Six months ago Cornell and the Ithaca community greeted Beth Garrett and celebrated her inauguration. It was a spectacular late summer day and the Arts Quad was alive with excitement and expectation. Today the community gathered again, this time in Bailey Hall on a blustery early spring day, to bid a final farewell to our 13th president.
As I sat in Bailey waiting for the memorial to begin, I thought back to Charter Day last spring when Beth was first introduced to Cornell. A panel of current and former Cornell presidents plus the Harvard president—all graying eminences—sat in Bailey Hall discussing higher ed challenges. When Beth was asked to join the group on stage, all eyes were riveted on this person who projected an unbelievable amount of energy; her smile, her confidence, her intellect, and her very red dress captivated and electrified every one of us. At today’s ceremony there was a portrait of Beth placed where she had sat that afternoon—a clear reminder of our loss.
The memorial ceremony (which you can watch here) was a somber affair. The chair of the Cornell board of trustees, a student mentee, a friend of 25 years, her Weill Cornell attending physician and the Cornell provost each spoke of Beth’s extraordinary energy, passion, intelligence and her ability to engage. It was her doctor who helped all of us in attendance today put this profound loss in perspective. Dr. Orli Etingen was with Beth on her last day. She related that Beth managed to whisper a request: “Tell them there is a great road ahead for Cornell.”
We only wish Beth could be on that road with us….
John H. Foote ‘74