Cornell president, dean, former Justice colleague praise Class of ’60 member Janet Reno

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was a member of Cornell’s Class of 1960, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of Arts and Sciences. She also was Cornell’s 2001 Senior Convocation speaker and a Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 professor from 2001-04.

Cornell University Interim President Hunter Rawlings, who was president of Cornell when Reno was appointed to the Rhodes professorship and shared the stage with her during the 2001 convocation, remembered the late attorney general’s “unshakeable dignity.”

Rawlings says:

“Throughout her pioneering career in Miami and in Washington, Janet Reno distinguished herself by remaining true to her principles and to herself. Janet’s integrity, intelligence and toughness quelled critics’ calls for her resignation in times of roiling controversy that threatened to engulf her. She leaves an extraordinary legacy of achievement under duress and unshakeable dignity in the face of enormous challenge. We take great pride that this singularly accomplished woman of ‘firsts,’ this Cornellian who commanded the world stage, was one of us.”

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College of Arts and Science Dean Gretchen Ritter, a professor of government and fellow Cornell alumna who studies the history of women’s Constitutional rights, noted Reno’s place in the tradition of women from Cornell who become “social pioneers.”

Ritter says:

“Janet Reno ’60 was an extraordinary public servant – a person of immense integrity, competence and commitment. As the nation’s first female attorney general, she led the Department of Justice at a difficult time, and was both fair-minded and undaunted in her pursuit of terrorist cases in the 1990s. As a Cornell alumna, Reno was – like many of the women who preceded and followed her at Cornell – a talented striver and social pioneer, determined to make her contributions count in the arena where she could make the greatest difference.”

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Law School Professor Gerald Torres served as deputy assistant attorney general under Reno. He was counsel to the attorney general on environment and Native American issues, and remembered her as the model attorney general “for the American people.”

Torres says:

“Janet Reno was very faithful to the law. When you look at the last few attorney generals, you’ll find one who stands as the model for what an attorney general should be like – and that’s Janet Reno. She always believed that she was the lawyer for the people of the United States of America – not for a particular administration – but for the laws, which Congress had passed and the president had signed. Her role – as the lawyer for the American people – she took that role very seriously.”


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