Martha E. Pollack, provost at University of Michigan, has been named Cornell’s 14th president. Pollack will begin her term on April 17, 2017, following the termination of her term as provost on January 31, 2017.
The Board of Trustees unanimously elected Pollack Cornell’s second female president, according to Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and of the Presidential Search Committee. Interim President Hunter Rawlings will continue to lead the University until April.
“We were looking for a bold strategic leader and someone who could really further the mission of the University and what really impressed us with Martha is that she has demonstrated those qualities at a really high quality institution at the University of Michigan,” Zubrow said.
As she introduced herself, Pollack spoke about the importance of academia, emphasizing her belief that Cornell is “leading the way in how critical universities and their work are to the world today.”
“It is really just a privilege to be here today. I have spent almost my entire career in higher education and I am deeply committed to the notion that universities are second to none in effecting positive change in the world,” Pollack said. “And really nowhere is it more true than here at Cornell — a private university with a public mission.”
In response to a question about her policy goals as president, Pollack touched on improving the University with a focus on innovation and quality.
“I very much value integrity, that’s my first priority,” Pollack said. “I value quality, I think it’s really essential that Cornell continue to be on of the world’s strongest communities … I very much value innovation and adaptability, the world is changing quickly … [I have an] enormous commitment to diversity.”
Pollack further elaborated on the importance of diversity for students, the University and the future of the country.
“I think that appreciation for diversity and celebrating differences is absolutely essential to today’s world,” Pollack said. “Our students are going to graduate into a very diverse world, and if they are not able to work across different perspectives, then I fear for the future of this country and the world.”
In an email to the Cornell community today, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Robert Harrison ’76, lauded the search committee for its “fabulous job” in selecting the University’s next president, calling Pollack a “proven leader and scholar.”
Gretchen Ritter ’83, the dean of Arts and Sciences, offered similar praise of Pollack in an email to students, faculty, and staff this afternoon. Ritter said that she was encouraged that Pollack, who completed a self-designed interdisciplinary major in linguistics during her undergraduate years at Dartmouth, presented a “global humanistic outlook.”
Pollack’s commitments to integrity and free speech were particularly compelling for Ritter, who said that these values are “incontrovertible” to the College of Arts and Sciences.
“At this time, as our nation grapples with an ideological divide and uncertain change at the highest levels of our federal government, I find it particularly important to reaffirm such values,” Ritter wrote in her email. “At lunch today, president-elect Pollack emphasized the point again, saying ‘We will honor and support the right of people from all backgrounds and perspectives to be here at Cornell. I hope you will all join me in recommitting ourselves to these values, no matter where challenges may emerge in the coming weeks and months.”
Pollack sent her own email to the Cornell community in the late afternoon. In her email, she called Cornell a “special place.”
“Its egalitarian heritage, research and teaching excellence, celebration of difference and diversity, and deep history of service combine to make this a truly extraordinary institution, one that embraces both the creation of knowledge and the value of putting that knowledge to use in positively impacting society,” reads Pollack’s email.
She also praised Rawlings as a “remarkable leader” and said they met earlier today to discuss the transition between their presidencies.
Acknowledging that the official start of her term is several months away, Pollack said she will make several visits to Ithaca and New York before her presidency begins. “I can’t wait to get started!” she wrote, at the end of her email.
Read the full article in the Cornell Sun.