Sept. 3, 2008

Biddy Martin bids farewell -- leaving her name to posterity in A.D. White House

Two weeks into her tenure as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, former Cornell Provost Carolyn "Biddy" Martin traveled back to Ithaca on Tuesday (Sept. 2) for a final reception in her honor -- but also, for a surprise.

An hour before colleagues and friends gathered under a white tent on Bailey Plaza to bid her farewell, Martin learned that the dining room in the A.D. White House, a reconstructed parlor commissioned in 1953 during the presidency of Deane W. Malott, was to be named the Carolyn "Biddy" Martin Room.

Looking toward President David Skorton, she said, "I don't know what to say about it, except 'thank you' to David and to everyone who had a role in deciding to name anything at all for me, much less that extraordinary room."

During a brief ceremony, Skorton presented Martin with a photo album, complete with a cutout of her face superimposed on top of her new institution's badger mascot. He also remarked on her many accomplishments at Cornell, among them her faculty salary initiative, her leadership in diversity efforts and her founding of the Institute for the Social Sciences in 2004.

Despite her long career at Cornell, including her eight years as Cornell's longest-serving provost, Skorton said, Martin's legacy is not just her length of service but her "brilliance and excellence" in her dedication to Cornell.

When she first arrived at Cornell in 1984, Martin taught in the German studies department, with a joint appointment in women's studies. At her Tuesday farewell party, almost 25 years later, she reflected on the significance of having a room named for her in the A.D. White House, which she called "one of the most beautiful and important buildings on campus."

"With all the time I've spent over the past eight years working on the life sciences and their interactions with other fields, I must say that having something named for me that attaches me to my home in the humanities really means the world to me," Martin said.