ITHACA, N.Y.—La Jerne Terry Cornish, former provost of Ithaca College who has been serving as interim president since August 2021 following former President Shirley Collado’s resignation.
“Her appointment ensures a seamless transition and unimpeded progress in advancing the college’s vision, mission and values,” said David Lissy, Ithaca College Board of Trustees Chair, said in the college’s announcement.
Cornish began at the college as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in 2018.
Lissy also cited the Ithaca Forever strategic plan, saying that Cornish represents a “new era of leadership for the college,” and that she has a firm grasp on the challenges the college has faced over the last four years as well as what lies ahead.
“I feel honored and blessed to have been chosen as the tenth president of Ithaca College,” Cornish said in the college’s news announcing her presidency.
Referring to dropping enrollment and other troubles, Cornish kept mentioning commitment and alluding to a plan to remain in her presidential position for six to 10 years. “This isn’t a short-term game. For real, it is going to take three to five to restore from the pandemic, another three to five to soar because we are going to soar. We are looking at 6 to 10 together. I am looking forward to seeing what we will do as an IC family from this day forward,” she said.
The two most recent former presidents had tenures of varying lengths. Tom Rochon’s reign ended with a vote of no confidence after eight years, and most recently, Shirley Collado resigned after just four years for a CEO position at College Track.
Lissy said that the Presidential Search Committee unanimously recommended Cornish after announcing in October 2021 that it had hired an executive search firm, Isaacson Miller, to help find a new president.
David Fleisher, chair of the Board of Trustees, said in his speech that the search firm had assisted in finding more than 300 candidates for the president position before the committee narrowed it down to 10 semifinalists, who all received extensive interviews.
“In the final analysis, Doctor Cornish rose above the rest,” Fleisher said. “Her professional experience, leadership skills, personal qualities and demonstrated track record of persevering through difficult times elevated her above very accomplished candidates.”
Sharing a story of enrollment at the college plummeting after the Great Depression, Lissy said he was confident in Cornish as the “right leader for the right time” to address enrollment challenges the college currently faces.
“We are convinced she can build on the momentum that was created by the IC Forever plan with fresh perspective, fresh leadership and clear priorities,” said Lissy.
The COVID-19 pandemic, Cornish said, has enabled the college to be able to pivot quickly, which will help the college navigate challenges moving forward.
“I love this place, you mean a lot to me and I’m grateful to lead at this time,” Cornish said.
Letitia Guibunda, Student Governance Council’s (SGC) vice president of campus affairs, said that the SGC is excited to welcome Cornish into her new role.
“[President Cornish] has really shown serious intention behind wanting to make the school a place where everyone can sincerely feel and have a sense of belonging, and a sense of community,” Guibunda said. “On behalf of students of Ithaca College, I would like to welcome president Cornish as our next president, and would like to really say that I am really excited and hopeful for the future of our school under her leadership.”