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OU Graduation Office

Commencement 2015 Address by Elizabeth Garrett

Photo of Fareed Zakaria

Elizabeth Garrett, an OU graduate who will become the first woman president of Cornell University, a prestigious American Ivy League school, on July 1, will deliver the University of Oklahoma’s Commencement address at 7 p.m. Friday, May 8, in The Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, 180 W. Brooks St.

Garrett is a distinguished legal scholar with a record of public service. She also is a 1985 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of OU, where she earned her bachelor's degree in history with special distinction.

"It is wonderful that one of our own, Beth Garrett, an OU graduate who will soon become President of Cornell University will share her path from OU to a distinguished career as a lawyer and educator with our graduates," said OU President David L. Boren. "Beth Garrett is one of the most talented people I have ever met."

Garrett, who previously served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California, also has served on the University of Chicago Law School faculty. She has held visiting professorships at the University of Virgina Law School, where she earned her juris doctorate and was chosen for Order of the Coif; Harvard Law School; Central European University in Budapest; and the Interdisciplinary Center Law School in Israel. 

Outside academia, Garrett clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Judge Stephen Williams on the federal court of appeals for the District of Columbia. She also was a legal adviser for the Iran-U.S. Tribunal at The Hague and served as legislative director and tax and budget counsel for then-Oklahoma Sen. David L. Boren, now OU president.

In 2005, Garrett served at the request of then-President George W. Bush on a nine-member bipartisan Tax Reform Panel that proposed fundamental reform of the corporate and individual income tax systems. From 2009 to 2013, she was one of five commissioners on the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's independent political oversight agency. 

She currently serves on the board of Internet2, a not-for-profit computer-networking consortium led by members of the research and education communities, industry and government. 

Garrett's primary scholarly interests are legislative process, the initiative and referendum process, the federal budget process, the design of democratic institutions, and tax policy.

She is the author of more than 50 articles, book chapters and essays and the co-author of the fifth edition of a leading casebook on legislation and statutory interpretation. Her interdisciplinary scholarship draws on insights from economics and political science to understand how democratic institutions can be designed to ensure outcomes more consistent with citizen preferences - and how those preferences might be shaped by the political and legal environments. 

A life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, Garrett also was elected a Harold Lasswell Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and a member of the Council of the American Law Institute.