View a timeline of Corson's Life

Dale R. Corson

A tribute to Dale Corson (1914-2012), Cornell's eighth president and a distinguished physicist.

A professor emeritus of physics at Cornell, Corson was a polymath whose achievements in physics and engineering date to 1940 when he discovered astatine, element 85 in the periodic table of the elements. During World War II he helped introduce the use of radar into military operations.

His finest moments came during his time as Cornell's president from 1969 to 1977. Modest and mild-mannered, he led Cornell through the era of student protest against the Vietnam War and for civil rights and restored the university to stability.

Video

Memorial service for Dale Corson
The life of Cornell President Emeritus Dale Corson was celebrated Sept. 8, 2012 in Sage Chapel.

Dale Corson: Cornell's Good Fortune
A tribute to Dale Corson, Cornell's eighth president and a distinguished physicist.

Meet Cornell's Eighth President
This slideshow captures significant markers in the life and times of Dale Corson and his imprint upon Cornell University.

Collections

Guide to the Dale R. Corson Papers, 1963-1977 and 1935-2002

Dale Corson's Significant Scientific Papers

Corson Legacy

Photos

Reinstallation of the Joseph N. Pew Sundial on the Engineering Quad

Dale Corson with other 4 living presidents


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Dale Corson was President at Cornell when I was a Grad student in Veterinary Medicine 1975-1977.This period was one of the finest in my life and I attribute it to the brilliant way that Dale presided over the University.He was truly a man of good fame and character.

During graduation May 1973, my Dad jumped up and shouted out my name as the College of Human Ecology was introduced in Barton Hall. I was mortified. Later that afternoon, a gentleman tapped my Dad on the should, it was President Corson. He said, "You are mighty proud of your daughter". My Dad and I were floored. President Corson never missed a trick. Thirty years later, he and his wife sat at my table during a Reunion meal. I mentioned the story to him, he chuckled and said that there was always at least one parent that did that at graduation. That was Dale Corson, always putting people as ease. We were so lucky to have him as our President and friend.

I took Dale's electricity and magnetism course in the fall of 1958 (I believe), when he was finishing his text on the topic. Great course and great teacher. That course was a key part in my selection of my career. It was a privilege to know him then and for more years, though not closely. He was a great contributor to Cornell in many academic and administrative areas for which many Cornell people including me are very grateful.

In 1962 as a senior in HS and while I was searching for what college I would attend, I visited the engineering school and was very impressed. I had not made an appointment for an interview but after a brief pause as the receptionist had a conversation, I was told that the Dean would see me now! Then Dean Corson was very engaging and I have always thought to this day that it was not my B+ grades that got me accepted but the Dean's interview that allowed me to flourish in the engineering school. I have recalled that inteveiew many times over the intervening decades and have concluded I was very fortunate indeed to have that wonderful contact with the Dean, it started me on a career in manufacturing and trying to make a difference in the world!

I got to know Dale Corson when he was Chairman of the U.S.-Japan Cooperative Science Agreement, the first international science agreement entered into by the United States of America, and I was the head of East Asian Programs at the National Science Foundation. Dale was not only a great scientists-engineer, but also a great science diplomat for our country. His calm and measured manner and personal warmth and cordiality made him a perfect representative for U.S. science in our relationships with Japan and China. When I retired from NSF in 2005, Dale wrote a letter congratulating me. I felt greatly honored and humbled. He was a great man and a friend.

Walking with Dale through the machine shop where the Sundial was being re-engineered a couple of years ago was an amazing event. Clearly the shop guys had affection for him, and were more than willing to share their knowledge with the novice, me. It was a special thrill, thoughtfully made possible by Dale. I was honored to be there.

Janet and family,

It was always wonderful to see President Corson on campus, so engaged and active, in his later years. We will miss him.