One day on the Hilltop: Jonathan Brand, president

President Jonathan Brand’s days are filled with meetings, reading, writing, and anything that directly or indirectly supports Cornell students.

There are weekly President’s Council meetings, bi-weekly phone calls with the Board of Trustees chair, fundraising trips several times a month, monthly faculty meetings, some 50 events at the Garner President’s House annually, and a class to teach every other year. He frequently makes time over lunch for a run through Mount Vernon with the family’s dog, Didi. Evenings are a time for student activities, including every music and theatre production and as many athletic events as he can attend.

Jonathan Brand at Community Leaders Breakfast
Workdays typically start for Brand at 5:30 a.m. when he begins checking email. On this day he’s engaging with the public at 7:30 a.m. as Cornell hosts the Community Leaders Breakfast. About once a month Brand also has coffee with the regulars in Bauman’s basement uptown.
Jonathan Brand at his desk
Brand writes a personal note at his desk. “I write a lot of notes,” he says. “You can’t thank people enough.” The office features a large meeting table, and he tries to accept every meeting request he receives.
Jonathan Brand and RuthAnn Scheer
Brand and his assistant, 30-year Cornell veteran RuthAnn Scheer, confer at her desk.
Jonathan Brand walks on the Ped Mall
Brand greets everyone he meets as he walks quickly along the Ped Mall to the Thomas Commons. His energy and enthusiasm are a hallmark of his leadership style.
Jonathan Brand at Campus Currents meeting
The monthly Campus Currents meeting for all staff includes a presentation from Brand on strategic planning. He often updates faculty and staff directly.
Brand assists the Admission Office by attending an after-work reception in downtown Mount Vernon for high school counselors visiting campus.
At home after work Brand joins wife Rachelle LaBarge and their daughter, Madeleine, in making French macarons.
Jonathan-Brand-and-Didi the dog
Brand greets the family’s border collie mix Didi.
Brand and LaBarge enjoy some quiet time over coffee at the kitchen table in the Garner President’s House.
Even after a long day, Brand is ready to catch part of a Rams baseball game. Brand’s warmth makes him approachable to students, eliciting frequent moments like this one—giving a high-five to John-Michael Osley ’20.
Brand wears his purple Chucks to all athletic events, including this baseball game.
As a runner who occasionally trains with the cross country team, Brand knows many of the student runners on campus. Dominique Fleming ’19 is pleased to find the president at her track meet and they “practice” how he will hand her a diploma at Commencement.