Ithaca, N.Y. – A celebration for outgoing Cornell President David Skorton continued as planned at Barton Hall on Friday after a short delay from student protesters.

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Faculty, students, and staff celebrated Skorton, the 12th president of the university, in a ceremony that culminated with Skorton directing the Big Red Band in a rendition of “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters,” Cornell’s alma mater.

Attendees of “Bow Ties and Goodbyes,” led by Cornell Professor of Theater David Felshuh, were addressed by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, former director of the Johnson Museum Frank Robinson,  and Skorton himself. (Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Robinson as the current director)

Praising Skorton

“Today, I don’t want to make jokes because humor can also mask sincerity,” Myrick said. “This may be my last chance in public to thank a man who led this university through very dark times … his sureness of hand, his steadiness of purpose helped rescue us.”

Myrick said that he made a small donation – “dozens of dollars” – to the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, where Skorton will begin his role as the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian after the conclusion of this academic year.

Myrick at the event. (Kyle Friend/IV)

Feldshuh described Skorton as “a very fine musician with a great sense of humor,” and called attention to Skorton and Myrick’s “We Are Family” video filmed during Cornell’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Robinson presented Skorton with a watercolor painting by Ithaca local Jim Hardesty, in addition to a haiku poem, which said:

“His legacy

He made a great university

Even greater”

Skorton takes stage

Skorton took the stage and said he was “overwhelmed” by the event.

“This is the culmination of thirty-five years of higher education for me,” Skortom said. “I am more emotional, more sentimental, and I’m going to miss you all more than any departure” before this, he said, addressing hundreds of bow tie-wearing spectators.

Skorton praised faculty, staff, Mayor Myrick, and students, whom he said he would “miss the most.”

A teary-eyed Skorton also thanked Prof. Robin Davisson, his wife, which was met with a lengthy applause from the audience.

He acknowledged the extended applause for Davisson and joked that people should “keep in mind who’s in charge of the budget for the next seven-and-a-half weeks.”

Before he concluded his speech, Skorton asked audience members to visit the Smithsonian.

Skorton leading the Alma Mater

“You can all come to any Smithsonian museum for free. That’s right. Tell them I sent you,” he said.

(The Smithsonian Museum is free for everyone.)

Shortly before Skorton conducted a rendition of Cornell’s alma mater with the Big Red Band, atop a ladder, Davisson spoke to the audience.

“You might know that we were at Iowa for a very long time … 26 years or something between us,” she said. “We never felt part of a family there as we have here over just the last nine years.”


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Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: kyleafriend@gmail.com.