Memorial & Condolences

Held on March 17, 2016

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A gift in her memory

“Beth was simply a remarkable human being — a vibrant and passionate leader who devoted her life to the pursuit of knowledge and public service and had a profound, positive impact on the many lives that she touched. In this regard, she was the quintessential Cornellian. While Beth's tenure as president has tragically been cut short, her efforts over the last eight months have set the university on a path toward continued excellence. She will leave a lasting legacy on our beloved institution and will be terribly missed.”

— Robert S. Harrison '76, chairman of the Cornell University Board of Trustees

Photo Gallery

President Elizabeth Garrett | Winter Graduation Ceremony
Winter Graduation Ceremony
President Elizabeth Garrett | Inauguration, Sept. 18, 2015
Inauguration, Sept. 18, 2015
President Elizabeth Garrett | At the Baker Institute
At the Baker Institute
President Elizabeth Garrett | New York City bound
New York City bound
President Elizabeth Garrett | 2014 Homecoming
2014 Homecoming
President Elizabeth Garrett | 'Topping-off' ceremony at Cornell Tech
'Topping-off' ceremony at Cornell Tech
President Elizabeth Garrett | Inauguration procession
Inauguration procession
President Elizabeth Garrett | With students
With students
President Elizabeth Garrett | 2015 Charter Day ceremony
2015 Charter Day ceremony
President Elizabeth Garrett | Inauguration picnic
Inauguration picnic
President Elizabeth Garrett | 2014 Homecoming
2014 Homecoming
President Elizabeth Garrett | 2015 Homecoming
2015 Homecoming
President Elizabeth Garrett | On the Ithaca Commons
On the Ithaca Commons
President Elizabeth Garrett | 2015 State of the University Address
2015 State of the University Address
President Elizabeth Garrett | Farm 2 Fork dinner
Farm 2 Fork dinner
President Elizabeth Garrett | 2015 President's Holiday Reception
2015 President's Holiday Reception
President Elizabeth Garrett | On campus last summer
On campus last summer

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Elizabeth Garrett. Throughout her accomplished career, and especially as President of Cornell University, Elizabeth was a visionary leader who was wholeheartedly committed to furthering the education and growth of those around her. She devoted her life to creating a better future for everyone, and she understood that in order to accomplish that, part of her responsibility as a leader was to boldly challenge the status quo. As the first woman to lead Cornell University as its President, she lived that promise herself.

“Elizabeth’s passing is a great loss not only for her University, but for our state. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I offer my deepest condolences to all of her many friends and loved ones.”

— Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York

“Our deepest sympathies are with Elizabeth’s family, friends and the Cornell community. She was a dynamic pioneer and her many accomplishments will remain a lasting legacy. Elizabeth was a remarkable leader and her loss will be deeply mourned by many.”

— Laura L. Anglin, President, The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York

“President Elizabeth Garrett's early departure brings me both shock and sadness. While I only spoke to President Garrett personally on a few occasions, I can tell you that from the moment I heard her unwavering voice during her inauguration speech, I knew she was the intelligent, strong leader Cornell needed. She continually emphasized to us as students government involvement as a way to make a difference, and this was something that moved me and many others. While President Garrett's short time means that we will not get to know her true vision, she was still and inspirations and leader. It will take time to learn the impact of her time at Cornell, but in the months President Garrett was on campus she made herself open to students and faculty alike and took the time to learn more about how and where she could best help. Elizabeth Garrett served as Cornell's first female leader, and it is with this in mind that I am disheartened to learn she will not be able to do more for this university. I am deeply saddened by her passing, yet I know she will live on in history and in many student's memory as a wonderful woman, leader, and president.”

— Peter Biedenweg '17, Student Assembly Clerk

“Beth Garrett is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known. She is one of the most outstanding students to ever graduate from the University of Oklahoma. Her remarkable intelligence was matched by her caring heart and strong character. She will be missed by all who have known her.”

— David L. Boren, President, University of Oklahoma

“President Garrett was a vigorous and an active scholar, who had great vision and energy. It's especially sad that Beth died so early in her career at Cornell.”

— Joseph Burns, Dean of the University Faculty, Irving P. Church Professor of Engineering

“President Garrett was committed to Cornell’s academic excellence, passionate about the learning experiences of our students and focused on Cornell’s impact on society. Her ideas and spirit will live on.”

— Soumitra Dutta, Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

“Beth Garrett was an extraordinarily thoughtful and vibrant colleague, and I am profoundly saddened by her untimely death. A renowned legal scholar who served as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Beth devoted her life to the pursuit of justice and the cause of education. Her contributions—from the courtroom to the classroom—reflected an abiding commitment to public service and a lasting belief in the power of knowledge. American higher education has lost a great leader and champion, and I send deepest condolences to our friends at Cornell on behalf of the Harvard community.”

— Drew Faust, President, Harvard University

“On behalf of everyone at Tompkins Cortland Community College, please accept our sincere sympathies on the passing of President Garrett. Cornell and the higher education community has lost a brilliant mind, a strong leader, and a compassionate soul who touched the lives of many individuals during her short time with us. Our deepest condolences, along with our prayers, go out to Elizabeth's family and the entire Cornell family.”

— Carl Haynes, Ph.D. '80, President, Tompkins Cortland Community College

“We in Tompkins County are shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic news about Elizabeth Garrett’s passing. In the all-too short time she was here, we came to know her as brilliant, witty, savvy, and sincere in her commitment to the community. While our partnership with her was just beginning, her vision and good will shall endure. She will be missed by all who knew her. Our thoughts and prayers are with President Garrett’s family and the Cornell community.”

— Michael Lane, Chair, Tompkins County Legislature Chair

“I am devastated to hear the news of President Garrett’s passing. She was a lovely, warm and accomplished woman who was poised to be a great leader at Cornell. My sympathies to her husband and family and to the entire Cornell community.”

— Barbara Lifton, New York State Assemblywoman (D-Ithaca)

“The world of higher education lost an incredible leader and visionary with the passing of President Garrett. Her unwavering devotion to students and passion for teaching were unparalleled. On behalf of students all across the state of New York I wish her family, both on campus and off, our condolences and prayers.”

— Thomas D. Mastro, SUNY Student Assembly President and SUNY Trustee

“I'm shocked and saddened to hear the news of Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett's passing. She impressed me as a smart and capable leader with a remarkable career in higher education, and I was excited about Cornell's future with her at the helm. It's a tremendous, devastating loss. My thoughts are with her family, friends, and the entire Cornell community on this tragic day.”

— Seph Murtagh, City of Ithaca 2nd Ward Alderperson

“This is somebody who was brilliant — like a laser — she was so smart and so focused and so energetic. She worked harder than anybody. I think that's why, despite her relatively short tenure, she's going to be remembered as a president who left a significant legacy.”

— Svante Myrick '09, Mayor of Ithaca

“It is with tremendous sadness that I learned Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett passed away last evening after battling colon cancer. President Garrett was an outstanding leader. I was honored to have known and worked closely with Elizabeth during her eight month tenure. Together we worked on numerous Cornell initiatives, and I am grateful for her many discussions and guidance throughout those endeavors. Elizabeth’s impact on Cornell University, while too brief, was significant. President Garrett was a staunch advocate and loved Cornell University.  She will be missed.  My thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth’s family, friends and the entire Cornell community at this time.”

— Michael Nozzolio '73, New York State Senator (R-Fayette)

“I can only express my heartfelt sympathy to President Garrett’s husband, Andrei, her entire family, her many colleagues and friends, and the Cornell University and Ithaca communities she was just beginning to call home. In the brief time that I have had the pleasure to begin to know and to work with President Garrett — which has now been left so unexpectedly and far too short — she has been kind, welcoming and, above all, eager to pursue the Cornell University mission to the fullest extent. She always made it very clear how deeply proud she was to be leading Cornell University and to have the incredible opportunity to strengthen one of the world’s leading universities at such an important and exciting time. President Garrett’s passing is a great loss, and I am truly saddened by it. She will remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

— Tom O’Mara, New York State Senator (R-Big Flats)

“Although Beth served just eight months as president of Cornell, she was well known in our community from her service for more than a decade as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California (USC). Before joining USC, she was a professor of law at the University of Chicago, and also a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and the University of Virginia Law School, among other institutions.

“All of us are deeply affected by her death.

“The AAU staff and I send our condolences to her family and the entire Cornell community.”

— Hunter Rawlings, Association of American Universities President, former Cornell President

“We are saddened to hear of the tragic passing of Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett. We extend our sincerest condolences to her friends, family and loved ones during this difficult time. This is truly a loss for the entire Cornell community, our region and our nation. We remain confident that the positive impact that she strived to make every day will endure and we are proud to have had the privilege of working with her.”

— Tom Reed, U.S. Representative (R-Corning)

“Beth’s passing is a shocking loss for Cornell and for higher education leadership as a whole. To meet her is to be immediately impressed with her energy, her positive outlook and compelling personality, and her keen intelligence that slices right to the heart of important issues. My thoughts and prayers are with Beth and her family, and I offer my deepest condolences to the entire Cornell community.”

— Tom Rochon, President, Ithaca College

“I am devastated by the premature death of Elizabeth Garrett, just a few months into her presidency at Cornell. Beth’s death at the age of 52 is a tragedy. She was an extraordinary talent who accomplished a great deal during her years at the University of Southern California, most recently as Provost. Her passion for her work was infectious. I have no doubt that with enough time hers would have been a transformative presidency at Cornell. My heart goes out to the Cornell community and especially to her family and friends.”

— Joel Seligman, President, University of Rochester

“We join with the entire worldwide family of Cornellians in sending our most profound condolences to Andrei Marmor and his family on the passing of our colleague and friend, Beth Garrett. It is truly tragic to lose such a vital, dynamic, creative and passionate person at any age, particularly at her young age. Her family and the entire Cornell community are in our hearts and thoughts.”

— David Skorton, Secretary, The Smithsonian Institution, former Cornell President; and Robin Davisson

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Cornell University President Elizabeth Garrett. As a fellow proponent of higher education in the state of New York, she was one to admire — a leader committed to higher learning and a true visionary. We know that her legacy will live on in the thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni whose lives she touched throughout her career.”

— Harvey Stenger '79, President, Binghamton University

“The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and CVB family were shocked and deeply saddened today to learn of the passing of Cornell University President Elizabeth Garrett. In her short time with us and Cornell, President Garrett impressed us with her visionary leadership, her tremendous commitment to our community, and her ability to inspire and lead change as the first female president of our beloved Cornell University. Our thoughts and prayers are with President Garrett's family, the students, faculty and staff of Cornell University, and the many colleagues and friends she has left behind around the country.”

— Jennifer Tavares, President and CEO, Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce

“In her short time as president of Cornell University, Elizabeth Garrett made a significant and lasting impact on students, faculty, and staff as well as the local community; and I am deeply saddened to hear of her recent passing. Elizabeth was a dedicated leader and an inspiration to all those who knew her. Throughout the entire State University of New York, our thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth’s family and friends today as we mourn the loss of one of the great leaders in higher education.”

— Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY Chancellor