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Cornell’s Twelve Presidents

Inaugurating the Presidents

Andrew Dickson White, 1868
Charles Kendall Adams, 1885
Jacob Gould Schurman, 1892
Livingston Farrand, 1921
Edmund E. Day, 1937
Deane W. Malott, 1951
James A. Perkins, 1963
Dale R. Corson, 1969
Frank H. T. Rhodes, 1977
Hunter Ripley Rawlings III, 1995
Jeffrey Sean Lehman, 2003

Inaugurating the Presidents

Jeffrey Sean Lehman, 2003

Jeffrey S. Lehman gave his first inauguration speech on October 12, 2003, at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in Doha, Qatar, where he declared that Ezra Cornell's American university had “matured into the transnational university of the future.” His second inauguration speech, delivered at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City three days later, focused on the need for cross-disciplinary research and collaboration to further the life sciences. He returned to Ithaca and began his Inauguration Day there with a visit to the Tompkins County Public Library, where he spoke with community leaders. The Distinguished Inaugural Guest Lectures featured Cornell faculty members Alice Fulton and Kenneth McClane; N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman and CEO of Infosys Technologies Limited; and Cornell architect Richard Meier.

At 1:15 p.m., the Inaugural Procession began on the Arts Quad and headed to Barton Hall. The formal inauguration ceremony was held in Barton Hall, highlighted by opening remarks by Cornell alumna and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. President Lehman’s inaugural speech characterized Cornell as “revolutionary and beloved,” citing Andrew Dickson White’s copy of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

To follow the global theme of the inauguration, the Department of Food Science created an ice cream that featured a flavor or component from every continent. Called “Ezra and Andrew's World View,” it was an espresso ice cream with a fudge swirl and hints of cinnamon and vanilla, crushed hazelnuts and praline pecans. In the evening, hundreds of Cornell students participated in “Ezra and Andy's Excellent BIG RED Adventure,” a theatrical production in Barton Hall.

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Inauguration of Jeffrey Lehman
The Inaugural Ceremony on the Ithaca campus of Cornell University took place in Barton Hall at 2 p.m. on Thursday, October 16, 2003.

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President Lehman delivers his Inaugural Address

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Revolutionary Cornell
Nicolaus Copernicus. De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. Norimbergae: Ioh. Petreium, 1543.

Lehman invoked a “revolutionary” and “beloved” Cornell in his inaugural address. He began his speech with a reference to Copernicus's Revolutions, a copy of which (given by Andrew Dickson White) resides in the History of Science Collections, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Carl A. Kroch Library.

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Toni Morrison. Beloved: a Novel. New York: Knopf, 1987
Lehman also spoke at length about the importance of Beloved, a Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Cornell graduate and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison (MFA 1955). Beloved, he suggested, “leads us to wonder in new ways about what it means to be a person, to be alive, to be a slave, to love someone else. It makes us wonder whether, and to what extent, our responses to such questions are conditioned by our races, and to what extent our responses transcend race and are more purely human.

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Egalitarian Cornell
Justice Ginsburg praised Cornell's egalitarian tradition, which reaches all the way back to Ezra Cornell. In particular, she cited a letter that Cornell wrote to his granddaughter in 1867.

My Dear Grand Daughter

Your little letter came duly to hand and I was very glad to hear from you, and grand Ma was also very glad to hear from.

I shall be very glad when I get through with the business here so I can go home and see you and your little brothers, and have you and them go with me up on the hill to see how the workmen get along with the building of the Cornell University where I hope you and your brothers and your cousins and a great many more children will go to school when they get large enough and will learn a great many things that will be useful to them and make them wise and good women and men. I want to have girls educated in the university as well as boys, so that they may have the same opportunity to be come wise and useful to society that the boys have. I want you to keep this letter until you grow up to be a woman and want to go to a good school where you can have a good opportunity to learn, so you can show it to the President and Faculty of the University to let them know that it is the wish of your grand Pa, that girls as well as boys should be educated at the Cornell University.


Ezra Cornell Papers, Cornell University Archives.

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