Skip to main content

Cornell President Rawlings announces intent to step down from presidency in 2003

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of Cornell University since 1995, today (March 15, 2002) announced his intention to retire from the presidency on June 30, 2003, and to assume a full-time professorship thereafter in the university's Department of Classics.

Speaking at the Cornell Board of Trustees meeting on the university's Ithaca campus, Rawlings said that announcing his intention to retire at this time "will allow the board to begin a deliberate and systematic search for a new president and will provide time for an orderly transition."

He added: "At the end of the next academic year, I shall have served as a university president for 15 years, eight at Cornell and seven at the University of Iowa. It has been, and continues to be, an extraordinarily challenging and personally satisfying experience. The future of our nation in many ways rests with the quality of its colleges and universities, and it has been a great honor for me to play a role in promoting this vital enterprise. The heart of that enterprise is found in the classroom, the library and the laboratory, and I look forward with great enthusiasm to returning to the fundamental activities that first attracted me to the worlds of teaching and scholarship.

"I came to Ithaca with a vision for composing Cornell. I said that I would strive to have the remarkably diverse parts of Cornell organized in such a way that they would work effectively together. I will leave the presidency confident that we have taken great strides toward making that vision a reality.

"Cornell today is a great university that is much more than the sum of its individually excellent parts. It is an intellectual feast of remarkable variety created by its individual members – scientists and humanists, social scientists and professional school faculty – each of whom brings something important to the table. It is an intellectual community of extraordinary depth and breadth, where living and learning take place across a great diversity of backgrounds. I am grateful and proud to have had an opportunity to share in this vibrant academic society. "Cornell University is in many ways the most complex research university in the United States. Blending unparalleled private support from its dedicated alumni and friends with state assistance to the land grant university of the State of New York, Cornell offers the best combination of research, scholarship and public service in the nation. I will continue to do all that I can in the next 15 months to strengthen still further its faculty, students and staff. Serving thereafter in the university's superb classics department is a role that I anticipate with great enthusiasm," he concluded.

Harold Tanner, chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees, said that the Rawlings presidency has built an outstanding record of leadership for the university, both on the Ithaca campus and at its medical units in New York City. "The trustees of Cornell identified a clear winner when they selected Hunter Rawlings as the university's 10th president, and we are deeply appreciative for all that he has done academically, administratively and financially to strengthen the university. Cornell has prospered under his leadership, and we are fortunate that he will continue to exercise that leadership vigorously. His contributions to the university as a member of its faculty have already been widely appreciated, and we are delighted that he and his wonderful wife and partner, Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings, will remain members of the university community for many years to come.

"Cornell University has never been stronger, its future never brighter. Hunter Rawlings' leadership of this university over the past seven years has been a major reason for that excellent condition," said Tanner.

Peter C. Meinig, chairman-elect of the board of trustees, announced that he and Chairman Tanner would appoint in the immediate weeks ahead a trustee search committee, to be chaired by Vice Chairman Edwin H. Morgens. "Cornell has been blessed by the outstanding leadership of Hunter Rawlings. The search process that was followed in 1994 involved all of the university's constituencies and led to the superb selection of Cornell's 10th president. We will use that process as a model in this search as well," said Meinig.

Tanner listed several of the major accomplishments of the Rawlings presidency to date, stating that in the first seven years of his tenure Rawlings:

  • Renewed Cornell's emphasis on the importance of undergraduate teaching, setting an example by personally teaching an undergraduate course in the Department of Classics over the last two years, creating the new position of vice provost for undergraduate education, and creating the Presidential Research Scholars program;
  • Envisioned and implemented a new approach to residential life for Cornell undergraduates, resulting in the transformation of the North Campus for freshmen and the forthcoming creation of residential colleges on the West Campus for upper-level students;
  • Set strategic scientific priorities, as recommended by a faculty committee charged with identifying areas of emphasis in the life sciences and engineering – advanced materials science, computing and information science, and the new fields that comprise the biological revolution, including genomics, computational biology, bioinformatics and nanobiotechnology – and began construction of Duffield Hall, which will provide a new home for the university's cutting-edge nanofabrication research;
  • Reorganized the biological sciences on the Ithaca campus and set in motion the plans for a pioneering Life Science Technology Building;
  • Provided additional support for the humanities and social sciences, recognizing their critical significance for the future of men, women and children in a rapidly changing scientific and technological environment;
  • Gained the respect of faculty across the campus for his support of intellectual life and academic standards, initiating and personally participating in a series of foundation-supported faculty seminars in the social sciences and humanities to encourage intellectual collaboration across disciplines and departments;
  • Developed a multiyear plan now under way to improve faculty and staff compensation;
  • Transformed the face of the Central Campus by completing construction of Sage Hall as the new home for the Johnson Graduate School of Management and the Lincoln Hall addition for the Department of Music; renewed facilities for the arts in Tjaden Hall; undertook the renovation of White Hall that is now under way; and initiated the plans for Milstein Hall, the striking new building proposed for architecture;
  • Renewed the strength of the Weill Cornell Medical College with the appointment of Antonio Gotto, M.D., as provost for health affairs and dean of the Medical College, guided the implementation of the Medical College's strategic plan through a successful major gifts campaign, and signed an agreement to establish a new location of the Medical College in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar, thereby creating an unprecedented expansion of Cornell's role on the international scene;
  • Created the Tri-Institutional Program that has built path-breaking research ties among the New York and Ithaca campuses of Cornell, Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center;
  • Appointed women and minorities to leading positions in the senior ranks of the administration, including Biddy Martin, Carolyn Ainslie, Patsy Brannon, Doris Davis, Joanne DeStefano, Robert Harris, Susan Henry, Polley McClure, Mary Opperman and Inge Reichenbach;
  • Promoted the growth of undergraduate applications for admissions, lowered the university's rate of admission offers, raised the yield on those offers of admission to 55 percent, made permanent the trustee policy on need-blind admission to Cornell, and increased student diversity, which is one of the university's top priorities in recruiting;
  • Encouraged the construction of the $60 million Lake Source Cooling Project, which is already receiving wide acclaim for its far-reaching reductions in regional air pollution and was recently designated as the recipient of the New York State Governor's Award for Environmental Conservation;
  • Strengthened town-gown relations and announced plans for the construction of a university-leased downtown office building in the City of Ithaca;
  • Improved our ties with the State of New York, so that Cornell today enjoys strong support from the governor and the members of the Senate and Assembly;
  • Completed the $1.5 billion capital campaign begun by his predecessor, Frank H. T. Rhodes, and initiated and saw to conclusion a successful $200 million campaign for scholarships and financial aid; in the year that ended in June of 1999, Cornell was first in the nation in fund raising from individuals and from alumni and second in the nation overall in fund raising, for total dollars raised; our alumni and friends continue to be remarkably generous;
  • Initiated a new visibility for athletics – intercollegiate, intramural and recreational – with upgrades to facilities including a $1 million renovation of Lynah Rink, completion of the $2 million Friedman Strength and Conditioning Center, construction of the $1.45 million Belkin Squash Courts, and creation of the Niemand-Robison Softball Field, one of the finest collegiate softball facilities in the Northeast;
  • Oversaw the growth of the Cornell endowment from $1.424 billion on June 30, 1995, to $2.894 billion on Dec. 31, 2001, and raised $2.3 billion in gifts to the university since the last capital campaign; and
  • Launched a Cornell-owned and financed distance-learning initiative called eCornell, to extend the university's specialized educational programs far beyond the physical campus.

Rawlings concluded his remarks by expressing appreciation to the many members of the Cornell community who have contributed to the success of his presidency: "We have accomplished many things together, and I want to thank all of you for your support over the years – Harold, members of the board of trustees, faculty, staff, and most of all, students. It has been an extraordinary, exhilarating ride. I am confident that next year I will leave the presidency in great hands – in your hands, and in the able hands of my successor."

Prior to coming to Cornell, Rawlings served as president of the University of Iowa. Born in Norfolk, Va., he received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1970 and is a 1966 graduate of Haverford College, with honors in classics.

Rawlings' scholarly publications include a book,The Structure of Thucydides' History (Princeton University Press, 1981). He also is the author of many scholarly monographs and articles and has served as editor ofThe Classical Journal. Among his many appointments to boards and commissions, Rawlings currently serves as the chair of the Ivy Council of Presidents; vice chair of the Association of American Universities; member of the National Academy Foundation, the board of managers of Haverford College and the board of directors of the Montpelier Foundation; and as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Rawlings is married to Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings. The couple has four children.


Media Contact

Media Relations Office