At Commencement, Skorton Stresses Service; Green Light for Milstein Hall; Finance VP Golding Resigns; PhD Student Accused in Wife's Murder; New Architecture Head Named; Alumnus Dies on Air France Flight from Rio to Paris; Projects Get Stimulus Funding
At Commencement, Skorton Stresses Service
A depressed economy is hardly an ideal time for college grads to enter the job market. But in his Commencement address, President David Skorton offered the Class of 2009 some optimistic words— and advice on the enduring value of public service. Before a crowd of 32,000 in Schoellkopf Stadium, Skorton commended grads who have chosen to enter organizations such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and AmeriCorps, as well as the armed forces. He emphasized that the 2009 graduates—about 4,500 of whom earned degrees in May, with an additional 1,500 granted in January or August—have a responsibility to share their talents and values with the world after the day's celebration has ended. "I urge you to be creative and forceful in bringing your skills to bear on the problems we face, including the current economic dilemma," he said, asking them to be of use "to your country and to humankind."
In Schoellkopf the previous day, the manager of Barack Obama's presidential campaign spoke at Senior Convocation. David Plouffe stressed the vital role young people played in Obama's election, both as voters and campaign workers. "One thing I learned in our campaign was that this generation of young Americans need not wait twenty or twenty-five years before they take the stage," he said. "They're ready to lead right now."
The May graduates included eighty-one DVMs, 380 MBAs, and 187 JDs. Also, for the second time, Commencement ceremonies for Weill Cornell Medical College were held on two campuses: seventeen people were granted MDs from its Qatar branch and 180 earned advanced degrees from the New York campus, including ninety-two MDs and thirteen MD-PhDs.
Green Light for Milstein Hall
After years of false starts and two rejected designs, the Board of Trustees has approved the construction of Milstein Hall for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. The $55.5 million project will include seminar rooms, studio space, and a large auditorium— and serve to assuage fears that Cornell's top-ranked architecture programs could lose national accreditation due to cramped and dilapidated facilities. Although Rem Koolhaas's boxy glass design has been controversial—and financial pressures have prompted the University to postpone $562 million in other capital projects— trustees gave the green light for construction during their meeting over Commencement weekend. "While we can agree to disagree about aesthetics," President David Skorton said in a statement after the vote, "we can no longer dismiss the jeopardy in which the accreditation of the college's two architecture programs has been placed by ten years of lack of resolution." AAP dean Kent Kleinman's announcement at the college's Commencement ceremony that the building was approved and would take about two years to construct prompted a round of applause. "In the fall of 2011," he said, "we're going to have a hell of a party."
The University did opt to defer construction of a parking garage that had been part of the original plan, saving more than $12 million. In addition to the Milstein building, other projects have also been approved despite the construction freeze. They include an addition to the Johnson Museum and a dozen smaller-scale projects including a new power system at Arecibo Observatory, a steam line in Goldwin Smith Hall, and minor renovations to several buildings including Clark, Ives, and Olin halls.
Finance VP Golding Resigns
Stephen Golding, Cornell's executive vice president for finance and administration since 2005, has resigned— though he will remain a senior consultant to President David Skorton. Appointed by former President Jeffrey Lehman '77, Golding held a position endowed in honor of Samuel Bodman '60, former U.S. Secretary of Energy. In Golding's new role, he will focus on Cornell's work to foster economic development in New York State. When Golding's resignation was announced in May, the administration noted that a search for his successor "will not be initiated until the University has had an opportunity to review, as part of the president's strategy to streamline the administration, the need to retain the position."
PhD Student Accused in Wife's Murder
A graduate student has been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his wife, an alumna and campus biomedical researcher. Blazej Kot, a doctoral candidate in information sciences, is accused of killing twenty-eight-year-old Caroline Coffey, PhD '07. Late on the night of June 2, police allegedly found Kot covered in blood in a closed parking lot at Taughannock Falls State Park outside Ithaca. After a five-mile car chase, police say, Kot tried to commit suicide with an "edged" weapon; he was airlifted to a hospital and underwent surgery. Authorities went to the couple's apartment near the state park and found it had been set on fire, but could not locate Coffey. The following morning, her body was discovered on a nearby trail; an autopsy determined she died of a neck wound. Coffey and Kot were married in a civil ceremony last fall, but renewed their vows on a beach in Costa Rica just a month before her death.
New Architecture Head Named
A former professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA is the new chair of Cornell's architecture department. Dagmar Richter has taught at Harvard, Columbia, and Rhode Island School of Design; she is the principal of DR_D, a design research practice in Los Angeles and Berlin. AAP dean Kent Kleinman praised Richter for "strong leadership, a cooperative spirit, a great deal of energy, and a progressive vision." The University's architecture program is ranked first in the nation and its graduate programs are consistently rated in the top ten.
In other faculty news, English professor Laura Brown has been named vice provost for undergraduate education; she succeeds Michele Moody-Adams, who left to become dean of Columbia College. Computer science professor Daniel Huttenlocher has been named dean of the Faculty of Computing and Information Science. And collective bargaining professor Harry Katz has been appointed to a second five-year term as dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Think different: William Chen '09 won the Department of Psychology's art competition with a work consisting of six "self-portraits" detailing his thought processes. "I AM IR . . . RATIONAL?" garnered the AAP fine arts major a $2,000 prize and permanent display of his piece in Uris Hall.
Alumnus Dies on Air France Flight from Rio to Paris
A Spanish-born petroleum engineer who earned a master's in operations research from Cornell in 1995 was among the 228 victims of Air France Flight 447, which crashed May 31 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Thirty-eight-year-old Andrés Suárez Montes worked for the petroleum company Schlumberger; he had recently settled in Paris and had been married about a year.
Projects Get Stimulus Funding
Three energy research projects involving Cornell faculty and graduate students have been awarded millions in federal stimulus funding. The Center for Nanostructured Interfaces for Energy Generation, Conversion, and Storage—which will receive $17.5 million over five years plus an additional $750,000 from New York State—aims to design materials to enhance the performance of fuel cells, batteries, and similar technologies. It will be one of forty-six Energy Frontier Research Centers created by the U.S. Department of Energy. Cornell scientists will also be involved with two others: the Center for Emergent Superconductivity, led by physical sciences professor J. C. Séamus Davis, and the Energy Frontier Research Center for Combustion Science, whose collaborators include mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Stephen Pope.
Religious revival: In April, a cast of 125 in the Schwartz Center took on Leonard Bernstein's Mass, a production rarely performed since it was commissioned in 1971 for the opening of the Kennedy Center. Combining elements of classical, liturgical, pop, and Broadway music, the show (seen here in rehearsal) follows a young priest through a crisis of faith.
In the September/October 2008 issue, we published this news item:
A federal judge has dismissed Kevin Vanginderen's $1 million libel suit against the University. Vanginderen '83, a lawyer in California, claimed an article in the online archive of the Cornell Chronicle from March 1983 was damaging to his professional reputation. The item in the paper's police blotter detailed Vanginderen's conviction for third-degree burglary as a senior.
This is factually incorrect. Vanginderen was charged with third-degree burglary, but later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of petit larceny. We regret the error.