Cornell President David Skorton spoke before a joint meeting of service clubs from throughout Tompkins County and the Southern Tier on November 19, 2014, hosted by the Rotary Club of Ithaca. Other represented organizations included Ithaca Lions, Ithaca Kiwanis, Binghamton Noon Rotary, Ithaca Sunrise Rotary, Owego Rotary, Trumansburg Rotary and Dryden Rotary. Over 100 attended the annual joint service clubs breakfast, which was punctuated by Skorton’s departure from Cornell at the end of this academic year to take the job of Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. Skorton became Cornell’s President in 2008.


Dr. Skorton recognized the nonprofit organizations and their leaders for their dedication to and creativity on behalf of the Ithaca and Tompkins County communities, saying that Cornell also benefits from their work and spirit. “We sort of grew up together over the generations. We benefit from each other,” he said.

In particular, Skorton recognized the group, Local Leaders of Color, and Greater Ithaca Activity Center Executive Director Marcia Fort for giving him a better understanding of the scope of Ithaca’s diverse population and engaging him in the community. Of the former he said, they have been “enormously important for me and part of my ongoing education — not only as an Ithacan, but my ongoing education as a member of any community anywhere.”

President Skorton recalled the toll that the 2008 recession took on the University and the community, expressing regret that he was unable to better soften the blow to the community. However, he praised the degree of “transparency and consultation” that prevailed in the aftermath of the downturn, and he urged local leaders to welcome incoming President Elizabeth Garrett with the level of trust and honesty that he was afforded. “Be as open and straightforward with Beth Garrett as you’ve been with me,” he said.

From the first time he came to Ithaca in 1995, David Skorton said he was taken by the visual beauty of the area. Now, as he prepares to depart he is also struck by the “beauty of the people and the beauty of all the things you guys have taught me,” he said. “The most important thing about the community is not that we have beautiful scenery or four seasons, but it’s the fact that we actually give a darn about each other.”

The reporting for this eBulletin story came from the following published articles:
• The Cornell Daily Sun, by Zoe Ferguson, November 20, 2014.
• The Cornell Chronicle, by H. Roger Segelken, November 24, 2014.
• The Ithaca Journal, by Matthew Hayes, November 19, 2014.