David J. Skorton

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David J. Skorton
David J. Skorton official photo.jpg
13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Assumed office
July 1, 2015
Preceded byG. Wayne Clough
12th President of Cornell University
In office
July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2015
Preceded byJeffrey S. Lehman
Succeeded byElizabeth Garrett
19th President of the University of Iowa
In office
Preceded byMary Sue Coleman
Succeeded bySally Mason
Personal details
David Jan Skorton

(1949-11-22) November 22, 1949 (age 69)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Spouse(s)Robin L. Davisson
Alma materNorthwestern University (B.A., M.D.)
Academic work
DisciplineBiomedical engineering
InstitutionsUniversity of Iowa
Cornell University

David Jan Skorton (born November 22, 1949) is an American physician, academic, non-profit and university administrator. He leads the Smithsonian Institution, the national research museums of the United States, as its 13th Secretary.[1] On December 20, 2018, it was announced that he had been selected as the next President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a position he will begin on July 15, 2019.[2] A cardiologist, he was president of Cornell University[3] from 2006 to 2015.[4] Before arriving at Cornell, he served as president of the University of Iowa, where he had been a longtime professor and then vice president. He began his career as a professor of medicine and engineering.[5]

Skorton has committed his time as an administrator to research integrity, fundraising, and progressive stances on issues affecting his institutions, from mental health to the Greek System. Among his accomplishments are the growth of Cornell University onto Roosevelt Island, via Cornell NYC Tech, and $4 billion in fundraising for the University.[6]


Skorton studied at the University of California, Los Angeles before transferring to Northwestern University, where he was awarded a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1970 and an M.D. in 1974. He completed his medical residency and fellowship in cardiology at UCLA, where he also served as chief medical resident.

University of Iowa[edit]

Skorton began his long career in Iowa in 1980, when he became an instructor at the University of Iowa. In 1981, he was named an assistant professor in internal medicine, and in 1982 he became an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering.[7] While at the University of Iowa, he also served as vice president for research and vice president for external relations.

President of University of Iowa[edit]

Skorton's time with the University culminated with the announcement that he had been selected to serve the state as the nineteenth president of the university.[8] He was appointed by the Board of Regents on January 5, 2003. He would serve in that post until 2006. Among his goals and accomplishments were cost reducing efforts and a focus on Iowa high school graduates.


Skorton's official portrait

Skorton was named as the 12th president of Cornell University on January 21, 2006 and is the second Cornell president to arrive directly from the presidency of the University of Iowa.[9] Skorton stayed on at Iowa for the duration of the 2006 spring semester and officially assumed the Cornell presidency on July 1, 2006.[3] His inauguration occurred on September 7, 2006. In celebration of the occasion, the Cornell Dairy unveiled a new flavor of ice cream, "Banana-Berry Skorton."[10]


Soon after the announcement of Skorton's appointment, Doug Mitarotonda, a student member of the university's board of trustees, called him "clearly the right person to lead Cornell."[11] Professor Robert Frank, writing for The New York Times, noted that "leaders of his stature are in short supply ... every university wants a Skorton."[12] Skorton's popularity has been cited as one factor in increased donations to the university.[12] During his tenure as president, Cornell's capital campaign has raised over $4 billion in six years' time, despite a global recession.[13]

According to Cornell University, Skorton's base salary was $686,683 for 2009-2010.[14]

Faculty positions[edit]

While president, Skorton maintained two academic appointments, as a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and as a professor in Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering on Cornell's Ithaca campus.

Education reform[edit]

Skorton chaired the Business-Higher Education Forum and the Task Force on Diversifying the New York State Economy through Industry-Higher Education Partnerships.[3] He established a University Diversity Council at Cornell University in 2006 and presently serves as its co-chair.[15] He also writes monthly guest columns for the independent student newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun, a bi-monthly column for the Cornell Alumni Magazine, and blogs for Forbes.com and the Huffington Post.[3] Skorton also spearheaded the Reimagining Cornell initiative.[16] In a winter 2010 interview with Imagineer magazine, he described the program:

With input from faculty, students, staff, outside consultants, our board, and alumni; we have an effort to look at those things you are asking about: What have been recent trends? What's the environment like? What is the budget of the university likely to look like? What can we do to be the highest quality university we can going forward, assuming that resources are not infinite, but that they are finite and a bit constrained for the foreseeable future? What we are trying to do is be in a planning mode where we talk with each other on campus and listen to those who have been here like alumni and management experts. We try to do the best job we can of conceptualizing how to do things in a better, up-to-date way.[17]

On December 2, 2011, Skorton accompanied Billy Joel on flute, during Joel's rendition of "She's Always a Woman" at a concert at Cornell University's Bailey Hall.[18] On September 30, 2010, at the same location, he accompanied Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.[19]

Cornell NYC Tech[edit]

In 2011, Skorton led Cornell's effort to build a new applied sciences campus in New York City, in response to a competition designed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to boost the city's technology startup sector. In partnership with the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Cornell was selected as the competition's winner on December 19, 2011.[20] In exchange for free land and $100 million for infrastructure upgrades, Cornell promised to invest over $2 billion in the new campus, called Cornell NYC Tech, over the next three decades.[20]

Construction of the campus is expected to begin in 2014 on the site of the Goldwater Hospital Campus on Roosevelt Island.[21] On May 21, 2012, Skorton appeared at Google's New York headquarters to announce that the tech company would donate up to 58,000 square feet of space to house CornellNYC Tech until the campus opens on Roosevelt Island in 2017.[21]

Public campaigns[edit]

Beyond the duties as University President, Skorton has taken upon initiatives to affect the public good.

Immigration reform[edit]

Skorton has been a proponent of immigration reform, testifying on behalf of the Association of American Universities before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security in support of the DREAM Act[22] and specifically to allow more skilled immigrants to live and work in the United States.[23]

Higher education finances[edit]

Skorton has argued that preserving college affordability must be a major priority of universities and Congress. Cornell has substantially increased need-based financial aid under his tenure to off-set tuition increases.[24]

Greek life and hazing[edit]

Skorton has taken national public positions on fraternity hazing and suicide prevention. Skorton pledged to end hazing in the fraternity and sorority system, and wrote an op-ed on the topic in The New York Times.[25]

Suicide prevention[edit]

In 2010, Skorton responded to three student suicides[26] by speaking out nationally for suicide prevention, as well as authorizing the construction of barriers on the bridges over Cornell's gorges and increasing resources for counseling on campus. Skorton has also spoken out about the continued importance of the humanities to society.[27] The barriers were removed in favor of nets that were installed under each major bridge - a historically common place for suicides at Cornell.[28]

Gun violence[edit]

Skorton joined eight other University presidents in signing a statement addressing gun violence in January 2013. The document called for the United States to "confront its culture of violence, particularly violence perpetrated by guns".[29]


  • Recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University (2009)
  • Exemplary President in Governmental Relations Award, Association of Public and Land-grant universities
  • Avraham Harman Leadership Award, American Jewish Committee (2012)
  • In 2015, Skorton was awarded the Arts and Sciences Advocacy Award from the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CCAS). CCAS bestows this award upon an individual or organization demonstrating exemplary advocacy for the arts and sciences, flowing from a deep commitment to the intrinsic worth of liberal arts education.[30]

Major publications[edit]

  • Truesdell SC, Skorton DJ, Lauer RM. Life insurance for children with cardiovascular disease. Pediatrics 1986; 77:687-91.
  • Collins SM, Skorton DJ, editors. Cardiac Imaging and Image Processing. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986.
  • Thedens DR, Skorton DJ, Fleagle SR. Methods of graph searching for border detection in image sequences with applications to cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. IEEE Trans Med Imaging 1995; 14:42-55.
  • Skorton DJ, editor-in-chief, Brundage BH, Schelbert HR, Wolf GL, eds., Braunwald E, consulting ed. Marcus Cardiac Imaging. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders, 1996.
  • Skorton DJ and Davisson R. No Foreign Exchange Devalues Our Universities. The Wall Street Journal: Manager's Journal, August 2, 2005, p. B2.
  • Skorton DJ, chair. Task Force on Diversifying the New York State Economy through Industry-Higher Education Partnerships Final Report: Prepared for Governor David A. Paterson. December 14, 2009[31]


  • Past chair of the Business-Higher Education Forum
  • Life member of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Member of the board of directors of the Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Member of the American Philosophical Society (2017)[32]
  • Co-chair of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council
  • Charter president of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc.
  • Past president of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CCAS).


  1. ^ "Smithsonian Welcomes Secretary David Skorton | Newsdesk". newsdesk.si.edu. Retrieved 2015-07-27.
  2. ^ "Smithsonian Leader David J. Skorton, MD, Named Next AAMC President and CEO". Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "Office of the President: About the President". Cornell University. Archived from the original on 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  4. ^ "The Presidency - Office of the President". president.cornell.edu. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  5. ^ "Smithsonian Regents Name David Skorton 13th Smithsonian Secretary - Newsdesk". newsdesk.si.edu. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2013-07-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "David J. Skorton". Office of the President. Cornell University. Archived from the original on 15 March 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  8. ^ Schoon, Amy (January 10, 2003). "The president among us: David J. Skorton named Iowa's 19th leader". Archived from the original on May 3, 2013.
  9. ^ Hunter R. Rawlings III, former interim president and 10th president of Cornell, was also president of Iowa from 1988–1995.
  10. ^ Barnes, Chris (7 September 2006). "A 'Berry' Tasty Tradition: Ice Cream Named for Skorton". The Cornell Daily Sun. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  11. ^ "Students Optimistic About New President". The Cornell Daily Sun. 25 January 2006. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  12. ^ a b Frank, Robert (21 October 2007). "Invisible Handcuffs". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  13. ^ The Campaign for Cornell
  14. ^ "Cornell University". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  15. ^ "Cornell's Commitment to Diversity: University Diversity Council". Cornell University. Retrieved 2009-07-09.
  16. ^ "Cornell University: Reimagining Cornell : Home". Cornell.edu. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  17. ^ "Interview: David J. Skorton". Imagineermagazine.com. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  18. ^ "Cornell Chronicle: Billy Joel Captivates Capacity Crowds".
  19. ^ "Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring David Skorton". Cornell University. 2010-10-01. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  20. ^ a b "Cornell wins NYC Tech Campus bid". Cornell Chronicle. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  21. ^ a b Mcgeehan, Patrick (2012-05-21). "Cornell's High-Tech Campus Will Have a Temporary Home at Google". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  22. ^ "Immigration, Refugees and Border Security". US Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  23. ^ Skorton, David J. (August 1, 2011). "Immigration Reform: The Economic Argument". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  24. ^ Otani, Akane (2011-11-17). "University Spends All-Time High on Financial Aid". The Cornell Daily Sun. Archived from the original on 2013-01-20. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  25. ^ Skorton, David J. (August 23, 2011). "A Pledge to End Fraternity Hazing". The New York Times.
  26. ^ Gabriel, Trip (March 16, 2010). "After 3 Suspected Suicides, Cornell Reaches Out". The New York Times.
  27. ^ "Preventing the Youngest Suicides". CBS News. October 3, 2010. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-25. Retrieved 2013-07-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Skorton signs AAU statement addressing gun violence". Cornell Chronicle. 2013-01-03. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  30. ^ "Arts & Sciences Advocacy Award - Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences". www.ccas.net. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  31. ^ "Empire State Development: NYSTAR" (PDF). Nystar.state.ny.us. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-01-09. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  32. ^ "Newly Elected - April 2017 - American Philosophical Society". web.archive.org. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2018.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Mary Sue Coleman
President of the University of Iowa
Succeeded by
Sally Mason
Gary Fethke (Interim)
Preceded by
Hunter Rawlings
President of Cornell University
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Garrett
Government offices
Preceded by
G. Wayne Clough
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution