Sept. 30, 2014
Choice for president follows thoughtful, inclusive search
Robert Barker/University Photography
Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, chair of the Executive Committee of the Cornell Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Search Committee, speaks about the presidential search process during a luncheon on campus Sept. 30.
The choice for Cornell’s 13th president, Elizabeth Garrett, followed a thoughtful, inclusive six-month search process that welcomed input from faculty, staff, students and alumni. Garrett, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California (USC), will become president of Cornell on July 1, 2015, and she will be Cornell’s first female president.
“We had a very hard-working committee,” said Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, chair of the Executive Committee of the Cornell Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “I think having broad representation from different constituencies really made the process an outstanding one. We worked together to find the best president of our university; everyone [on the committee] was a university citizen.”
Formed in March after President David Skorton announced he would be leaving Cornell on June 30, 2015, the 19-member Presidential Search Committee included faculty, students, employees, trustees and alumni from both Cornell in Ithaca and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. The committee was advised by two former chairmen of the board of trustees, and also engaged the services of the search firm Spencer Stuart. The search was international, Zubrow said, and the candidate pool was a “truly world-class group,” from top institutions around the country and world.
Shortly after the committee was appointed, they launched what Zubrow called a “listening tour”: engaging various Cornell constituencies in Ithaca and New York City with the goal of creating a shared vision for the key issues facing Cornell and the qualities for the next president. The committee’s efforts included open forums with faculty, students and staff in Ithaca and Weill Cornell, alumni surveys and webinars.
The Presidential Search Statement, which reflected the Cornell community’s input, outlined the need for the new president to be a visionary and inspirational leader; someone with academic stature and breadth; a person with demonstrated success managing a large, complex, multi-stakeholder organization; someone with experience in fundraising and communication; and an individual who could represent Cornell well on state, national and international levels. Garrett emerged as the clear choice – she possesses all of these attributes, “and so much more,” Zubrow said.
Zubrow called Garrett an “extraordinary leader” with a track record for advancing the academic stature of USC, particularly by creating a number of interdisciplinary and cross-college initiatives that brought elements of a complex university together. The committee was extremely impressed by her ability to build bridges between various colleges and programs, recruit top talent, and excite people to think bigger and bolder, Zubrow said.
By ANNIE BUI
Before Elizabeth Garrett assumes her post as Cornell’s 13th president next July, she will continue to serve as the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California — a position that involves overseeing the school’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences as well as 17 other graduate and professional schools.
Throughout her term at USC, Garrett has directed efforts to hire new faculty from a broad range of academic disciplines, including cognitive bioscience, arts and the humanities as well as the quantitative social sciences, according to the University.
She also spearheaded the creation of several new postdoctoral programs, among them the Provost Postdoctoral Scholars Program in the Humanities and Provost Clinical Resident Fellows at USC.
“Provost Garrett has helped maintain the university’s volume and quality of externally funded research and expanded the university’s postdoctoral programs, strategically focusing on priorities such as the humanities, diversity in the digital realm, and clinical fellows,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias in a letter to the USC community.
Garrett “has served the USC community with exceptional dedication since 2003,” Nikias said. Before becoming provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in October 2010, she served as vice provost and vice president for academic planning and budget at USC.
In 2005, she was appointed by former president George W. Bush to serve on the nine-member bipartisan Tax Reform Panel, according to her biography.
Garrett was also nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy in 2009, but cited aspects of her “personal family situation” as the reason for her withdrawal, according to Bloomberg.
During a press conference Tuesday morning, Garrett said that prior to entering the world of academia, she clerked for a number of judges — among them former associate justice of the Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall.
“My own research is informed a lot by my background,” she said. “I clerked for … Justice Thurgood Marshall and then I worked in the United States Senate working with [former] Senator David Boren from Oklahoma, where I served as his legislative director in his tax and budget council.”
Garrett added that the work she has done as a lawyer in the legislative realm was “something [she] wanted to write and teach students about.”
“I was [an] unusual law professor in that I focused more on what happens in legislature and administrative agencies than what happens in courts,” she said.
Garrett also served as a professor of law at the University of Chicago, where she acted as deputy dean for academic affairs, according to her biography.
She has also been a visiting professor at several academic institutions, including Harvard Law School, the University of Virginia School of Law, Central European University in Budapest and the Interdisciplinary Center Law School in Israel.
Garrett graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1985, subsequently receiving her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.