President Garrett, memorialized this afternoon, learned she had cancer soon after taking the role

March 17, 2016 by Mark H. Anbinder

Speaking at a memorial event on Thursday afternoon, Cornell acting president and provost Michael Kotlikoff said President Elizabeth Garrett, who died last weekend, learned she had cancer "shortly after assuming her position."

President Elizabeth Garrett. Photo courtesy of Cornell University.President Elizabeth Garrett. Photo courtesy of Cornell University."Tragically, the plans that Beth had brought to her dream job, the presidency of Cornell, were irrevocably altered," Kotlikoff told the audience at Bailey Hall, "when she learned that she had advanced stage colon cancer" last year.

"'Mike, I don't want to be the president with cancer,'" Kotlikoff says President Garrett told him last year. "It is very important for our community to know that Beth was enduring symptoms of her illness and undergoing difficult treatments for much of the time that she was with us," he added.

"Our president, this force of nature, refused to surrender to her disease, refused to allow it to define her. She was convinced that she would beat it," Kotlikoff said. "She was deeply private about her personal health, and she had every right to be. Instead, Beth chose to concentrate all of her energy on Cornell."

President Garrett announced in early February 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."

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

According to the university, the Marmor and Garrett families ask that memorial gifts be directed to either Student Scholarships in memory of President Elizabeth Garrett, in support of students with need on the Ithaca campus, or to the President Elizabeth Garrett Fund for Colon Cancer Research at Weill Cornell Medicine. Gifts to either fund can be made online, by calling 1-800-279-3099, or by mailing a check to Cornell University, P.O. Box 25842, Lehigh Valley, PA 18003-9692.

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