Kraig Kayser elected Board of Trustees chair
By James Dean
Kraig H. Kayser, MBA ’84, was unanimously elected chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees during a special meeting on Dec. 23, 2021.
Kayser, who will begin a three-year term as chair July 1, will succeed Robert S. Harrison ’76, who has led the board’s 64 voting trustees for 10 years.
“I joined the board not long after Bob became chair a decade ago and have had the opportunity to watch and learn from an incredible leader,” said Kayser, the former president and CEO of Seneca Foods Corp. “He led the board through two presidential searches, the formation of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and now the pandemic, to name just a few of the many challenges and opportunities of the past decade. I am honored and humbled to follow him as chair.”
A trustee since 2013, Kayser chaired the board’s Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee for three years and currently chairs the Executive Committee.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Kraig as he’s served in a variety of leadership roles on the Board of Trustees,” President Martha E. Pollack said. “Deeply committed to Cornell’s mission, Kraig is an insightful leader who makes it a priority to seek out diverse perspectives and listen carefully. He’s been a very valuable source of advice and counsel to me, and I look forward to working even more closely with him in the coming years.”
Pollack also thanked Harrison for his distinguished service as chair, which began Jan. 1, 2012.
“There is no one who is more passionate about Cornell than Bob Harrison,” she said. “As a trustee for 20 years – not even counting his term as a student-elected trustee several decades ago – Bob has contributed a truly remarkable amount of time and energy to ensure that Cornell thrives. I have benefitted enormously from his guidance, support and sense of humor from the day I was named president, and I am deeply grateful for his partnership.”
Harrison said Kayser’s more than 25 years leading a public company and extensive experience in education governance would help the university pursue new opportunities and navigate unpredictable times. As a trustee, Harrison said, Kayser has demonstrated exceptional judgment.
“Kraig has the experience, temperament, demeanor and instincts to listen to and balance the interests of students, faculty, employees, alumni and the administration,” Harrison said. “He cares deeply about Cornell’s standing in the world and understands the importance of thinking about the university over the very long term.”
Ronald D. McCray ’79 led the Board Chair Selection Committee that unanimously recommended Kayser as the board’s 17th chair.
“Kraig is a seasoned executive who has led large, complex organizations and has a strong command of the issues facing higher education,” McCray said. “He’s been a devoted alum and he’s gained the respect and confidence of his board colleagues and all of Cornell’s constituents.”
Kayser led Seneca Foods, North America’s largest processor of fruits and vegetables, for 27 years until his retirement in October 2020. Before joining the company’s upstate New York headquarters in 1991 as the chief financial officer, he was a vice president at J.P. Morgan Investment Management in New York City.
Last fall, Kayser was named chairman of Seneca’s board of directors. He also serves on the board of directors of Moog, Inc., a public aerospace company based in East Aurora, New York.
Kayser has been active in education governance for nearly 30 years. He is a past chair of the board of trustees at the Harley School in Rochester, and former trustee of the Rochester Institute of Technology. At Cornell, Kayser served two terms on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Advisory Council from 2003-09. He has served on multiple trustee committees in addition to those he’s chaired, and on task forces related to diversity and inclusion and initiatives at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian.
Before receiving an MBA in finance from Cornell, Kayser earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Hamilton College in 1982.