President Elizabeth Garrett

Less than a year ago, Cornell elected its first female president, Elizabeth Garrett, on Sept. 30, 2014 and was inaugurated on Sept. 18.


President Garrett announced on February 8 that she would undergo an “aggressive treatment plan” for colon cancer and had decided to delegate several of her commitments to other members of Cornell’s leadership.

On March 6, she passed away after a brave battle with colon cancer. She was only 52 years old, which is atypical considering colon cancer is considered a higher risk for older patients.

Although she was at Cornell for less than a full year, she had a big impact on the community here.  While her decisions to reverse former President Skorton’s 2035 carbon neutrality goal and to form the College of Business sparked controversy,  there is no doubt that she came in with a plan to make the most of her time at Cornell.  She worked to ameliorate housing problems for graduate students, approve the opening of Anabel’s Grocery store (providing affordable food for students), rearrange University leadership and defend freedom of speech on campus.


“Being the first woman president of Cornell puts me in the position of being a role model — not just for young women, but also for men…It is important for women and men to see strong and capable women in positions of leadership, so we understand that certain characteristics such as gender and race do not determine how well people do….”

I have to say I was incredibly proud to have been a student at Cornell while President Garrett came into office, something that all Cornell students showed during the candlelight vigil held in her honor.

Candlelight Vigil on Ho Plaza in honor of President Elizabeth Garrett March 8, 2016

Candlelight Vigil on Ho Plaza in honor of President Elizabeth Garrett March 8, 2016