways, not the least of which is by enhancing research synergies between Ithaca and Weill Cornell,” Skorton told The Chronicle in 2015. “There is no more important investment the Meinigs could make.”
Donations from the Meinig family also established he Meinig Family Professorship of Engineering and the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professorship of Maternal and Child Nutrition.
“[Meinig’s] intimate knowledge of Cornell, from an association that spanned more than a half century, was invaluable during my first months in office. I join with his family and many Cornell friends in mourning his loss,” Cornell University President Martha Pollack told The Chronicle.