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Announcing David J. Skorton, the next president of Cornell University

Press Release

January 21, 2006

Cornell chooses seasoned educational leader David J. Skorton as its next president

Board of Trustees approves appointment of University of Iowa president and physician today

ITHACA, N.Y. — Dr. David J. Skorton, president of the University of Iowa, was appointed Cornell University’s 12th president by the Cornell Board of Trustees at a special on-campus meeting Saturday, Jan. 21.

A cardiologist, national leader in research ethics and musician, Skorton, 56, will assume the presidency on July 1, 2006. He will hold faculty appointments in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill-Cornell Medical College (WCMC) in New York City, and in Biomedical Engineering, at the College of Engineering on the Ithaca campus. Hunter R. Rawlings will continue to serve as Cornell’s interim president until Skorton takes office.

“We’re very pleased and excited that we have a dynamic new president with proven leadership, diverse interests and a strong background and passion not only for the sciences but the arts and humanities as well,” said Diana Daniels, Cornell trustee and chair of the search committee. “David is a true renaissance man; an executive and academician who still finds time to practice medicine and share his love for music with the public. Energetic and engaging, he is ideally suited to marshal the talent and resources of the entire university to maximize its potential as a world leader in research and education.”

“An eminent physician, scholar and accomplished leader, Dr. Skorton has established an impressive record of leadership at the University of Iowa,” Board of Trustees Chair Peter C. Meinig observed. “He has demonstrated a deep commitment to excellence in interdisciplinary higher education and a thoughtful appreciation for the role a publicly-supported institution plays in society. We are delighted that he will be bringing his wide range of talents and warm personality to Cornell.”

Commenting about his appointment, Dr. Skorton said, “I am honored and humbled to assume the presidency of this great institution, which truly is one of the best universities in the world. Cornell University is justly known for its excellence in research, scholarly and creative activity; for the breadth and depth of quality among its many disciplines; for its commitment to undergraduate education; and for its health care, which also ranks among the world’s best.

“These are qualities that I have also admired in the University of Iowa. Because of its land grant mission, Cornell, like Iowa, is devoted to public service that brings it close to the people of the state. It’s a tremendous opportunity and challenge to be asked to sustain and extend Cornell’s enviable traditions and achievements,” Dr. Skorton said.

“I have a very high regard for him as a person, as a professor and as a university president,” Hunter R. Rawlings, Cornell’s 10th president, commented, “He’s a first-rate intellect with a great intellectual curiosity and a wonderful sense of humor. As president of the University of Iowa, I appointed David to the position of Vice President for Research in 1992. And so, I am extremely pleased to have him join us here at Cornell.

“He’s had appointments in both medicine and engineering in Iowa, so he is ideally suited to help oversee initiatives that bring together life sciences both at Ithaca and the Weill medical college,” Rawlings added.

“Cornell is fortunate to have found a president with David Skorton’s intellectual breadth, talents, and academic values,” said Cornell Provost Biddy Martin. “His medical and scientific expertise combined with his devotion to the arts and humanities and with his appreciation of the land grant mission make him a wonderful choice to lead Cornell. He will bring valuable experience, energy, and creativity to the position. I look forward to working with him and I am excited about what the university can achieve under his leadership. We are also very lucky to have Dr. Robin Davisson, an outstanding researcher and mentor, who is Dr. Skorton’s wife, join our faculty.”

“I’m very excited by the selection of David Skorton to Cornell University,” added Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean and professor of medicine at the Cornell Weill Medical College. “I’ve known him for more than 20 years because of his work in the medical field and particularly in the field of cardiology. I have great respect for him and I think he’ll be a superb president.”

Cornell President Emeritus Frank H. T. Rhodes noted, “His many interests will be a uniting force for the university, combining the life sciences and medicine, the Manhattan campus with the Ithaca campus – and the Doha campus for that matter.

“He’s a very seasoned president and a very experienced academic leader, “ Rhodes continued. “He’s been close to the action in very significant senior positions. So he understands the issues and is clearly somebody who has a real awareness of what it means to occupy a presidential position and what it means to tackle the endless challenges that it involves.”

On the need to maintain diversity at Cornell, Elizabeth Moore, ILR ’75, a Cornell Trustee and a member of the Presidential Search Committee recalled, “He spoke eloquently and with personal conviction about the importance of ensuring access and opportunity for success to people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, especially given America’s rapidly changing demographics.”

Commenting on Dr. Skorton’s selection, Daniels noted that “this is also a great opportunity to appoint Dr. Robin Davisson, to the faculty in colleges on both the Ithaca and New York City campuses. Robin is a rising star in her field of research.” On the process of the search, Daniels added, “I do not think Cornell could have a better search committee. Being as large as it was (27 members), we had an outstanding group of Cornellians. I am also very appreciative of the work of the two advisory groups of deans and faculty, whose input in the process was invaluable. Everyone worked extremely hard to do the best job possible to find Cornell’s 12th president—and we succeeded.”

Skorton was appointed the 19th president of the University of Iowa in March 2003 after more than 20 years in various faculty and administrative positions there. He holds joint appointments at the rank of professor in the departments of Internal Medicine, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. His previous administrative posts include vice president for research and vice president for external relations. Skorton introduced state-funded initiatives for the biosciences and for the arts and humanities. The latter, which has become a national model, provided critical funding for arts and humanities scholarship. A co-founder and co-director of the Adolescent and Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Skorton’s research has focused on cardiac imaging, computer image processing and on congenital heart disease in adults. He has published extensively in all three areas.

As Iowa president, Skorton has focused on the university’s commitments to diversity, economic development, the health sciences, intercollegiate athletics and public service. To advance the university’s strengths and the national agenda, Skorton declared 2004–05 the Year of the Arts and Humanities, with a competitive grants program, two major arts festivals and dozens of events on campus and throughout the state. Along with Cornell Provost Biddy Martin, he serves on the Association of American Universities/American Council of Learned Societies Humanities Steering Committee.

Skorton has been a steadfast proponent of international education and research ethics throughout his medical and academic career. He served as charter president of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs Inc., the organization that accredits human research protection programs. Earlier this month he joined college presidents, including Hunter Rawlings, and other educational leaders selected to take part in the U.S. Summit of University Presidents on International Education in Washington D.C.

Skorton has been active in public service to his community and to his state, serving on the Iowa City Area Development Group, committees of the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Department of Economic Development Board, the Governor’s Life Sciences Advisory Committee and the Iowa Research Council.

Skorton, whose father was a Russian immigrant, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1970 and an M.D. in 1974, both at Northwestern University. After serving his medical residency and cardiology fellowship at the University of California at Los Angeles, Skorton came to the University of Iowa as an instructor in 1980. An avid musician who once worked as a professional jazz and R&B musician in the Chicago area, he plays saxophone and flute and is co-host of a weekly program, As Night Falls—Latin Jazz, on KSUI FM, one of the University of Iowa’s public radio stations.

Davisson is an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Iowa. She will join the Cornell faculty with a joint appointment in Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine on the Ithaca campus and in Cell and Developmental Biology at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City. Dr. Skorton has a son who is a student at Stanford University.

Contact: Simeon Moss
Office: (607) 255-6074