Hunter Rawlings returning as interim Cornell University president

March 24, 2016 by Mark H. Anbinder

Cornell University announced this afternoon that it has tapped president emeritus Hunter R. Rawlings III to serve as interim president. He will take the position on Monday, April 25th, according to a statement from Cornell board of trustees chairman Robert S. Harrison.

Hunter R. Rawlings III has been named interim president at Cornell. Photo courtesy Cornell University.Hunter R. Rawlings III has been named interim president at Cornell. Photo courtesy Cornell University.Rawlings, who served as Cornell's tenth president from 1995 to 2003, steps into the void created when the university's thirteenth president, Elizabeth Garrett, passed away early this month. He also served as interim president a decade ago, following the resignation of Jeffrey Lehman.

"Cornell University is indeed fortunate that Hunter has agreed to step forward once again to lead through a time of transition," said Harrison on Thursday afternoon, after the Board of Trustees, meeting in Ithaca this week, approved the appointment. Cornell says an international search for the institution's fourteenth president will begin "in the coming months," and Rawlings will hold the interim position until that person is ready to take office.

As president, Hunter Rawlings both renewed the university's emphasis on undergraduate teaching, and strengthened Cornell's medical college, spearheading the development of a branch in the middle eastern nation of Qatar. He was instrumental in the move towards residential colleges on west campus for upperclass students and a focused living-learning community on north campus for freshmen.

Rawlings will take over for provost Michael Kotlikoff, who has been serving as acting president since President Garrett's announcement in early February that she would be "beginning an aggressive treatment program" following a diagnosis of colon cancer. 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." Harrison praised Kotlikoff on Thursday afternoon, saying, "Mike’s leadership and steady hand during what has been an unprecedented and challenging time for Cornell has been nothing short of exceptional."

"It is an honor to once again be called to help lead this great institution," Rawlings said in a statement. "There is much momentum around Beth’s vision, and I will work with Mike, the leadership team, deans, faculty, students and staff across our campuses to continue building the university’s strengths around those priorities."

Speaking at a memorial event last week, Kotlikoff said President Garrett had learned she had cancer shortly after assuming her position last year. "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."

Rawlings was president at the University of Iowa from 1988 to 1995 before coming to Cornell, and has served as chair of the Ivy Council of Presidents and the Association of American Universities. He was already slated to step down from his AAU leadership post this spring.

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