Inauguration, September 18, 2015: President Garrett is flanked by past presidents Frank H. T. Rhodes, David J. Skorton and Jeffrey S. Lehman.

ITHACA, N.Y. — Cornell University’s first female President Elizabeth Garrett has died, weeks after announcing that she has been diagnosed with colon cancer.

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Garrett died late Sunday night, an official confirmed.

She was being treated at Weill Cornell Medicine and recently began an “aggressive treatment program”to combat the cancer. She underwent surgery Feb. 19 and was shortly afterward released from the ICU. 

Inauguration, September 18, 2015: President Garrett is flanked by past presidents Frank H. T. Rhodes, David J. Skorton and Jeffrey S. Lehman.

Garrett is the university’s 13th and first female president. She took office this past fall.

In an email sent to the Cornell community, officials said:

Dear Cornell Community,
 
It is with utmost sadness that I write to inform you that our president, colleague and friend, Elizabeth Garrett, passed away late last evening after a brave battle with colon cancer. There are few words to express the enormity of this loss.
 
Beth was simply a remarkable human being — a vibrant and passionate leader who devoted her life to the pursuit of knowledge and public service and had a profound, positive impact on the many lives that she touched. In this regard, she was the quintessential Cornellian. From the moment I met her during the presidential search, it was clear to me that she had the intellect, energy and vision not only to lead Cornell, but to be one of the greatest presidents in our 150-year history. While Beth’s tenure as president has tragically been cut short, her efforts over the last eight months have set the university on a path towards continued excellence. She will leave a lasting legacy on our beloved institution and will be terribly missed.
 
We will honor Beth’s memory with a moment of silence, followed by chimes, this afternoon at 4:00pm EST. I invite you to mark this moment either by yourself or with colleagues and friends. Plans will soon be made for a memorial gathering on the Ithaca campus in the near future. We will share details as soon as they are available.
 
On behalf of our entire community, Acting President Kotlikoff and I offer our heartfelt condolences to Beth’s husband, Professor Andrei Marmor, and the rest of the Marmor and Garrett families.
 
Sadly,
 
Robert S. Harrison
Chairman, Cornell University Board of Trustees

Garrett came to Cornell after being provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California.

Related: Elizabeth Garrett, USC provost, named Cornell’s 13th president

According to the Cornell Chronicle:

“In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed her to serve on the nine-member bipartisan Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. From 2009 to 2013, she served as one of five commissioners on the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s independent political oversight agency, and was a co-chair of its Subcommittee on the Political Reform Act and Internet Political Activity. Before entering academics, Garrett served as budget and tax counsel and legislative director for Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.) and clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

She was also the author of more than 50 articles, book chapters and essays, and is co-author of the nation’s most influential casebook on legislation and statutory interpretation.

Garrett was married to Andrei Marmor, professor of philosophy and the Maurice Jones Jr. Professor of Law at USC, who also joined the Cornell faculty as a full professor with joint appointments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Law School.

Following an interview with The Ithaca Voice last fall, former editor Jeffrey Stein described her as, “warm and charismatic, personable and empathetic, brainy and deeply invested in the immensely difficult task of improving higher education.”

Related: Editorial: Cornell’s first female president brings charisma, fresh energy, brains

Inauguration, September 18, 2015: President Garrett is flanked by past presidents Frank H. T. Rhodes, David J. Skorton and Jeffrey S. Lehman.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.