When the late President Elizabeth Garrett addressed Cornell’s intercollegiate athletes during an orientation event in September 2015, she invoked a word that connotes beauty of spirit and of motion, a hallmark of sports at its highest levels.
“I think that as we win and as we compete on all the sports fields, what we need to exemplify is grace,” she said. “Grace is an old-fashioned word, a word that you don’t hear very much anymore, but to me it suggests an elegance, a finesse, a humility and, indeed, a sense of honor.”
Those words resonated with many of those in attendance, including Luke Hagy ’16, All-Ivy League running back and a captain of the Big Red football team.
“The positive energy that President Garrett showed was incredible,” Hagy said. “It moved and motivated me in a way that I didn’t think a university president who I’d just met ever could.”
The theme of Garrett’s address to the student-athletes is now the theme of a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run dedicated to the memory of Cornell’s 13th president. On May 8, the Red Key Athlete Honor Society is sponsoring the first Elizabeth Garrett Memorial 5K: A Moment of Grace. The run is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Cornell Plantations.
Registration fee is $20 through May 6, $25 after that, with the first 100 registrants receiving an event T-shirt. The event is open to the public; online sign-up is available.
Check-in is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., with opening remarks at 9:30. Scheduled to speak are Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, and Olivia Wherry ’16, co-president of the Red Key Society.
“President Garrett motivated each and every one of us to be the best version of ourselves, and we felt it important to honor her with an event put together by the students,” said Wherry, co-captain of the Big Red women’s squash team and event co-organizer.
The event was conceived in February, after the announcement of Garrett’s illness, to raise both awareness of colon cancer and funds for research. Garrett knew of and was supportive of the run, and since her death on March 6 it has become a memorial event. All proceeds will support the President Elizabeth Garrett Fund for Colon Cancer Research and student scholarships.
“This event is meant to be a celebration of life, not just a memorial service,” Wherry said.
“It has been a great honor and experience working on this event and hearing about all of the amazing things that people had to say about President Garrett,” said Hagy, who helped organize the event. “It has been even cooler seeing all of the people who have reached out and are willing to help.”
The Red Key Society honors varsity athletes and recognizes outstanding undergraduate contributors on and off the playing field. It is involved in planning many community service events in the Cornell and Ithaca communities.
Community sponsors of the event include Buffalo Wild Wings, Wegmans, Maxie’s Supper Club, Purity Ice Cream and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.