Board Chairman Emeritus Peter Meinig dies at 78
By Joe Wilensky
Peter C. Meinig ’61, chairman emeritus of the Cornell University Board of Trustees, died Sept. 25 in Colorado at the age of 78.
Meinig, who first joined the board of trustees in 1991, served two terms as its chairman, from 2002 to 2011.
“Pete was, first and foremost, an extraordinary human being,” said board Chairman Robert S. Harrison ’76, adding that Meinig was guided by “a sense of modesty, decency, unpretentiousness and honesty.”
“Pete was a great friend and an incredible mentor,” said Harrison, who succeeded Meinig as board chairman in 2012. “He patiently involved me in decision-making during his last year in office and taught me what it really meant to act only and always in the best interest of the university. He led by example, placing his own family and his Cornell family at the forefront of his thoughts and actions.”
“I will always be grateful to Pete Meinig for his wisdom and the kindness he showed toward me as a new Cornell president,” said Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack. “His intimate knowledge of Cornell, from an association that spanned more than a half century, was invaluable during my first months in office. I join with his family and many Cornell friends in mourning his loss.”
Meinig’s accomplishments as board chairman include overseeing the creation of the West Campus living and learning communities and numerous other building projects aimed at improving the student and faculty experience; steering the university through a difficult leadership transition that culminated in the hiring of David Skorton in 2006; launching a record-setting fundraising campaign; increasing financial aid to improve student access; guiding Cornell through the Great Recession; assisting in the establishment of a $100 million faculty renewal fund; leading a board effort to reduce administrative expenses universitywide; and supporting the winning bid to build the Cornell Tech campus in New York City, the first phase of which was opened and dedicated on Roosevelt Island earlier this month.
As a trustee emeritus, Meinig was actively serving on the board’s Investment Committee and on the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Overseers, as well as on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s administrative board. He also served as a special adviser and partner to Dean Lance Collins in building awareness of the College of Engineering’s strategic priorities.
As a Cornell trustee, Meinig chaired the board’s Executive Committee and served on the Board Membership and Alumni Affairs and Development committees. He chaired the Trustee Special Advisory Committee on Distance Learning and co-chaired the Scholarship Campaign. He also was a member of the Academic Affairs and Campus Life, Audit, and Buildings and Properties committees and served as chair of the Subcommittee on Alumni Affairs.
Meinig and his wife, Nancy Meinig ’62, made many significant and generous contributions to Cornell over the decades and were recognized as foremost benefactors; they both also served as presidential councillors.
In 2015, the Meinigs endowed the Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, expanding and elevating what had been a department into a school at the center of the College of Engineering’s focus on the multidisciplinary field of bioengineering. The gift – made along with their daughters, trustee Anne Meinig Smalling ’87, Kathryn Meinig Geib, MBA ’93, Sally Meinig Snipes, and their families – was the largest single philanthropic commitment by individual donors to a college on the Ithaca campus.
In 2007, the Meinigs made a significant gift to recognize and support outstanding and innovative faculty life sciences research at Cornell, naming the Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigatorships in the Life Sciences.
They also established the Meinig Family Professorship of Engineering and the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professorship of Maternal and Child Nutrition. In 1998, the Meinigs provided program support for the Cornell National Scholars Program, later renamed the Meinig Family National Scholars Program.
The Meinigs co-chaired Cornell’s sesquicentennial celebration to mark the university’s 150th birthday in 2015; that same year they both were recipients of the Frank H.T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award.
Meinig was chairman and former CEO of HM International Inc. of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a privately owned manufacturing and management company. He also served as chairman of PGI International of Houston; chairman of Windsor Food Co.; chairman of Ninth House Inc. of San Francisco; chairman of eCornell Inc.; and director of Williams Communications Group of Tulsa.
For Cornell, Meinig also served as regional vice president of the Cornell Society of Engineers for the Southwest/Mountain Region and as vice chair of the Engineering College Campaign that concluded in 1995. He sat on the administrative board of the Cornell University Council from 1990 to 1992.
Meinig is survived by his wife, their daughters and their families, including eight grandchildren.
Funeral and memorial service information will be released as it becomes available. Condolences can be sent to: HM International LLC, 5810 E. Skelly Dr., Suite 1003, Tulsa, OK 74135.