Memorial & Condolences
“Frank Rhodes epitomized academic excellence, championed scientific inquiry, and led Cornell University so naturally, optimistically and gracefully for nearly two decades that he set the standard by which all research university presidents can be measured. I will cherish the decades I spent working with him to further the university’s mission. My heart goes out to Rosa, their daughters, and to Frank’s extended loving family.”— Ezra Cornell ’70, Cornell University’s life trustee and a direct descendant of university founder Ezra Cornell
“We have had enough of global despair. This is a time for renewal. It is a time for hope. It is a time of new commitment. It is because I share those hopes, because I believe in these great ends, being assured in the possibility that if we pursue them faithfully we may make progress and achieve them – believing that Cornell has a future destiny far greater even than her great past – that I gladly accept the charge that you have given to me, and I pledge myself to serve you and Cornell with all my heart and with all my strength.”— from his November 1977 inaugural speech at Cornell
“The task of the college president, reduced to its essentials is to define and articulate the mission of the institution; develop meaningful goals; and then recruit the talent, build the consensus, create the climate, and provide the resources to achieve them. All else is peripheral.”— from Rhodes’ 1998 article, “The Art of the Presidency” in the American Council on Education’s journal “The Presidency”
“The college presidency is one of the most influential of all positions because the future leaders of the world sit in our classrooms. … The academic presidency also is one of the most important of all positions because it is chiefly on the campus that knowledge – the foundation of the future – is created.”— from Rhodes’ 1998 article, “The Art of the Presidency” in the American Council on Education’s journal “The Presidency”
“Does this mean that Cornell now places less emphasis on matters of local concern? No, as the state’s land-grant university, we feel keenly our responsibilities to serve those close to home as well as those farther afield. But it does reflect the new reality – that the successful universities of the 21st century will be those that look outward as well as inward, for – ready or not, like it or not – all of us are linked to the rest of the world.”— from his winter “President’s Corner” message to alumni in a special publication, “Cornell ’94,” on the global university
“The satisfaction in life comes from spending oneself for a purpose. It is the function of the liberal arts and the business of the faculty – in professional schools no less than in colleges of arts and sciences – to create a spirit of learning that will challenge students to recognize that satisfaction and assist them in identifying their own particular purpose.”— in a “Point of View” published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1985.
“I really do believe in the capacity of humans to adapt. We’re an incredibly creative species; that’s how we've managed to inflict so much damage on every other species.”— from an issue of Ezra magazine about his book, “Earth: A Tenant’s Manual.”
Frank Rhodes was “an unparalleled leader, colleague and friend to generations of Cornellians. Frank led Cornell for 18 years – nearly unheard of today at major research universities, transformed Cornell’s national and international role, and, even after stepping down as president, continued to be an influential voice in higher education.”
“Perhaps most importantly, Frank cultivated permanent, lifelong bonds with multiple generations of Cornell faculty, staff and alumni. Eloquent, charming and an affable, peerless advocate for the university, he, along with his wife, Rosa, were frequent guests, attendees and cheerleaders at nearly every major Cornell event for decades.”— Robert S. Harrison '76, chairman of the Cornell University Board of Trustees
“Frank Rhodes was a brilliant scholar and a gracious leader who was not only deeply respected, but truly loved, by generations of Cornellians. His boundless curiosity, his kindness and humor, and his sage leadership shaped Cornell as we know it today, as his wise and generous mentorship shaped the lives of the countless students and faculty who passed through Cornell during his tenure. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to benefit from his friendship and guidance in my early days at Cornell, and will always remember the warmth with which he welcomed my family into the extended family of Cornellians.”
“I join Frank’s family and many friends in mourning this tremendous loss to the entire university community.”— Martha E. Pollack, Cornell University president
“Frank Rhodes taught all of us, especially those of us who had the privilege to work with him, how to lead and how to inspire. He did that by his integrity, his grace, and his personal warmth. When you interacted with Frank, you felt as if you were the only person who mattered at the time. He loved and treasured Cornell, our faculty, staff, students and, especially, our alumni. He inspired Cornellians worldwide to share in that admiration and dedication. Our lives are richer because Frank Rhodes was part of them.”— Susan H. Murphy, ’73, Ph.D. ’94, vice president emerita
“People emphasize, with good reason, Frank Rhodes’ photographic memory. I would emphasize his graciousness, his depth and the sincerity of his connections with people, no matter who they were, and the degree to which that graciousness characterized everything that he did, professionally and personally.
“It was a graciousness that included time he spent chatting with my mom, when he encountered us at Sunday brunch at Banfi’s; that extended to carrying the luggage of Cornell’s Adult University participants and to day-to-day kindnesses that are too little in evidence in 2020.”— Glenn Altschuler, Ph.D. ’76, dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions and the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies