Jennifer Gerner, professor emerita of policy analysis and management who studied family and education policy and helped transform Cornell's residential communities, died suddenly Oct. 4. She was 64.
Gerner, who joined the College of Human Ecology faculty in 1974, focused her research on the role of family characteristics and family disruption in outcomes for children, particularly education. She found that children of divorce are half as likely as those raised in traditional families to attend a selective college, even after controlling for income, parent education and other factors. Also diminished are their chances of applying or being admitted to such schools.
Memorial service scheduled
A public memorial service will be held Monday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. in the Anabel Taylor Chapel on campus.
More recently, she studied early childhood education and universal pre-kindergarten programs, finding that early schooling yields short- and long-term developmental benefits for children.
Her work appeared in the Journal of Higher Education, the Journal of Consumer Affairs, Applied Anthropology, the Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal and other publications.
Her courses covered topics ranging from consumer economics and law to child and family policy to policy analysis and economics.
She was an assistant professor 1974-80 and became an associate professor in 1980 and a full professor in 1994. She was named a professor emerita in September 2012.
Gerner was deeply involved in campus life and helped lead efforts to redefine Cornell's residential communities in the late 1990s and to develop a master plan for campus housing. As chair of the Residential Communities Committee, she helped plan for the faculty-led house system that makes up much of modern-day West Campus. From 1993 to 1997, she was a faculty-in-residence at Sperry and Balch halls.
Gerner served Cornell in many other capacities. From 2004 to 2006, she was a special adviser to Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy. She recently chaired the university's North Campus and Collegetown Councils and the Institutional Review Board. And from 1997 to 2004, she served as associate dean for academic affairs and administration in the College of Human Ecology; for three years prior, she was the college's assistant dean for undergraduate and graduate education.
Gerner earned her B.A. and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
She is survived by two sons, Joshua Gerner, a systems administrator for Cornell Information Technologies, and Nicholas Gerner '05, M.E. '06.
A campus memorial service is being planned. Funeral arrangements will be made through Bangs Funeral Home.
Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.