Chapbook captures Garrett's historic inauguration

Dean Smith, director of Cornell University Press, looks over an early copy of "The Inauguration of Elizabeth Garrett, Cornell's Thirteenth President" at Cornell University Press headquarters at Sage House in Ithaca.

A small chapbook will serve as a souvenir and memento of Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett’s Sept. 18 inauguration.

The volume, “The Inauguration of Elizabeth Garrett, Cornell’s Thirteenth President” (Cornell University Press, 2015), was produced for distribution immediately after the installation ceremony and also will be available in the Cornell Store and as an ebook. More than 8,000 copies have been printed.

The 96-page, pocket-sized publication includes three poems by professor of English Alice Fulton – including one written especially for the inauguration that Fulton read at the ceremony – and an introduction by President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes.

Two of Fulton’s poems in the book (“Slate” and “Shy One”) have been published previously; she wrote “Inaugural This & That Q&A” specifically for Garrett’s inauguration.

“It’s such an honor to read as part of the inaugural, and I wanted to write a new poem for the occasion,” Fulton said. “Readings these days often include a Q&A, and the poem took that form. It can be heard as the mind arguing with itself or as a call-and-response with the universe. Of course, there’s some ‘noise’ or humor as the questioner tries to interpret the riddling guidance offered by the cosmos. Here we are at the start of something rich with possibilities. What would the universe do? I thought it might be fun to ask that.”

Ritter said her contribution, a narrative tour of Cornell women “firsts” through history, came from the “kinship that I feel with President Garrett as a fellow first – in being the first woman to serve as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“There is a level of responsibility and a deeply felt honor that comes with the designation of ‘first woman to …,’ and I have found great inspiration in fellow alumnae who have pioneered their way into leadership positions in all corners of society,” she said. “I wanted to relate that feeling of camaraderie while celebrating the women who came before us and have made Cornell one of the greatest institutions of knowledge in the world.”

In his foreword, Rhodes, Cornell’s ninth president (1977-95), lauds Garrett’s accomplishments and credentials: “It as though all of Elizabeth Garrett’s previous career was a preparation for the Cornell presidency.”

He also notes that the strength of Cornell University “lies not solely in its president or its distinguished faculty [or] … in the balance of its budget or the scope of its campus buildings. Rather its true strength derives from the extent to which all members of the community – faculty, staff, students and alumni – share common hopes and goals and are willing to commit themselves to their achievement.”

The format for the publication was taken from Cornell University Press’ “Cornell Selects” print-on-demand imprint, a series that has tackled provocative topics in a design that is longer than an article but shorter than a book, Smith said.

“It has the feel of a poetry chapbook, something that’s a really nice commemorative piece to take away from the inauguration and to always remember it,” Smith said. “It has that formidable feel to it – its quidditas, the ‘thingness of the thing.’ It’s important, especially with everything being ephemeral now, and digital, to have something like that.”

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John Carberry