Cornell president Elizabeth Garrett has died following treatment for colon cancer

March 7, 2016 by Mark H. Anbinder

Cornell University has confirmed that president Elizabeth Garrett died last night following treatment last month for colon cancer.

Cornell president Elizabeth Garrett speaking at her inauguration last September. 14850 Photo.Cornell president Elizabeth Garrett speaking at her inauguration last September. 14850 Photo.President Garrett announced a month ago that she would be "beginning an aggressive treatment program" following a diagnosis of colon cancer, and she "went in for surgery" on February 19th. Cornell's thirteenth president, who was inaugurated last summer, said last month, "I am receiving the best possible care from a team of doctors at Weill Cornell Medicine."

A message from Cornell board of trustees Robert S. Harrison sent to the campus community on Monday morning said that "our president, colleague, and friend, Elizabeth Garrett, passed away late last evening after a brave battle with colon cancer. There are few words to express the enormity of this loss."

Garrett came to Cornell from the University of Southern California, where she was provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. She had been the first woman to serve as president of the university.

On February 19th, Harrison said that, "in order to ensure the continuity of university leadership," Garrett "has officially delegated the duties and powers of the presidency to Provost Michael Kotlikoff." Harrison's statement today did not address plans for university leadership in the wake of President Garrett's passing.

Cornell "will honor Beth's memory with a moment of silence, followed by chimes, this afternoon at 4:00pm EST." Harrison says, "I invite you to mark this moment either by yourself or with colleagues and friends."

Vice president for student and campus life Ryan Lombardi says he will be keeping his office in Day Hall open for any staff or students "who may want to visit." Lombardi says, "While I myself am still processing this, my experience tells me that being around others is of the utmost importance during these difficult times." Lombardi says "I will join many Cornellians on the Arts Quad at 4pm today for a moment of silence." Other locations on campus where groups plan to gather include Ho Plaza, the plaza in front of Bailey Hall, and the Human Ecology Commons.

In a statement, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said this afternoon, "Elizabeth's passing is a great loss not only for her University, but for our state." He called Garrett "a visionary leader who was wholeheartedly committed to furthering the education and growth of those around her."

VP Lombardi, who arrived at Cornell along with Garrett last summer, said on Twitter, "I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to work for and learn from President Garrett during these past seven months." In a message to his staff, Lombardi said, "Acting President Kotlikoff has been a wonderful colleague and a strong unifier during these past weeks. President Garrett built a team that trusts each other, supports each other, and will stick together through the coming transition."

Plans will be announced "for a memorial gathering on the Ithaca campus in the near future."

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