Hunter R. Rawlings III, Cornell president emeritus and professor emeritus of classics, has been appointed interim president effective April 25, Cornell University Board of Trustees Chairman Robert S. Harrison ’76 announced March 24.
An international search for the university’s 14th president will begin in the coming months, and Rawlings will serve in an interim capacity until that person assumes the office.
Rawlings served as Cornell’s 10th president from 1995 to 2003. This is the second time he has accepted the position of interim president; he previously took the helm in 2005-06 following the resignation of Jeffrey Lehman.
“Cornell University is indeed fortunate that Hunter has agreed to step forward once again to lead through a time of transition,” said Harrison. “The board’s unanimous vote is evidence of the respect for his leadership at Cornell and as one of the nation’s premier advocates for higher education.” Rawlings has served as president of the Association of American Universities since 2011 and last year had announced he would be stepping down in May 2016.
Harrison thanked Provost Michael Kotlikoff, who has been serving as acting president since Feb. 19, when President Elizabeth Garrett underwent surgery. Garrett, the university’s 13th and first female president, died March 6 from colon cancer after eight months in office.
“Mike’s leadership and steady hand during what has been an unprecedented and challenging time for Cornell has been nothing short of exceptional,” Harrison said.
“President Garrett built a strong leadership team, and we have set an ambitious agenda,” Kotlikoff said. “I look forward to working with Hunter, who knows Cornell so well and is so highly regarded by the faculty. His inspired leadership and experience make him the perfect choice.”
“It is an honor to once again be called to help lead this great institution,” Rawlings said. “There is much momentum around Beth’s vision, and I will work with Mike, the leadership team, deans, faculty, students and staff across our campuses to continue building the university’s strengths around those priorities.”
As Cornell’s 10th president, Rawlings renewed the university’s emphasis on undergraduate teaching and worked with the faculty to identify strategic scientific priorities. His initiatives included: promoting student diversity and Cornell’s need-blind admissions policy; launching the Residential Initiative, which resulted in the transformation of North Campus into a living and learning community for freshmen and new West Campus residential colleges; establishing the undergraduate Cornell Presidential Research Scholars program, which was renamed in his honor; setting strategic goals for life sciences and engineering, as well as humanities and social sciences; and strengthening Weill Cornell Medical College.
Among his accomplishments as interim president, Rawlings traveled to China to inaugurate an academic exchange between Tsinghua University and the College of Engineering, to finalize with Peking University arrangements for the Beijing portion of Cornell’s new undergraduate major in China and Asia Pacific Studies, and to cultivate opportunities for new relationships and exchange programs.
Before coming to Cornell, Rawlings served as president of the University of Iowa. Born in Norfolk, Virginia, he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1970 and is a 1966 graduate of Haverford College. He is married to Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings, a freelance translator of scholarly works from French to English. The couple has four children.