Charles Walcott, former dean of the university faculty and professor emeritus of neurobiology and behavior, has been named university ombudsman, President David Skorton announced June 13. Walcott's appointment is effective July 1.
"Charlie Walcott brings to the position of University Ombudsman a deep understanding of Cornell and its people, policies and procedures, attained through a long association with our university as a graduate student and faculty member," Skorton said. "I gained enormously from his wisdom while he was dean of the university faculty, and I am delighted that he has agreed to serve in this new and critically important universitywide role."
Walcott will be the university's 12th ombudsman, a post created in 1969 and first held by ILR School professor Alice Cook. The ombudsman promotes procedural fairness in the content and administration of Cornell's practices, processes and policies. As an informal resource, the ombudsman does not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedures related to concerns brought to his or her attention.
Walcott's responsibilities will include guiding Cornell community members and explaining applicable procedures, assisting grievants by identifying options and resources in resolving disputes between parties and, when appropriate, representing the merits of a complaint to the responsible authority. The ombudsman post is held by a Cornell emeritus or senior faculty member, and is a part-time, two-year term position, with the opportunity to be extended for additional terms. A nomination committee, composed of faculty, staff and students, reviewed nominations for the ombudsman position and made recommendations to Skorton. He made the final selection in concert with the University Assembly.
Walcott succeeds the late Walter Lynn, professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering and of science and technology studies. Lynn had held the post since 1998 and in March had announced his decision to step down; Lynn passed away June 6. "Walter served the role extremely well through his leadership, creativity, objectivity and commitment to the university and its employees, and we are grateful for his many years of dedicated service," Skorton said. "We will miss him deeply."
Walcott is an expert in the territorial vocalizations of birds and the navigational orientation of animals. He received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Cornell. He served on the faculties of Harvard University, Tufts University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook before coming to Cornell in 1981 as a full professor and director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Walcott was named the Lab's first Louis Agassiz Fuertes Director in 1992. He left that position in 1995 to resume teaching and research and went on to lead the Division of Biological Sciences (1998-99) and the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior (1999-2001) before serving for three years as associate dean and secretary of the university faculty. He also served as dean of the university faculty (2003-08) and the University Assembly's faculty chair (fall 2009-spring 2011).
Walcott's research on loons continues today and he holds several key positions at Cornell. He is university marshal; chair of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education's accreditation committee on integrity, governance and administration; a member of the Cornell Information Technologies' Steering Committee; and a faculty fellow at Becker House. He serves on the boards of Tompkins County United Way, the Sciencenter of Ithaca and WSKG public television and radio.