OU Mourns Elizabeth Garrett

The University of Oklahoma community was deeply saddened to learn this week of the death of noted History alum, Helen Elizabeth (Beth) Garrett, Class of ’85. Garrett, who had recently become the first woman president of Cornell University, died of colon cancer.

Born in Oklahoma City in 1963, Garrett graduated from OU Phi Beta Kappa and with special distinction in History. Following her graduation from law school at the University of Virginia, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and taught at the University of Chicago Law School, the University of Virginia Law School, and Harvard Law School. Before joining Cornell, she was the first female provost at the University of Southern California. Garrett also built a distinguished career in public service. She served on President George W. Bush’s bipartisan Advisory Panel of Tax Reform, as a commissioner on the California Fair Practice Political Commission, and served as budget and tax counsel and legislative director for David Boren during his tenure in the U.S. Senate.

Throughout her remarkable career, Garrett retained close ties to the University of Oklahoma, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2015, and to the History Department. In a letter to History Department Chair James S. Hart last fall, Garrett wrote that her history professors provided her with an “exceptional intellectual foundation for my career that has spanned a variety of jobs.” “I have stayed in touch with some over the last three decades,” she noted, adding that “As a professor and now a university president, I aspire to make the same difference in my students’ lives as my professors at OU did in mine.”

Garrett is survived by her husband, Andrei Marmor, a professor of law and philosophy at Cornell, her parents, Robert and Jane Garrett, and a sister, Laura Gruntmeir.