By President Emerita Judie Wexler December 9, 2020
With great sadness, I am writing to tell you of the death of Elizabeth McCormack, former chair of the CIIS board in the 1990s and early 2000s. Elizabeth died peacefully in her sleep Friday morning at the age of 98.
Elizabeth was a remarkable person, wise, direct, and insightful. It was a privilege to have known her and to have benefited from her counsel. I am grateful that I was able to visit with her in New York last February. As I left, she assured me that she was planning a trip to San Francisco so we would soon be seeing each other again. The pandemic intervened with that plan.
Elizabeth, who knew Robert McDermott from the time she hired him as a lecturer in philosophy in 1964, joined the CIIS board of trustees in 1991; she became chair in 1995. As Robert has noted, “Those of us who watched her chair board meetings and provide counsel when invited had the great pleasure of witnessing an expert in higher education, philanthropy, human relations, and a leader with commitments to social justice.” She had an amazing ability to cut through to the core of any issue.
Elizabeth joined the Society of the Sacred Heart and in 1966 was named president of its Manhattanville College. She led Manhatanville’s transformation from a traditional Catholic women’s college to a nonsectarian coeducational institution. She did not shy away from controversy or from speaking up on important issues.
In addition to serving as the head of the Rockefeller Family Philanthropic Office, Elizabeth served on the boards of numerous humanitarian, educational, and philanthropic organizations. They include John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, The Population Council, The Julliard School, Asian Arts Council, Hamilton College, and Swarthmore College.
Elizabeth’s was a life well lived. May her memory be a blessing.