ROBERT S. HARRISON: This is the first time that since I became chairman six years ago that my friend and predecessor, Pete Meinig, has not been sitting in the front row. Many of us in this room knew Pete very well. And every Cornellian around the world has been touched by the impact that Pete has had on the university. He and his family created the Meinig Family Scholars Program nearly 20 years ago to recognize students with academic promise and a commitment to serve their local communities. With Nancy, he founded the School of Biomedical Engineering. Also with Nancy, he led the yearlong sesquicentennial celebration to remind 230,000 Cornellians around the world about our founding revolutionary principles. And he succeeded supported every initiative the university asked him to support, large and small, for decades.
But all of us who knew Pete valued his judgment and his moral compass at least as much as his extraordinary philanthropy. Pete was the real deal, the unpretentious Pennsylvania Dutchman, the loyal Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brother, the mean square dancer in a cowboy hat and boots mixing it up with the Meinig Scholars at his annual Oklahoma barbecue, the fantasy come true husband, father, and grandfather who wouldn't miss a baseball game that his grandsons had, and who hosted the ultimate family safari in Tanzania for 15 members of his very fortunate family last Christmas.
Not too long ago I asked Pete if he would adopt me.
And it was the first time he ever said no.
Aside from that rejection, Pete was always responsive to Cornellians. A couple of years ago when I sought out someone with more gray hair and more experience than I had during the very difficult months of dealing with Beth Garrett's illness and passing, I naturally reached out to Pete for advice. And he made himself available 24/7. And I took great comfort knowing that his judgment during that institutionally-critical period would be unimpeachable.
Cornell has been blessed by great leaders during my lifetime. Pete Meinig was a great leader, a legendary Cornellian, and an extraordinary friend to so many of us. Pete engendered tremendous respect from everyone because he extended great respect to everyone. He was one of a kind. I will always miss him sitting in that front row.
On the behalf of the board of trustees and Cornellians everywhere, I want to extend our heartfelt condolences to Nancy and to their children and grandchildren, including their daughter Anne Meinig Smalling, class of 1987, who is here today as one of our newly-elected trustees. Please join me in a moment of silence to mark this tremendous loss to the Big Red family.
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During Cornell's Joint Annual Meeting on Oct. 20, 2017, the university remembered Peter Meinig ’61, chairman emeritus of the Cornell University Board of Trustees, who died Sept. 25.