Cornell president to step down; interim president named

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell University President Jeffrey S. Lehman has notified the university's chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees of his intention to step down as president of Cornell University effective June 30, citing differences with the board regarding the strategy for realizing Cornell's long-term vision. 

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president emeritus of Cornell and a current member of the faculty, has agreed to serve as interim president. Subject to approval by the board of trustees, Rawlings' appointment will become effective July 1, and he will serve in this role until the university names a new president.

In announcing his decision, Lehman commented: "I am proud of what Cornell has achieved during my tenure as president. Over the past few months, it has become apparent that the board of trustees and I have different approaches to how the university can best realize its long-term vision. In light of our differences, it is best for the university that I step aside. I know that this remarkable university will continue to prosper and move forward under different leadership. As a Cornell graduate, I remain deeply devoted to the university, its faculty and students."

The 11th president to lead the university who is also a Professor of Law at the Cornell Law School, Lehman will assist with the leadership transition and will become a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Peter C. Meinig, chairman of the board of trustees, said: "Much has been accomplished over the past two years, but we understand Jeff Lehman's decision and we agree that it is in the best interests of the university. The trustees and all of the members of the university community appreciate his many contributions to Cornell over the past two years. We wish him every success in the years ahead."

Meinig continued, "Building on our guiding principle of 'Any person, any study,' which is the key to what makes Cornell work, we are enhancing intellectual inquiry across our extraordinarily broad range of fields, pursuing strategic interdisciplinary priorities, and developing international connections and perspectives. Innovation in our research, education and outreach agendas will ensure our leadership in higher education into the future.

"Because of his experience, insight and proven leadership capabilities, Hunter Rawlings is highly regarded by trustees, faculty, alumni and students. We are fortunate that he has agreed to guide the university through this transition. We are also pleased that Carolyn (Biddy) Martin will continue as provost, a position she has held since 2000, and that Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., who has served as provost for medical affairs for the past eight years, will continue in that role. Both are valued and respected members of the Cornell community."

Rawlings, who served as Cornell's 10th president from 1995 to 2003, commented: "I am pleased to be of service to Cornell, including serving as interim president to facilitate a seamless transition to a new president. With the continued leadership of Provosts Martin and Gotto, our administrative management team is fully focused on providing continuity and stability to Cornell's academic environment and ensuring that the university continues to flourish and that our students continue to receive an education that equips them to lead lives of meaning and contribution."

Meinig will appoint a presidential search committee shortly to identify the next president of Cornell. In keeping with the university's custom, the committee will be composed of trustees (including faculty, student and staff trustees), faculty, administrators and staff. The committee will begin its work promptly.



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