Though no stranger to Ithaca College—she was named president in March of 2022 after serving as interim president since August of 2021 and joining the college as provost in 2018—Cornish was introduced at the ceremony by her brother David Terry. Although he has spent his life admiring her “intellect, passion, loyalty, generosity, and work ethic amongst many other fine qualities,” she is still his big sister: “It's normal: just Jerne being Jerne!” he said.
Their father was a steelworker with a ninth-grade education, and their mother overcame numerous hurdles to go to college “in a time when people of color had limited opportunities and resources to pursue a degree,” he said. “But somehow she overcame those obstacles to become a schoolteacher.” Cornish later followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming a public-school teacher, and administrator, in Baltimore.
When Terry introduced his sister, he did so with the thunderous, staccato tone of a ring announcer bringing out a prize fighter, perhaps a fitting gesture for an administrator who helped lead Ithaca College through the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. As he loudly stretched out her name for dramatic effect, the crowd rose to its feet for a standing ovation that rolled on for several minutes.
“Did the pandemic set us back? Absolutely,” said President Cornish. “Are we still a world-class institution, rooted in the liberal arts and sciences tradition with amazing professional schools? Absolutely. To soar, we will champion our students and faculty, build upon resources and lessons gained over COVID, and follow my personal tenets: Connection, Intention, and Care. We will become distinctive by the ways in which we connect, by the ways in which we are intentional, and by the ways in which we care for one another.”