The Cornell University Board of Trustees approved and read memorial and condolence resolutions in honor of the late President Elizabeth Garrett during the open, public session of its meeting on the Ithaca campus March 24.
Trustees also expressed their appreciation for the leadership and support of their colleagues during Garrett’s illness, a time board chairman Robert S. Harrison ’76 called “unprecedented in Cornell history.”
Trustee Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, chairman of the board’s Executive Committee, ran the open session of the meeting along with Acting President and Provost Michael Kotlikoff; Harrison joined the meeting by phone.
Zubrow read aloud a memorial resolution for Garrett, who died March 6 at the age of 52 from colon cancer after eight months in office. Her death “has left the university bereft and in deep mourning,” the resolution states, “yet grateful for her legacy and progress and with the inspiring example of her courage and dedication.”
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Garrett’s family “as an expression of the board’s sympathy and to register the board’s deep sense of loss as to the passing of this extraordinary leader and friend, taken from us too soon,” Zubrow said.
A separate resolution by the University Assembly, expressing condolences and appreciation for Garrett, also was presented to the board and excerpts were read.
Zubrow, who led the Presidential Search Committee that selected Garrett, held a moment of silence for Garrett by the full board, and expressed gratitude for the leadership she has witnessed throughout the Cornell community in the last few months, and for the administrators, deans, faculty, students, staff and trustees who have done “everything they can to heal this university and to move the university forward.”
Zubrow praised Kotlikoff for his skill, calm demeanor and thoughtfulness in his role as acting president and for keeping the university “on par”; she also thanked Harrison, who she said “has been carrying the weight of this university on his shoulders for many months, and he has led us with an extraordinarily steady hand.”
“This was a situation that was unprecedented in Cornell history, and I think we have managed through this as well as we could have,” Harrison said.
Zubrow separately announced that University Counsel James Mingle, who earlier this year announced his retirement as of June 30, will stay on “indefinitely” to help the university through the presidential transition.
Siliciano named deputy provost
In his report to the board, Kotlikoff announced that John Siliciano, senior vice provost for academic affairs and interim vice provost for undergraduate education, has been named deputy provost “in recognition of [his] long service, terrific oversight of all the activities in the provost’s office and his involvement in virtually every initiative.”
Robotics demonstration highlights faculty work
Also during the board’s open session, a fairly new tradition of presenting faculty research to the full board continued as Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of the College of Engineering, introduced Hadas Kress-Gazit, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and two of her doctoral students, Catherine Wong and Jim Jing, who work in Kress-Gazit’s Verifiable Robotics Research Group.
Kress-Gazit gave an overview of robotics work at Cornell in multiple disciplines and a look at her own research on how humans interact with robots in complex environments using language. She then demonstrated a small, autonomous robot programmed to stand up and say “good morning” when it sees Kress-Gazit and to sit down when its head is patted. She described how the code for those tasks is created, how those instructions must not conflict with each other, and how her other work is giving autonomous robots the ability to react to the unexpected and even ask for assistance when its programming conflicts with reality.
Trustees also heard reports from Juliana Batista ’16 of the Student Assembly, Richard Walroth of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, and Matthew Battaglia ’16 of the University Assembly.
Dutta moves forward on College of Business
In an executive session Tuesday afternoon, the board approved a resolution appointing Soumitra Dutta dean of the Cornell College of Business, removing the term “designate” that has accompanied his college title until now. The resolution authorizes Dutta to appoint leadership positions at the college and begin filling its administrative roster.
“I am honored to accept this position and thank the board for putting its trust in me to lead this important historic endeavor,” Dutta said. “My firm intent is to continue our work to create a top-tier College of Business that will bring together the excellence and breadth of Cornell’s business programs in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the School of Hotel Administration, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.”
The search for a Johnson dean has begun; an appointment is expected by July 1.
The board also heard brief reports Thursday from the committees of faculty, alumni, students and staff charged with helping to shape the College of Business.