[BELLS RINGING] ANN S. BOWERS: Triphammer Bridge by AR Ammons. I wonder what to mean by sanctuary, if a real or apprehended place as of a bell rung in a gold surround, or as of silver roads along the beaches of clouds seas don't break, or black mountains overspill. Jail. Ice here is shapelier than anything.
On the eaves massive, jawed along gorge ledges, solid in the plastic blue boat fall left water in. If I think the bitterest thing I can think of that seems like reality, slickened back hard, shocked by rip high winds. Sanctuary. Sanctuary. I say it over and over and the word's sound is the one place to dwell. That's it. Just the sound and the imagination of the sound, a place.
SPENCER S. TOPEL: Good afternoon. I am Spencer Topel and it is my pleasure to introduce Automata, a piece I composed especially for president David Skorton's inauguration.
Automata, written in the spirit of the fanciful music machines of ancient quartz, weaves what best represent the sound of Cornell, the chimes, industrial sounds, African drums, and more. At its heart are the timbres of the keyboard family, perhaps the most ubiquitous instruments on campus, after the iPod, of course.
The theme, comprised of the notes C, D, E, A, and A, is a musical anagram for Cornell that connects different ideas like the Fibonacci series, change ringing, and sound specialization. With each reoccurrence, it morphs into something with even greater potential. I hope that I have for my students, colleagues, and mentors at Cornell. Enjoy.
[MUSIC - SPENCER S. TOPEL, "AUTOMATA"]
CHARLES WALCOTT: Mr. Chairman, we are gathered here today to celebrate the inauguration of the 12th President of Cornell University. Delegates from other colleges and universities, distinguished guests representing foundations, learned societies, and professional associations, members of the faculty, staff, and administrative officers of Cornell University, representatives from ROTC, the Chancellor of SUNY, students of the university, members of the Board of Trustees and Board of Overseers, and esteemed guests are in their places. The assembly for the inaugural convocation is hereby called to order. Please be seated.
PETER C. MEINIG: It is my great honor and distinct privilege, on behalf of the Cornell Board of Trustees, to welcome you to this truly momentous occasion, the inauguration of David J Skorton as Cornell's 12th President. I extend a special thank you to those who have traveled great distances to join us today.
Delegates of institutions of higher education and learned societies, and alumni guests, the presence of the faculty, students, and staff in such large numbers attest to the commitment we all share down through the generations of our proud Alma Mater and to the noble ideals for which she stands.
David Skorton is the 12th in a series of extraordinary men who, over 141 years, have helped transform Cornell into a world renowned research university, with an unwavering commitment to educational access and excellence, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and civic engagement. I am especially pleased to honor the presidents who preceded David Skorton in office and who are here today among us to bear witness on this solemn and joyous occasion.
Dale R Corson, Cornell's eighth president, is an extraordinarily distinguished physicist whose steadiness, wisdom, honesty, rock solid integrity, and devotion to Cornell, brought this institution through the most challenging period in its history, ushering in stability and a renewed commitment to research, teaching, and scholarship.
Frank HT Rhodes, Cornell's ninth president, a renowned geologist, is a national leader in higher education who presided over Cornell for almost two decades. With eloquence, unfailing graciousness, and firmness, he helped bring about a renaissance for Cornell, setting the course for world transforming advances in research while fostering increased diversity among students and faculty and a shared sense of Cornell's distinctiveness and distinction. Frank.
Hunter R Rawlings, Cornell's 10th president, recently sacrificed his own preferences and plans to serve as interim president. He worked tirelessly to offer the best undergraduate education in a great research university with a transformed North and West Campus, robust research opportunities for undergraduates, and a commitment to multidisciplinary studies that has even reached his own department, which I am told may soon be called bioclassics. Hunter.
Jeffrey Sean Lehman, Cornell class of '77, and Cornell's 11th president, a nationally recognized champion in American higher education for diversity, bolstered Cornell's global linkages and helped develop its strategic partnerships with China's leading universities. Jeff.
I also want to express my deep appreciation to my colleagues on the board of trustees, and especially to the members of the presidential search committee. Diana Daniels, the new chair of the executive committee, provided thoughtful leadership as head of the search committee. My thanks also go to the vice chairs of the board, Sam Fleming, Bob Harrison, Ned Morgans, David Zalaznick, and Jan Rock Zubrow, as well as to my predecessors, Austin Kiplinger, Steve Weiss, and Harold Tanner. They have guided this great university with steady hands, a firm vision, and unbounded love and devotion. Would all of you please stand so that we may recognize you?
Let me also thank those who are with me on this platform to assist in the formal installation of the president. Charles Walcott, dean of the faculty and university marshall, trustee, Ezra Cornell, the direct descendant of our founder, professor and Vice Provost, Michele Moody-Adams, the bearer of the mace, Kwame Thomason, president of the student assembly and the bearer of the university charter, and Donna Goss, chair of the employee assembly and the bearer of the university seal.
As we prepare to install our new president, I take great pleasure in welcoming David Skorton's family, his wife, Professor Robin Davisson, David's son, Josh, and other family members and Iowa friends and associates. What a proud day this must be for all of you.
When the board of trustees appointed David Skorton as Cornell's 12th president, he was already an eminent physician and scholar. He had served for more than 20 years in a variety of faculty administrative positions at the University of Iowa before becoming president in March of 2003.
He was a nationally recognized and seasoned leader of American higher education. Although David does not believe with Jimmy Breslin that if you want to make music you have to blow your own horn, he is a fine jazz musician and an avid supporter of the creative arts and the humanities. David has demonstrated a well-informed and deep commitment to excellence in interdisciplinary studies, and a thoughtful appreciation for the role a publicly supported institution plays in society. He impressed us with his unwavering personal commitment to diversity and the importance of access to college for people from all walks of life, his zeal to foster ever greater collaborations between our campuses in Ithaca and New York City, and his range of interests and experience, his savvy, his warmth, and his decency.
It is now my privilege to introduce Dr. Antonio M Gotto, the Steven and Suzanne Weiss, dean of Weill Cornell Medical College and provost for Medical Affairs. Tony Gotto is a renowned educator an internationally recognized authority on cardiovascular disease who has given nearly a decade of exemplary service to Cornell. Under his leadership, the college has begun a globalization of its mission with the establishment of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and affiliation with a Methodist Hospital in Houston. Dr. Antonio Gotto.
ANTONIO GOTTO: Thank you, Mr. Meinig, members of the board, faculty, students, staff, and friends. I'm very honored to be here today on behalf of the Weill Medical College.
I've known David Skorton for over 20 years as a fellow physician. As you may already know, Dr. Skorton is a leading expert in the field of cardiac imaging. While he was president of the University of Iowa, he directed a clinic for congenital heart disease, conducted cutting edge research in cardiology and research ethics. He still found time to pursue his life long passion for jazz. I've always had the utmost respect and deepest appreciation for Dr. Skorton and his work, regardless of what he may tell you.
A few months ago, I was reminded of our very first interaction, to my dismay. More than 20 years ago, I was editing a monograph on heart disease and I asked Dr. Skorton if he would contribute a chapter on congenital heart disease. As he remembered it to our board, I was rather critical of his manuscript and actually requested a number of revisions. Had I known I would be speaking at his inauguration 22 years later, I'm sure the critique would have been modified.
I was hoping he'd forgotten this particular episode, but I'm glad to have the opportunity to set the record straight. I cannot imagine an individual more qualified and well suited to the Cornell presidency than David Skorton. If his past accomplishments are any indication, he will lead Cornell with skill, and expertise, and grace, into the 21st century.
In addition to being a renowned scholar and colleague, Dr. Skorton is only the second physician to be president of Cornell University. The first was Livingston Farrand who served in the 1920s and 1930s. Farrand helped secure the future of the Medical College in New York City. It was during his tenure that Cornell joined with the New York Hospital and the Lying-In Hospital to become the New York hospital Cornell Medical Center.
Livingston Farrand's legacy lives on today as Cornell approaches its 150th anniversary. In 1925, when my alma mater, Vanderbilt University, was celebrating its 50th anniversary-- in a speech at the semi-centennial celebration, Vanderbilt chancellor, James Kirkland, addressed the role of universities in society. He said, institutions of higher learning are immortal. Parties may pass and we pass, thrones may totter and fall, kingdoms may wax and wane, but universities and their work abide more permanent than any other social organization of man.
They wear the crown of 1,000 conflicts. And of their kingdom, there is no end. The history of the university is one of growth and change, influencing the temperament of society's culture as much as the culture of society shapes the university.
As recently as the 19th century renowned scholars at Oxford and Harvard Universities thought that there was no role for a medical school in a university. Today I believe that the sciences, including medicine, the humanities, theology, and the arts, are all interconnected, but that more can be done to enhance these connections.
In his famed 1959 lecture at Cambridge University entitled The Two Cultures, the British writer, CP Snow, who is both a novelist and a scientist, bemoaned the lack of understanding and the gulf between the sciences and the humanities. One can sense the relevance of his perspective almost 50 years later in the kind of two cultures divide that exists today. Can this gap between the sciences and the humanities be bridged, and in particular the gap between the Ithaca and the New York campuses?
Well, while how to do this remains a topic for the future, in my opinion, Cornell University is admirably positioned to nurture the kind of environment that makes interdisciplinary conversation possible. Today, Cornell University has a commitment to academic collaboration and interdisciplinary learning that's both national and international in scope. As you heard from Chairman Meinig, we have a unique affiliation in Houston, Texas, with the Methodist Hospital. And the Medical College recently opened a new branch in Doha, Qatar.
I'm particularly excited that David Skoton and his wife, Robin Davisson, will hold faculty appointments in the Medical College as well as in Ithaca. These dual appointments will help integrate Cornell's campuses and strengthen its relationships throughout New York, the nation, and the world. Today marks a new beginning and I could not be more pleased for David Skorton or for this university as we take a moment to reflect on the past, to contemplate the present, and to dream of the future. Thank you.
PETER C. MEINIG: Thank you very much, Dr. Gotto. Sandy Weill, chair of the board of overseers for Weill Cornell Medical College, is unable to be here today. But he asked that I read from his letter for you.
He says, my wife, Joan, joins me in congratulating David Skorton on becoming Cornell's 12th president. We wish we could have joined you today, but we had a previous commitment overseas. I have had the privilege of spending time with President Skorton, and I am most impressed with his enthusiasm and vision for Cornell.
I am especially proud to welcome both President Skorton and his wife, Dr. Robin Davisson, a gifted cardiovascular researcher, to our faculty. Their affiliations with Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medical College will provide a special bridge between these world class institutions.
President Skorton, welcome to the Cornell family. We are thrilled to have you leading the greatest university in the world. My only advice is that you continue showing the passion, drive, enthusiasm, and leadership you have demonstrated during your distinguished career. Best of luck, and enjoy this special day. Sandy Weill.
Now it is my honor and pleasure to introduce Biddy Martin, a distinguished scholar of German studies and provost of Cornell University. With a unique combination of energy, intelligence, decisiveness, and warmth, Biddy Martin has been a superlative chief academic officer of this complex and challenging institution, and a mentor and friend to many of us on this stage and in this audience. Provost Martin.
CAROLYN A. MARTIN: Good afternoon. What a glorious, glorious day. What a privilege to be in such natural, historical, and aesthetic beauty. I'm honored that David Skorton asked me to speak at his inauguration, and I thank him. You have before you a book of poetry collected by Alice Fulton.
And so I begin with a question. Why poetry? I paraphrase the writer, Helene Cixous, in an essay of 1980. Why poetry in these times of urgency? Why poetry when it would seem political energy demands all of the forces?
Because, she wrote, without the poetic, the political kills, and vice versa. I think David Skorton understands well the balance between the poetic approach and the political or transactional.
David Skorton has spent his career developing ways of seeing and characterizing the heart and then using those tools to treat it. His books are addressed to those who produce images, those who analyze images, and those who depend on those images to heal us. I have now read the 1986 edition of Cardiac Imaging and Image Analysis.
Thank you, yes. I did not take the author's advice to work through the mathematical formulas. Nonetheless, I did learn something. I learned quite a bit.
I learned from David Skorton's book that seeing into the heart is a difficult task, requires sophisticated instrumentation and a range of analytics strategies. But technological enhancements of the image and sophisticated human computer interaction are not sufficient. What is needed in order to see into the heart, according to Skorton, is a certain unseeing, a disengagement from the perceptions that come naturally to the eye or readily to mind. And Skorton shows the reader step by step how to correct for what he calls the tricks our eyes and our brains can play on us, and he opens the reader's eyes to a less partial image of the heart.
David Skorton has other tools he uses to expand our view and his expression of the heart. Some of the most effective tools he has lie outside of the domain of science.
In one of our early July meetings, we were engrossed in a discussion of the nutritional value of Fig Newtons. We began to lament that the chocolate chip cookies in the outer office were not quite the same. He interrupted suddenly with a characteristic, hey, hey. Did I tell you, we should split one of those chocolate chip cookies?
I need to tell you, he said, about an article I just read in the New England Journal of Medicine. It had some surprising announcements in it about diet and health. What? I asked, not yet used to his comic tone and timing. Well, he said, they claim none of us is going to make it out of here alive.
I can't reproduce how funny it was in the moment, but I can attest to the fact that David Skorton is seriously funny. His really quick figured round reversals show a mind that can handle tremendous complexity and one that does not put up barriers to the heart. And apparently, he has more irony than some physicians and researchers about what modern medicine will do to save us from the real bottom line.
He is also an amazing information processor, chewing up bits from a variety of media and sources with lightning speed, synthesizing huge amounts of data without losing sight of what matters. He's fond of saying that he wanted to be a professional jazz musician but wasn't good enough to make it. I doubt seriously that it was a question of talent. But I do know music is another medium he uses to characterize the heart and to treat it.
These abilities to process, synthesize, and separate the important from the insignificant, will be invaluable going forward, not only for David but for all of us, given the challenges we face. I'd like to mention just a few of them. Some of them will sound like a mantra, you will have heard them in lists so many times.
Rising costs, the constraints on what tuition can and should provide to cover those costs, growing infrastructure needs and administrative expansion that can sometimes seem to dwarf the core academic mission, worries about access to students regardless of background, the federal government's priorities and consequent limits on funding for research and education, our increasing dependence on private funds, both corporate and philanthropic, and the pressures that can introduce. I would add to those challenges the winner take all competition among institutions of higher learning, which drives up costs, drives pressure on children into the cradle, and elevates image over substance.
We face these challenges against the backdrop of a growing tendency in parts of our culture, sometimes at the highest levels, to substitute belief for knowledge, mirror assertion for evidence based analysis, to forfeit genuine consultation with those who disagree. And this in a period of dizzying changes worldwide in the midst of more than one war, in the face of increasingly degraded physical environments, increasing inequality, abject poverty in so many places, and mass media forms of information about all of these things that would make the world seem unsusceptible to rational analysis. Far less to change.
The public discussion of these issues is now so impoverished at times as to permit our politicians to use the equivalent of popular movie titles and slogans instead of argument and explanation. And to make things worse, we hear a dangerous suspicion of disagreement and dissent both at home and abroad, making academic freedom and vigorous debate seem the enemy rather than the servant of the public good. In our approach--
In our approach to these problems-- in our approach to these problems at the university for our part, we have to remain open to change and criticism, foster genuine exchange and profound disagreements among ourselves, avoid knee jerk unthoughtful suspicions of authority. Above all, we have to do what we do best and with integrity, and quality research and education. The university has to meet the challenges and pressures that we face without losing forms of autonomy. Trying to be all things to all people will not do-- it will put the university at risk.
Perhaps the university could be compared to the heart in relation to its healers. It has to be welcoming of help from the outside but depends, for its well-being, on the least invasive procedures.
Supporting the university and sustaining its values means loving idiosyncrasy as much as normativity, individuality as much as convention, a generative messiness as much as efficiency, and freedom as much as safety. We teach suspicion of easy answers and wariness of those who claim they know the difference between good and evil. We do that for a living. And that is our gift to the world.
We hold open a space for reflection and learning so that internal clocks here can beat to a rhythm other than the one controlled by computer standard time. To lead the university in these times, a president has to embrace complexity, believe in the human being's capacity to learn and change, delight in our likenesses and our comings together, delight in our differences and our goings apart.
We have such a president in David Skorton. David Skorton has lightning quick intelligence, a remarkable sense of humor, and his eye on the ball. He permits himself to be many different ages, operate simultaneously in many different registers, respects the past, and has already exploded into the future.
He likes the knife's edge of invention but he keeps an eye on the heart of things. And under his leadership, I am confident that substance will lead image, critical thought and reflection will prevail over the tricks our eyes and our minds can play on us, and academic freedom over partisan or political constraint. Join me in celebrating his leadership at this great institution as we face the challenges and opportunities going forward. Thank you.
And now it is my honor and privilege to introduce to you a speaker who will reflect David Skorton's commitment to the arts and humanities. Professor Feldshuh is both a medical doctor and the artistic director of Cornell Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, a position he has held for 21 years. Professor Feldshuh studied philosophy and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth. He trained at the London Academy of Music and dramatic arts as a rental scholar and he studied mime with Jacques Lecoq.
The McKnight Fellowship took him to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, first as an actor and then an associate director. At the Guthrie, he created and directed his first play, Fables Here and Then, which was seen by 52,000 people in 52 cities in the Midwest before playing at the Guthrie.
He went on to earn a PhD and an MD from the University of Minnesota, working his way through medical school by directing plays and teaching acting. He completed a residency in emergency medicine, qualified as a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and he continues to practice emergency medicine on a part time basis here at Ithaca. He worked as an artist in residence at several colleges from Dartmouth to the University of California, Santa Cruz, and elsewhere.
We were fortunate to bring David Feldshuh to Cornell in 1984 and he has been with us ever since. His award winning play, Miss Evers' Boys, about the infamous Tuskegee Study, has been produced by theaters throughout the United States. And as an HBO movie, Miss Evers' Boys received 12 Emmy nominations and won seven, including best picture and the President's Award for television presentations that explore vital social issues. It helped promote the government's decision to establish a National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University, and the play itself was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
At Cornell, Professor Feldshuh has directed classical dramas and regional premieres at the Schwartz Center as well as his own adaptations of Sophocles Antigone, performed in connection with the book project, and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. He was named in 1997, a Weiss presidential fellow at Cornell, a recognition created by former chairman of the Cornell board of trustees, Steven Weiss, to honor Cornell professors who show a sustained and inspired commitment to teaching and advising undergraduates.
We're delighted that he's with us today to set the stage for the inauguration of David Skorton. Thank you.
DAVID M. FELDSHUH: Thank you, Biddy. I'm honored to be able to join you, and Tony Gotto, and Pete Meinig, and the thousands of members of the Cornell and Ithaca communities, as well as our guests from around the country and around the world and four former Cornell presidents-- let me repeat their names again, Dale Corson, Frank Rhodes, Hunter Rawlings, Jeff Lehman-- as well as my own family, to welcome you, David and Robin, and to help celebrate your inauguration as the 12th president of Cornell.
The first time David called me was last June. I wasn't home so he left a message asking me to please return his call on his cell phone. I didn't know what to think.
Well, the first thing that occurred to me-- as a physician, I became concerned because people new to the community frequently call me with questions about medical problems. But then I remembered that Dr. Skorton was a distinguished cardiologist and he probably wasn't calling for advice about nasal congestion.
Well, the next obvious thought that occurred to me, this being Ithaca, was that David wanted me to recommend a good real estate agent. But then I remembered that a house comes with a job. Well, we did connect and I want to thank you so very much, David, for the invitation to participate here today. Your call gave me the opportunity to think hard about why I have chosen to spend more than two decades of my life at Cornell and what I have come to admire and value and even love about this place.
Now, just to set the record straight, I'm not in the employ of the development office. And I agree with Shakespeare, the course of true love never did run smooth. There have been bumps and bruises. But working through those has only increased my respect for Cornell and I would like to tell you why.
One of the first things I discovered when I arrived here was that I began to talk about Cornell as if it had nothing to do with me. But just as chaos theory suggests that a butterfly flapping its wings can have an effect across the world, that the smallest input into a system can change the whole system, so I've come to believe that every student, faculty, staff, friend, alumni, supporter, protester, everyone who works hard to make Cornell more vital and more alive intellectually, artistically, socially, politically, athletically, each person is recreating Cornell little by little, moment by moment, in his or her own image. So when I speak of Cornell in my own mind, I'm thinking of each of us.
Now, by way of introduction and balance, Cornell certainly is a place of many opinions. But I've grown to value that. It's very much like writing a play.
When you write a play, you discover that there are three human instincts. The instinct for food, the instinct for shelter, and the instinct to rewrite somebody else's play. And I have to admit that over the years I have noticed instances in myself if not in others that confirm the fundamental physiologic observation by the late comedian, Georgie Jessel, who noted that the human brain begins working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.
Nonetheless, I found Cornell to be a brain continuously at work, and at high voltage. And that work uses energy, and that energy makes heat, and that heat is a kind of passion. And that's one of the things I love about Cornell. It's a passionate place.
Now, it may seem a little early in the day for this kind of talk. But for those of us who are, well, I won't say older, I prefer the phrase, chronologically gifted-- for those of us who are chronologically gifted, you might respond to the words of Virginia Woolf who said, my own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery, always buzzing, humming, soaring, roaring, and then diving and buried in the mud. And why? What's this passion for?
It's a passion for learning, for creating, for discovering. A brain on fire, as the poet Yates said, I went out to the Hazelwood because a fire was in my head. If Cornell were a character in a play, it would suffer from insomnia with a vast, never sleeping brain, with synapses sparking moment by moment, day and night, thinking up a new poem, a new formula, a new perspective on the world and each other, alive and energized with curiosity. I admire Cornell's passion for learning. And I value the legendary scope of its interests.
21 years ago I was jogging up onto this campus, past Olin & Uris Libraries, past buildings dedicated to the widest spectrum of human curiosity, government, history, music, physics, chemistry, genetics, agronomy, plant science, and on and on. With each turn, a new and vital area of human exploration until finally I jogged down a path, took a turn and stopped in my tracks. For there in front of me, residing in what can only be described as their own exquisite petite hotel, were six of the cleanest pigs I had ever seen.
My goodness, I thought, this place does have everything. And in the succeeding months and years, that initial indelible first impression has been reinforced again and again. Just hold up a course catalog and the options seem endless.
But when you step back to a wider perspective, it becomes clear that what we share is more fundamental than the diverse subjects that seem to separate us. And it is what we share across disciplines and as a community that will maintain the strength of Cornell in a world increasingly hostile to free and rational thought. And this is one of the reasons I'm particularly glad to welcome you, David.
Your range of interests and experience, your belief in the unity of learning, reinforce the understanding that the world today does not ultimately divide into the arts, and sciences, and humanities, and social sciences, and so on, but into the aspiration for knowledge and self-expression on the one hand, and fear and ideology on the other. So what do we share that makes us strong?
A passion for learning. What else? Many things. Here are a few.
As a research university, we are ultimately a citadel for the imagination. Every new idea, insight, formula, stratagem, creation, is a reaffirmation of the freedom of the human imagination. Shakespeare, like Yates, used the word fire to characterize the heat needed to imagine, to invent. Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.
Cornell is a place of invention and adventure, and those values are not confined to a single discipline. To invent is to discover. To adventure suggests exploring into areas of hazard and even danger, moving into undiscovered country. Cornell is the ultimate creative community because, to paraphrase the artist Paul Klee, it does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.
We at Cornell also share the belief that there are many paths to learning. So we teach in many ways, in many, many places. Our students learn from the earth, and the oceans, and the heavens. From emotion as well as intellect, from the body as well as the mind, and through questions as well as answers.
I'm reminded of the story of the young child who comes to the parent and asks, why is the world round? And the parents says, I don't know. Well, how does electricity work? And the parent says, I don't know. Well, why is the sky blue? And the parent says, I'm sorry, I don't know.
Well, the child somewhat apologetically says, I hope you don't mind me asking you all these questions. And the parent replies with a smile, of course not. How else are you going to learn?
Never stop questioning, Einstein said. This pension for questioning makes Cornell a scrappy place in seeming endless debate. And that's an achievement. Good for us.
F. Scott Fitzgerald saw it as an achievement. The test of a first rate intelligence, he said, is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. Well, we're still functioning. Cornell is a brain at work.
I also admire that Cornell is determined to be in the world, to be useful, but equally that we share the understanding that the future benefit of what we learn now may not be immediately obvious. Not infrequently, students will come into me at the Schwartz Center and say, I'd like to do more theater, or film or dance, but my parents sent me to Cornell to study something useful.
And that's when I tell them my story. I was in professional theater for 10 years before I decided to go to medical school. And the reason I made that decision is because I wanted to do something useful, something more grounded in society. Well, during my emergency medicine residency, I began to write a play, as Biddy mentioned, about the Tuskegee Study, an unethical government medical experiment.
The play became a film, and much to my surprise helped catalyze a presidential apology. So it may turn out, by the time in my life is done, the most useful thing I will have accomplished will be the act of writing a play that told a story. Stories are useful. Stories have the power to push past incomprehension and chaos and promote understanding.
Stories are useful in a variety of places. In the emergency department, for example, sometimes you'll hear something like this. The belly pains in cubicle one, the headaches in two, the foot in three. I'll go in and say to the patient, tell me about yourself. And I can assure you that it's a rare patient who will describe him or herself as a foot.
Learning the patient's story makes that patient a whole person again. And that's the first step in caring. I value that Cornell understands that what's useful may not be immediately obvious, and that you can never be certain what course, what moment of learning, what phrase, what wisp of information, or poetry, or music, or play, or image, will stay with you through the years and be your salvation, or the salvation of others, or of values, or of institutions, when the time comes.
In addition to these shared values, I have also chosen to stay at Cornell for 21 years because being here has taught me something unexpected about immortality. When I began medical school, the dean of admissions got up the first day to tell us about ourselves. We had been required to take the MMPI, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a psychological profile test.
75% of you, he said, want to fight death. And I thought, yes. That's me. That's why I'm here.
Well, over the years, I've learned the obvious. You can win that battle but only for a while. But I have also discovered here at Cornell other less obvious ways of fighting death.
A number of years ago, a student advisee came in to speak with me, distressed because the courses she thought she ought to take didn't include the course she wanted to take. What course do you want to take? I asked. Biology, she answered. And then I applied all the wisdom of my years and said, why don't you take that?
And she did. Much to my surprise, eight years later, I'm thumbing through a publication from our own Cayuga Medical Center, and there's an interview with his former student. She described that long ago little conversation as a turning point in her life, the first step of her journey into medicine. She had now returned to Ithaca to become a physician here.
As former students progress in their lives to give back to the world, it's a great sense of satisfaction and privilege, as many here on the faculty will attest, to learn that something you have said or done or taught has remained with these students and has made their lives more fulfilling, deeper, richer, that you have, in some modest way, given them more life. And that they, perhaps without even knowing it, have returned that gift to you with interest.
Another area that has taught me about immortality is the area of creativity. I've always been fascinated by the question, can you teach someone to be more creative? I believe you can. But it's a different kind of learning because the subject is you, yourself. Therefore, you can carry the lessons with you to any area that values intuition and imagination, and as Einstein put it, the gift of fantasy.
To watch a student experience his or her own creativity is an absolute joy. How did I do that, is a typical response. Where did that come from?
It's difficult to learn to be more creative because after all the work, you still have to learn how to let go of the memory of past failures and the fear of future judgments. You have to forget the critic in your head and learn to live fully in the present moment. And that's where the immortality comes in.
The feeling of living fully in the present moment feels timeless. And to paraphrase the philosopher, Wittgenstein, if we take eternity to mean timelessness, the eternal life belongs to those who can learn to live in the present.
Finally, Cornell has offered me at least one other lesson about immortality. Dedicate yourself to something of lasting consequence. Time doth transfixed the flourish set on youth, Shakespeare said. But this Cornell continues to flourish with the energy of youth. It is an idea that has traveled well.
Ezra Cornell and AD White dedicated their lives to this creation and the result is a vision of lasting consequence. Today, we acknowledge that the journey that they started is worthy of our energies and will continue and continue beyond our days.
So that is what Cornell has come to mean to me. And that is why I have chosen to stay. Passion, sharing with wonderful and remarkable people, including students who are willing to continue the conversations that we start, creativity, immortality, all of that. And now, a new addition, your arrival, David and Robin, continuing the story written on a new page at this inauguration here today.
Well, David and I obviously did speak. And when we spoke, David introduced himself and he modestly said he wasn't sure if I knew who he was. But of course I did.
Ithaca had been abuzz for weeks with the news that a new saxophone player with a great sense of humor had come to town. Welcome, David. Welcome, Robin. We're glad you're here. Thank you for coming.
PETER C. MEINIG: Thank you, Professor Feldshuh for your wonderful welcome of David Skorton and Robin Davisson. And thank you, also, for reminding us all what is so very special about Cornell.
[MUSIC - CORNELL UNIVERESITY WIND ENSEMBLE]
Thank you very much to the Cornell University Winds. Selecting a president to lead Cornell is the weightiest of responsibilities of a board of trustees. It is said that the qualities of a great leader are vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character.
The search committee worked diligently to identify such a candidate, an academic leader who shares the values that animate Cornell. Honesty, respect, compassion, and service to those less fortunate. A person with the skills to build partnerships across the many aisles that framed the debates of our campus. A person with a passion to communicate the commitment that propels Cornell's land grant mission and fuels our search for knowledge.
I am pleased to say that on the eve of Cornell's sesquicentennial that we have found such a leader. I now call upon our new President, to whom we shall pass the torch with great confidence, to please join me at the podium, David J. Skorton.
At this time, it is my distinct honor and high privilege, on behalf of the board of trustees of Cornell University, to present to you our compliments and best wishes, to convey to you our sense of satisfaction and confidence upon your accession to office, and to declare you now in the presence of this assembly, installed as president of Cornell University. Into your hands is placed the administration of the university, and into your hands are placed the symbols of that authority.
Mr. President, as was done in the installations of our earliest presidents, let me present to you the charter of the university. Let it be for you a constant reminder of our mission of service to the people of this state, the nation, and the world.
Now, Mr. President, may I entrust you with the great seal of the university which since our earliest days has been affixed to the diplomas of Cornell graduates. The great seal bears the profile likeness of our founder, Ezra Cornell, encircled by his noble charge to all responsible for the future of the university.
I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study. May these words be kept forever in your heart.
Lastly, Mr. President, receive the mace. Use the authority which this mace symbolizes with goodness and intelligence, not only for the benefit of all Cornellians, but for the good of men and women everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, the 12th President of Cornell University, David J. Skorton.
DAVID J. SKORTON: Dance. The silent unknowable rhythm of possibility, of uncertainty, of doubt, of yearning, of despair, of joy, of predictability, of intention, of realization, of transfer, of reception, of learning, of conception, of attempt, of execution, of the chimes, of breath passing through lips, in as the eyes scan screens and pages of labanotation, out as the head and arms are held delicately but strongly out, up at angles never seen, in and stopped as the mind prepares wait signals and then let out so quickly and joyfully as the step and leap are beginning, now happening. Now done.
Of the click of the keyboard causing the electrical signal, causing the word to grow and be realized the symbols to be born, rearranged, deleted, reborn. The numbers, formulae, words, rhymes, not rhymes, notes scattered across a 12 tone scale, procedures documented for the drafter's pencil, the planner's screen, the quick, sure final judgment of the pipette, the silent but powerful flow within the accelerator, the quiet, slow, enthralling reach of the vine, the flower, the newborn pup, the tumor and its sure, precise extrication from the healthy hole.
Of a soft, wet sweep of a brush through oil onto canvas, through pen onto wall. Of the needle through fabric, subatomic particles through Earth, bow along string, finger to skin of drum, lips through conjugation of verb, tongue through sounds, words, and syntax, pronounced but not yet internalized. Of music through mind and heart, of haiku, through the morning chill and through the ages.
Of the philosopher probing, testing, imagining the argument. Modus ponens, modus tollens. Of the Muslim bowed toward Mecca, in silent and spoken reverence of the holy Koran. Of the Jew bowed toward the Torah, in silent and spoken reverence of the ancient word. Of the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, American Indian, Sikh, Baha'i, of the secular humanist bravely defining a righteous path, and bravely aspiring to walk along the path with confidence and a steady compass, but not or not necessarily with a deity.
Of the noise of a demonstration of impatience, of profound patience, of a goal inside of obstacles in mind, of certainty of purpose. Of return, of evocation of memory and tears at the joining of voices and hearts with the Alma Mater, Far Above Cayuga's Waters. Of despair and the end of life. In a bed high above the Upper East Side beneath bright lights and bright sheets, near, quite near, to newfound hope and joy and discovery, treatment, and cure. Of problems conceived and solved and then explained.
Of first year students, pulled into the heart of the campus, of the family. Of the impoverished child in a rural upstate school district, hoping for, dependent upon, and deserving of the efforts of economic development. Of extension, of extending hearts and business plans and venture capital, and the chance of education, no matter the cost.
Of steps on dusty road, cobblestone, or pavement. In Doha, in Rome, in Arecibo, on Appledore Island in Geneva, in Beijing, and Albany, in Washington, in New York City, in Singapore, in upstate counties, towns, cities, schools, vineyards, in Ithaca, in Darfur. These are the silent unknowable rhythms of Cornell University. It is a dance. No more, no less. A dance.
Of education and discovery. Of serving each other and strongly disagreeing. Of thinking otherwise.
Today, September 7, 2006, is the 133rd anniversary of Carl Becker's birth near Waterloo, Iowa. As we near the 200th anniversary of Ezra Cornell's birth, as we glimpse the first hazy outlines of our upcoming sesquicentennial, let us now accept all of the rhythms, music, planning, reconsideration, redrafting, replanting, restarting, and consummation, the dance that is and must be Cornell.
What is dance? A series of motions and steps usually performed to music. To move rhythmically, usually to music, using prescribed or improvised steps and gestures. But beyond literal meanings, what are dances?
Symbolic rituals, modes of soulful communication, dance and music connect with our intellectual subliminal and spiritual selves. Can the arts and other culture bridge our conflicts? Can they help us to know each other in some way? Hard to define, but undeniably true.
Among all the other inquiry, discovery, and creativity in our universities, there is dance. There is music. There is the seat of public culture that transcends the immediate, the routine, that of which we claim to be so sure but from which we are, in truth, quite disconnected.
In his book, Dance, Rituals of Experience, Jamake Highwater concludes, we stand on the horizon of a new century when dance has achieved an unexpected reunion with the rights of our most ancient ancestry. It has emerged as something ever new and ever old.
What is the relevance of dance to our everyday lives and to our cultural, social, and political milieu? Dance is a primary, not a derivative expression of our interpersonal aspirations and dreams. As exemplified by the activists dance groups in New York City in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, documented and interpreted by Ellen Graff in Stepping Left, dance has long been an effective political expression. More primal, dance may be viewed as an intimately personal mode of interaction with self and others, based on the most innate and ubiquitous of phenomena rhythms.
Movement, rhythm, repetition, and predictability, the primeval place of the cycles of our world, of our lives. The mysterious circadian rhythms of our days and nights, the cycles of the cosmos, of the deciduous trees of our children, our parents, our creativity, our hearts. The science that underlies all of these. This is the stuff of inquiry done passionately at our dear Cornell.
Beyond the science, or perhaps underpinning it in ways not yet clear, are the movement and rhythm of the poem. Of the calligraphic journey, the dance, the music written by humans or nature. These rhythms, too, are part of our Cornell. And the rhythm, the dance, must go on.
An Evening in May, a recital of early music at Barnes Hall, a recital for a student about to receive her doctor of musical arts degree, early instruments, too. viol, violone, theorbo, harpsichord. And even on a rainy end of semester Saturday evening, a small but enthusiastic crowd. Lovers of quiet, thoughtful music. That's the breathtaking symmetry of a university.
A few blocks away from the 17th century music is Duffield Hall, a place in which resides 21st century technology and 22nd century thinking. All of this thinking, all of this discovery, if you will, under one roof. Is there any place like a university? I think not.
But how? What are the elements that produce this magic? Engagement of learners, mostly young, motivated by curiosity and by many things other than curiosity, but highly motivated, particularly here at Cornell. Scholars of all stripes, attitudes, backgrounds. Listeners, talkers, seers, seekers, complainers, come terrified, often driven. Brilliant, always courageous.
Community people. An essential set of neighbors, colleagues, partners in the town, city counting and surrounding area. Merchants. A lifeblood of the community serving needs, creating opportunities. Staff employees, scientists, library professionals, custodians, administrators, groundskeepers, planners, secretaries, administrators, carpenters, painters. The human structure that makes all of the education and discovery possible and that reaches out so effectively beyond the campus.
The place. The land, the campus, the topography, the peculiar sky, the same sky gazed at by the newest undergraduate and the grizzled president. The idea. A concept sometimes idealized, sometimes quite imprecise and difficult to resolve. The idea of a place of education, discovery, and engagement, a place of dreams, whether those of the parent, the student, the alumna, the alumnus, the trustee, the legislator, the governor, the professor.
And the most important element, optimism. The belief that there will be a tomorrow and that more will follow. And that somehow the actions and decisions taken today will affect that tomorrow. Yes, each application by a high school student, each grant application, each fresh, untouched canvas, each blank sheet of music paper, each empty computer screen, each dollar of philanthropic support, each course syllabus, is an act of great and profound optimism.
This is, above all, our chief motivator and work product, optimism. These, then, are the elements. By complex mechanisms, by interactions in catalysis, sufficiently obscure to confound even a Cornell chemist, these elements combine to produce that most improbable and magnificent of compounds, Cornell University.
My part in all this. What is the president? What role should that person play?
The chief, most reliably optimistic functionary, often, as a friend noted, one who is more optimistic than the facts may support. The visionary, more like chief translator and transducer of the faculty's aspirations and vision, of the staff's commitment and creativity, of the students' unceasing and wonderful questioning, a reflection of the university's core, its people.
A translator. Someone who bridges different languages, different cultures, sometimes far different perspectives on the same scene. Nowhere is that set of differences more profound and variegated than at a research university at its best, than at Cornell University. An institution whose faculty were so aptly described by Karl Becker as those who think otherwise. A proud legacy of thinking otherwise within these walls.
How fitting to reaffirm the beauty of the marketplace of ideas today on the anniversary of Karl Becker's birthday. Happy birthday, Karl. And thank you.
The university, a place of differences, of enormous complexity, of traditions deep and proud, of promise. What can one person-- what can I possibly add to this great ship afloat these 141 years? What can I possibly do to continue and even improve the course of this distinguished, highly valued, prestigious and bewilderingly complex mix of 21,000 students, 14 colleges, some 10,000 faculty and staff, with footprints in North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, this web of dreams and skills and possibilities.
What can I offer? Two things, and two things only. A careful listening translation in support of the vision of Cornellians. And a re-establishment and strengthening of the optimism that underlies our every action.
But how can one be optimistic in our world? We may speak of multiculturalism, of the marketplace of ideas, that is embodied in and by a university. But what can be done to translate that ideal of multiculturalism to a world in which the very differences that we celebrate on a university campus are often the distinctions that lead to territoriality, resentment, fear, violence, death? Not a new problem. Not a new observation, but one that challenges us to find a path, a way toward each other.
Is the answer in faith in a particular view of what may be possible by surrendering to a common belief and a common direction, by surrendering to love? According to McKenna and Cowan in Keepers of the Story, there are repositories of local tradition that may give us ideas, pathways forward.
They write, in every culture in every geographical place among every people, there are individuals who are entrusted with the words that belong to that place and group. They hold the heritage, the experiences and the stories that express who they are and how they stand in the universe. These are the keepers of the story. Their lives are dedicated to preserving, to keeping true, to guarding and protecting what is not theirs alone but what has been given into their care by others.
The documentation of these stories, the conclusions and directions that may be derived as well as the constructs, cognitive and philosophical, have been accomplished in myriad ways. These ways responded to the human need for a direction to follow, a context into which to place the bewildering and sometimes painful varying circumstances of life. To pose the question anew, what manner of paths have been developed to give a notion of deliberateness and of purpose, if not optimism, to life?
One common path is that of religion, of belief, of the optimism born of trust and surrender, of belief in love, of a higher purpose and a higher plan.
[MUSIC - CALVARY & ST. PAUL'S GOSPEL CHOIR]
With a little more love, maybe we can work it out. With a little more peace, we can turn this world around. With a little more hope to light our way, we'll grow stronger day by day with a little more love. With a little more love now.
With just a little love, that's all we need. And it starts with you and me. Love is the key. Because the same love that flows in you flows inside of me.
With a little more love. With a little more love now.
With a little more hope, I know we can win this race. With a little more time to make this world a better place.
To make this world a better place now.
The place will see our change. Roll back the clouds and let it rain with a little more love. With a little more love today.
With just a little love, that's all we need. And it starts with you and me. Love is the key because the same love that flows in you flows inside of me.
With a little more love. A little more love today.
With a little more love, maybe we can work it out. With a little more peace, we can turn this world around. And with this power we stand tall to break the chains, tear down the walls with a little more love.
With a little more love today. A little more hope, yeah, we can change the world today. Give me some peace, yeah. With a little more rhythm today.
Oh, wipe away the clouds today. And let it rain, rain, rain, yeah. Let it rain down love. Just a little more love, yeah. Ah, just a little more. Give me love today, give me hope, a little more love.
Another path is that of surrender, not only to a deity but to an even older tradition, to the long shadow cast by our families who have gone before. The wisdom of those who have learned from joy but also from unspeakable experiences. Those who have learned that life may go one way or another, but that one must find a way to move forward, even perhaps to be happy.
[MUSIC - CORNELL UNIVERSITY KLEZMER ENSEMBLE]
Yet another path results from the joining of cultures. In musical terms, the fusion between the hearts of different traditions. In effect, surrendering to the reality that from each tradition, from each ritual, may and must come a fusion of worldviews, a bridge between cultures, an arch. In Arabic, a qantara.
[MUSIC - SIMON SHATREEN & QANTARA]
What of those who do not believe, who share the philosophical underpinnings of the major civilizations but who do not subscribe to a higher power or deity? One representation of this is the secular humanism movement and its seeking to develop secular and humanistic alternatives to theistic religion, to quote Paul Kurtz.
Whatever one's belief system, the philosophical infrastructure of most societies has, as its core, the desire to care for one another and to develop a caring community. Can the concept of a mutually caring environment be realized and actualized? A brief perusal of daily headlines casts doubt on the likelihood of this occurring, yet we in academia, by the nature of our endeavor, are inherently optimistic about our ability to effect a better future.
What is the appropriate perspective of a university? Inward looking? After all, we are a complex, large community of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of alumni, and millions who depend on our education and discovery now and in the future, no matter that they have never stepped on the hill or even heard of our grand institution. At the core of this are the campuses, the very places that comprise Cornell.
But outward, that's where we are surely turned to the imagination of a high school student, the hopeful parent, the patient, the client, the hungry, the terrified, the poor and the poorer, the refugee, the wounded soldier, the more grievously wounded heart, these two are our charges. Do we respond to these needs?
As all universities, we affect change in the world, most importantly and most consistently by education of motivated, well-prepared students who will become more critical thinkers, and by research and discovery relevant to of science and culture of our world-- the chief architects of these contributions, not presidents, but the faculty, staff, and students who comprise the university.
Although all are important, it is the faculty who turn the potential energy of millennia, of scholarship, and reflection into the kinetic energy of current education and discovery, of research, scholarship, and creative activity as the dancer turns the potential energy of the choreographer's concept into the kinetic energy of the dance. And make no mistake. The faculty dance is hugely improvisational. Not to be constrained, not to be managed, but to be respected, nurtured, supported, and set free.
As our own professor of dance, Joyce Morgan Roth has said in describing the various approaches of the innovative choreographers interviewed in her book, Speaking of Dance, no philosophy's style or method unites these choreographers into a common pursuit except that all are adventurers and visionaries. Their work is as different from each other's as a gurgling stream is from a torrent, as a crossword puzzle is from a poem. Cumulatively, they have changed the face of dance precisely because as individuals, they have ventured out and invented previously unimagined ways of making and presenting dances.
So might it be said of the physicist, historian, linguist, scholar of gender studies, composer, pediatrician, poet, chemist, mathematician, philosopher, neurosurgeon, economist, molecular biologist, marketing professor, and all of their colleagues. The context of each dance is the same but the details of each dancer's movements are never the same and never predictable. For it is the unpredictability of discovery and creativity that defines Cornell and that will continue to do so generation after generation. What a joy, what a privilege, what a dream fulfilled it is to be here among you and to be your colleague, to participate in the choreography.
Of the many humbling aspects of the opportunity to participate in Cornell's leadership, one is surely the legacy of those leaders who have previously served as president. Attention should be paid to their words.
In the past, but still timely, Dale Corson. Somehow, we must discover new and better ways for more people to live together on Earth, to preserve and to create where they do not now exist the human values which make life tolerable, to avoid excessive regimentation and at the same time provide adequate privacy and freedom for the individual. Frank Rhodes. Unless we honor our national commitment to make higher education attainable by all who can benefit from it, we face the possibility of a nation divided in fundamental ways by race, ethnic group, educational background, economic achievement, and social commitment. A nation so divided will be unable to serve the great ideals that brought it into existence and unable to realize its hope for the future.
Hunter Rawlings. Cornell is a place where students are introduced to most everything they're going to meet in global society. It is an intellectual place, a cultural place, a social place, an entrepreneurial place. It is a place that brings together the young and the old. It is a place committed to the advancement of both scientific thought and humane values.
It is a place of religious breadth, of racial and ethnic diversity, of academic endeavors that embrace the whole of human thought. It is the most vibrant and most complex of American institutions.
Jeff Lehman. We must recruit and enroll the most talented students in the world. We must expose others around the world to the research and teaching of Cornell faculty. We must have outstanding faculty who study the histories, cultures, politics, and economies of every part of the world. Our curriculum must be rich with offerings about foreign languages and cultures as well as the many languages and cultures that are found within our nation.
We must continue to expand our presence around the globe. How better to lead the future of Cornell than to honor its past, to ensure the continuity of its leader's visions? For this reason, today it is an honor and pleasure for Provost Martin, the Board of Trustees, and me to announce the establishment of the Jeffrey Sean Lehman fund for scholarly exchange with China. This faculty and graduate--
This faculty and graduate student exchange program will fund several projects per year involving substantive interaction between Cornell and the finest higher education institutions in China. It is an honor to so recognize my colleague, friend, and predecessor, Jeff Lehman.
Now, looking forward, and particularly to this academic year, I respectfully ask the campus community to join me in conceiving and notating the choreography that will frame the future of our university. Throughout this year I will explore with you, the faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, critics, and neighbors of Cornell how best to express through our individual and collective movements the university's commitment to five basic propositions.
One, to continue and accelerate the transformation of the undergraduate experience at Cornell, to achieve our goal of making Cornell the finest research university and provider of undergraduate education in the world. The goal is a worthy one. The steps taken already including decades of clear focus on undergraduate education, even within the most robust and comprehensive of research programs conducted by enormously talented faculty engaged in research scholarship and creative activity.
The creation of the North Campus residential initiative. Further progress on the West Campus all are clearly in the right direction. But now, what specific steps should be taken to more meaningfully integrate the research and creative focus of the university into the undergraduate curriculum?
Should we mandate a research or creative experience for every undergraduate, no matter their major? Should funds be raised aggressively solely to support those undergraduates who do seek a research experience? And what of our commitment to diversity within our student body? How can we further improve the climate of our campus so that all will feel fully a part of the Cornell family?
Two, to optimize the environment for our staff. The talented non-faculty staff of the university are not only supportive of the faculty's endeavors but represent the university in many critical endeavors. Whether an administration, extension, research, teaching, or many other areas of our academic and programmatic lives, the staff is critical to the university's foundation.
Are we doing what is needed to become the employer we aspire to be? Do our administrative procedures result in fair treatment of all employees, including recognition and rewards, professional development and work life balance? Do we respond appropriately to the needs of dual career couples? Does our campus climate support employee diversity? Are our employees' voices clearly heard in the dialogue creating the future of Cornell?
Three, to draw the disparate geography of Cornell's several campuses into one community, in essence, one campus. Cornell is, indisputably, one of the most distinguished institutions of education, discovery, and service in the world. Yet further improvement and innovation will undoubtedly occur, in part, at the intersections of disciplines, curricula, colleges, and campuses, even if a current academic cliche. Nonetheless, interdisciplinary is one of the paths toward the future of critical thought in every discipline.
Surely not the only path, but one important one. If we accept this premise, then it follows that more must be done to meaningfully integrate activities of the superb Weill Medical College of Cornell University and its campus in Qatar with a truly outstanding sciences on the Ithaca campus. Those are the forward looking activities of our Geneva campus with those in Ithaca and New York City.
And many other examples might be drawn. Are we putting up or tolerating needless administrative barriers to the integration of our campuses? Is a Cornell student an enrollee of a comprehensive university or of a single college?
Do our policies and procedures support or inhibit the potential to bring Cornell's many and various strengths together for an even more distinguished future? In the current difficult funding environment for the sciences, further advancement and true distinction in the near term likely will occur not by growth in the national investment in research and development, but by our achieving a greater competitiveness, if you will, a larger market share of those funds. While we do all within our power to effect a sustained increase in the federal investment in science, are we at Cornell organized, managed, and lead so as to permit our talented faculty to realize the best outcome of its efforts?
Four, to appropriately support the arts, humanities, and social sciences on our campuses. From afar and from within, Cornell's physical and life sciences are superb, universally recognized to be among the best in the nation and the world. Our stated initiatives should and do follow this distinction, as do our fundraising goals and capital projects.
But what of the arts, humanities, and social sciences? From afar and from within, these disciplines also show present distinction and the prospect of greater growth and improvement. Are we thinking broadly and specifically enough about the future of these disciplines? What strategies might be used to replace those distinguished colleagues likely to retire in the next 10 to 15 years?
In the last several years, enormous effort has been expended to enhance the social sciences depending upon key investments and soliciting faculty input regarding needed infrastructure. Are we now moving quickly and decisively to implement plans and generate appropriate funding? Do our aspirations include the value of the disciplines in the arts, humanities, and social sciences as important in their own right?
It is another cliche to say that no institution can be all things to all people. But if there was ever an institution that continually strives to offer any person any study, it is Cornell. And these offerings in distinction must include and emphasize not only the sciences but the arts, humanities, and social sciences. These disciplines need greater visibility at the highest levels of the university and, as in all other areas of our institution, they need focus and support.
Five, last and most important from a global perspective, how can Cornell draw inspiration and resolve from its land grant mission to use its enormous and varied resources and talents to positively impact the world outside our gates? The academic life of Cornell, as in the case of all institutions of higher education of which I am aware, is largely an inward looking life. Great attention and effort are required to maintain such broad and deep distinction.
Nonetheless, we are most actualized as a faculty, staff, and student body when our efforts affect those beyond our boundaries. Whether the focus is on diversity and the campus climate or on Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York state, the United States, or the global community, Cornell must look ever outward ever more broadly. Are we the neighbors we must be to those in our region of upstate New York? Are our myriad resources arrayed appropriately among internal and external opportunities and demands?
How can we do our part to improve the environment for K12 education in our region and elsewhere? How can we be more effective participants in the economic health of our community and region? How can the expertise and heart of Cornell be felt in the inner cities of our country and in Darfur? Recently, I announced the divestment of Cornell resources and oil companies operating in the Sudan.
But as pointed out by wise colleagues and our board and elsewhere, divestment is not enough. Provost Martin and I are pursuing other avenues where Cornell can be a positive force in that and other troubled parts of our world.
In the coming months, we will continue to seek the good counsel of our faculty, staff, and students as to ways by which the Cornell community can effectively educate itself about this and other areas of Africa, sponsor serious discussions to include Sudanese academics and other knowledgeable colleagues, and contribute, within our capabilities as an educational institution, to the improvement of the educational and related environment in that country. This is a continuation of decades of carefully planned uses of Cornell resources to work with colleagues and neighbors in developing countries to raise the human capital of their societies.
Dance is a primary, not a derivative expression of our interpersonal aspirations and dreams. Where is the end of the dance? Need it ever end?
As we work together to create a rhythm of optimism, to catch us in our personal and institutional moments of doubt. As we explore ways to calibrate the various cadences that together guide the pace of our movement into the future, we must set our collective vision such that there will never be a boundary to where our imagination may wander nor artificial limits to what we might accomplish. One alone, a dyad, more, many, a society of dancers, are we. Thank you.
PETER C. MEINIG: As I look around this quad, I feel the pull of history that reaches out from every corner, truly from every stone. These buildings and the earth beneath them have witnessed the steady rise of our great university from its earliest stirrings. Let it be known that on this day this solemn assembly gathered to welcome your leadership, President Skorton, and pledged our constant support and commitment throughout your tenure.
Please rise and join the university glee club and chorus in singing the Alma Mater. And please remain standing until the academic procession has passed.
There will be a reception immediately following the recessional. We hope you will stay for this celebration. And thank you very much for joining us today.
[MUSIC - CORNELL UNIVERSITY CHORUS & GLEE CLUB]
Far above Cayuga's waters with its waves of blue, stands our noble Alma Mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee our Alma Mater, hail, all hail, Cornell.
Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven look she proudly down. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee our Alma Mater, hail, all hail, Cornell.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Footage of the inauguration of David Skorton as Cornell's 12th president, September 7, 2006. The president's inaugural address is preceded by introductions and welcomes from Cornell Board of Trustees Chairman Peter Meinig, Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College; Provost Biddy Martin; and David Feldshuh, artistic director of Cornell's Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, who gave the faculty address.