A chance meeting between the Cornell women’s rowing team and then President-elect Elizabeth Garrett established an instant connection for the students who met her, one that lasted through Garrett’s inauguration and her untimely death, and continues still.
On Oct. 1, the team will dedicate a new racing shell – the President Elizabeth Garrett – but the story began in April 2015.
The Cornell women’s rowing team was in the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport awaiting its flight home. The Big Red had just wrapped up the Clemson Invitational where it had bested Ivy League foe Penn to win the Class of ’89 Points Plaque for the seventh-straight season.
As the team passed the time, a murmur arose among the women – was that Cornell’s newly selected president, Elizabeth Garrett?
It didn’t take long to get the answer. On the plane, Garrett turned to assistant coach Paula Thoms and asked, “Are you the rowing team from Cornell?”
Garrett introduced herself, and she and Thoms chatted about Cornell and Big Red athletics. According to Liz Dennison, the Staley Head Coach of Women’s Rowing, Garrett’s enthusiasm and passion for Cornell were on full display when she joined the team in a rendition of the alma mater as the plane began its decent into the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport.