The University Record, July 23, 2001

Farewell to the Provost: Staff, faculty and friends bid tearful goodbyes to Provost

By Mary Jo Frank
Office of the Vice President for Communications

Nancy Cantor, left, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Brenda Robinson, JAckson's niece, during Jackson's April 1999 visit to campus. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)
Hugs and tears were plentiful when faculty and staff gathered at the Museum of Art to say goodbye to Provost Nancy Cantor.

Colleagues and friends shared stories of how a dynamic, energetic psychologist born and raised in New York City found her academic home in the Midwest, and how she touched their lives and helped shape an institution.

President Lee C. Bollinger, who hosted the July 16 farewell reception, reflected on Cantor’s tireless energy, her “deep, deep caring for the University,” and her insistence on helping those for whom the system has not always worked. “American higher education very much needs people like Nancy leading major institutions. So, in the broader sense of the world, this is clearly a great gain for all of us and for society,” Bollinger said.

Regent Rebecca McGowan told of a call from a member of another university’s search committee. “When he described Nancy ‘as one of the crown jewels of higher education,’ I knew we were a goner,” McGowan recalled. “Although we feel greatly diminished by her departure, we all stand tall. The reach of the University of Michigan once again has been extended well beyond the people of our state, which is what ought to happen.”

E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, was one of several speakers who thanked Cantor for being a friend and an outstanding role model.

As part of his tribute, Earl Lewis, Graduate School Dean, vice provost for academic affairs-graduate studies, and professor of history and of Afro-American and African studies, announced that a Rackham Interdisciplinary Seminar will be named in Cantor’s honor. He also presented Cantor with a Rackham commemorative plate.

Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, announced the establishment of the Nancy Cantor Lecture on Education for a Diverse Democracy “in appreciation and recognition of her devotion and commitment to diversity and democracy in higher education.” Cantor has been invited to give the inaugural lecture, Monts said.

Cantor also received a 150-page memory book and a replica of a plaque that hangs in Lane Hall.

Responding to the kudos, Cantor, said, “I can’t begin to thank you. I can’t begin to characterize what it means to leave this University. I know it’s going to be great where I’m going—at least it had better be—but this has been my home on and off for as long as I can remember. I met my wonderful husband here. My two kids were born in this hospital. The doctors here saved my daughter’s life. The community has totally embraced my son.”

Recalling how quickly she was accepted into the scholarly community, Cantor said, “This place makes people come together. I don’t know how you build an institution like this.”

Describing the University as “a place so deeply right,” Cantor said, “It is populated by the most wonderful people in the entire world.”