Cornell Through the Years
Since its founding in 1865 in Ithaca, NY, in the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ (the Cayuga Nation), Cornell has been a leader in education, a driver of innovation and a force for the common good. For more than 150 years, the university has grown and evolved to meet new challenges, shaping extraordinary people and making breakthrough discoveries along the way — all while cultivating a community of belonging filled with rich traditions and powerful legacies.
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A mission to serve New York state
Cornell charter signed into law
On April 27, state senators Andrew Dickson White and Ezra Cornell win passage of the bill that charters Cornell University establishing the university at the location of Ezra Cornell’s farm in Ithaca. Three years later, Cornell admits its first students and inaugurates A.D. White as Cornell's first president.
Cornell chimes ring for the first time
The original set of nine bells first rings out at the university's opening ceremonies. Over time, the chimes have been recast and expanded to 21 bells. Presently three concerts are performed each day while classes are in session.
Cornell University opens
Initially divided into two parts — the Division of the Special Sciences and Arts and the Division of Science, Literature and the Arts — Cornell opens its doors on October 7 under the leadership of its first president, A.D. White. The university welcomes 26 professors and 412 students, the largest entering class at any American university.
Sibley funds creation of engineering college
Hiram Sibley, one of the 10 incorporators of Cornell, provides funds to house and support the Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanic Arts. In 1921, a unified College of Engineering combines mechanical and civil engineering. Today, Sibley Hall is the headquarters for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning.
Trustees approve School of Architecture
Persuaded by the advocacy — and architectural book collection — of President A.D. White, the trustees agree to found a school of architecture, the first four-year course in the United States. Charles Babcock is appointed as the first professor of architecture. Today's Architecture, Art and Planning is an internationally-recognized leader.
Eastman is first female graduate
Emma Sheffield Eastman 1873, a transfer student from Vassar, becomes the first woman to graduate from Cornell. After teaching science and math for a year in Portland, Maine, she works for women's suffrage for much of her life.
Coeducation: the 'Great Experiment'
Daniel Salmon earns first DVM degree in America
Cornell confers the first Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in the United States to Daniel Elmer Salmon DVM 1876, who later serves as the first chief of the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry. He is best known today for pioneering the fight against contagious diseases.
Smith pioneers medical research
Theobald Smith 1881, an epidemiologist who studied Texas cattle fever, anaphylaxis, and hog cholera, discovers the first Salmonella bacterium while working for the United States Department of Agriculture. He names the species after fellow Cornell graduate Daniel Elmer Salmon DVM 1876.
Agriculture college formed
The Department of Agriculture (established in 1874) merges with the departments of agricultural chemistry, botany, entomology and veterinary medicine to form the Cornell College of Agriculture. Sixteen years later, the New York state legislature followed the federal lead and voted to provide ongoing funding to the college, establishing the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell, adding “and Life Sciences” in 1971.
First African American graduates
Charles Chauveau Cook 1890 and Jane Eleanor Datcher 1890 become the first African Americans to graduate from Cornell after a four-year course of study. George Washington Fields 1890, a formerly enslaved person, becomes the first African American graduate of Cornell Law School and one of the first people of color to graduate from any law school in the United States.
Veterinary college chartered
The state legislature charters the New York State Veterinary College, the first state-supported college at Cornell, though veterinary medicine had been taught at Cornell since the university opened. The college opens officially in 1896 in the current location of Uris Hall and later moves to east campus when Shurman Hall is completed in 1957.
Medical College founded in New York City
Cornell's Medical College is founded, officially opening in New York City in 1900. Today, in a joint campus with New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College is among the most esteemed clinical and medical research centers in the country.
Architecture students stage first 'Dragon Day'
Inspired by an idea from Willard Dickerman Straight 1901, the first Dragon Day is held. Over a century later, the beloved Cornell tradition features an enormous dragon created by first-year architecture students that parades across campus, accompanied by AAP students in outrageous costumes. The dragon battles on the Engineering Quad with a phoenix created by rival engineering students before ending its journey at the Arts Quad.
Inaugural 'Spring Day'
The first-recorded Spring Day takes place April 15, celebrating the end of winter. Students skip classes and mount variety shows and festivities. Today, Slope Day is a student-favorite tradition held on Libe Slope to celebrate the last day of classes with live music and entertainment.
Carrier creates a new way to stay cool
Engineer Willis Carrier 1901 invents the first electrical air conditioning unit and goes on to found the Carrier Corporation, which remains a world leader in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Groundbreaking author Fauset graduates
Jessie Redmon Fauset 1905 excels in her studies and is one of the first Black women elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Fauset becomes the literary editor of the magazine Crisis (published by the NAACP) in 1919 and in addition to writing essays, poetry and short stories for Crisis, she publishes four novels and comes to be regarded as the “midwife” of the Harlem Renaissance for guiding writers such as Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.
A colorful nickname for Cornell
Cornell's colors were carnelian red and white since its founding, but the university didn't acquire a nickname until Romeyn Berry 1904 sat down to write a song for the Cornell football team. To urge the team on to victory, Berry refers to Cornell simply as the “big red team”. It catches on. Since that time the chant of “Go Big Red” is the common thread at every Cornell sporting event.
Alpha Phi Alpha, the first Black fraternity, is founded
The first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity for Black men, Alpha Phi Alpha, is founded at Cornell. It builds approximately 900 chapters across the country and has championed civil rights; its illustrious alumni include Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Duke Ellington and Thurgood Marshall.
Department of Home Economics created
The Department of Home Economics is created within the College of Agriculture. In 1925, the program becomes the first state-chartered college of Home Economics in the country. The college is renamed the New York State College of Human Ecology in 1969 to reflect its interdisciplinary exploration of the human experience.
First Native American student graduates
Marvin Jack (Tuscarora) 1909 becomes Cornell's first Native American student to earn a bachelor's degree. The first true cohort of Indigenous students would arrive at Cornell in the 1920s, in part due to the work of Dr. Erl Bates.
Cornell Orchards' first fruit trees
The first fruit trees are planted at the Cornell Orchards and some are still thriving today. Cornell Orchards has more than 22 acres under cultivation, with apples being the main product. Scientists in the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have released more than 69 apple varieties throughout the college’s history.
Kimball is first woman DVM in the country
Florence Kimball DVM 1910, the first woman in the United States to receive the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, graduates from Cornell. Seven of the first 11 women to become licensed veterinarians in this country are Cornell graduates.
Hu Shih 1914 revolutionizes the Chinese language with a movement to change literary writing from a strict classical style to a modern, vernacular style. Shih is later president of Peking University, China's ambassador to the United States and nominee for a Nobel Prize in literature. In 2021, a North Campus residence hall was named in his honor.
Cooperative Extension service formalized
Cornell Cooperative Extension is established, following the Smith-Lever Act. Rooted in every county of the state, Cornell Cooperative Extension translates Cornell's world-class research into practical, real-world knowledge that helps New York state residents, businesses and communities to thrive.
Cornell Lab of O takes wing
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is established. Today, the laboratory is a world leader in the study, appreciation and conservation of birds with a goal to “advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet.”
United States enters World War I
The United States Congress declares war on Imperial Germany. By war's end, Cornell provides a total of 4,598 commissioned officers to the war effort. Five Cornell pilots become aces, three physicians serve as the first American women to hold Army rank after receiving commissions from the French army and 265 Cornell alumni give their lives serving in the armed forces.
The world’s first undergraduate hospitality degree program is born
The Cornell School of Hotel Administration (later named the Nolan School of Hotel Administration), the world’s first undergraduate hospitality management degree program, was created at the request of leading hotel magnates and the American Hotel Association. The program launches with 21 students under the direction of a single professor, Howard B. Meek.
Van Rensselaer named one of 12 "greatest" women in the U.S.
The League of Women Voters names Martha Van Rensselaer, professor of home economics, one of the 12 greatest women in the United States (alongside the Class of 1877's Anna Botsford Comstock and M. Carey Thomas). Under Van Rensselaer's and Flora Rose’s leadership, the Department of Home Economics becomes the School of Home Economics in 1919, and eventually the New York State College of Home Economics in 1925.
First African American to earn mathematics Ph.D.
Elbert Cox Ph.D. 1925 becomes the first African American in history to earn a doctorate in mathematics and is later the first African American to be inducted into the American Mathematical Society. Cox goes on to teach at Howard University from 1930 to 1966 and serves as head of the mathematics department from 1954 to 1961.
Researcher develops cancer test
George Papanicolaou (Dr. Pap) at Weill Cornell Medical College first presents a research paper explaining his ideas of using vaginal smears to detect uterine cancer. Now known as the Pap smear, the simple procedure has become the standard in screening for cervical cancer.
Designed by a Cornellian, Empire State Building opens
The Empire State Building, the world's tallest building from 1931 to 1970, opens in midtown Manhattan. The building is designed by Cornell graduate Richmond Harold Shreve 1902, co-founder of the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon. Shreve, Lamb & Harmon later designed Olin, Kimball and Thurston halls on the Cornell campus.
Playwright, screenwriter and director Laurents graduates
Arthur Laurents ’37, the playwright, screenwriter and director who would go on to write two of Broadway's landmark shows, Gypsy and West Side Story, graduates from Cornell. His film credits include “The Way We Were,” “Anastasia,” with Ingrid Bergman and “The Turning Point,” with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine.
United States enters World War II
The attack on Pearl Harbor brings the United States into World War II. After Pearl Harbor, Cornell reacts swiftly to the crisis, enlarging and accelerating its programs. By the war's end in 1945, more than 480 Cornell alumni give their lives while serving in the U.S. armed forces.
New York State legislature establishes ILR School
The New York State legislature passes the bill to establish the School of Industrial and Labor Relations to improve industrial and labor conditions in the state. The first four-year school of its kind, ILR builds community partnerships and brings thought leadership into practice for workers, unions, organizations and communities to improve the world of work.
School of Business and Public Administration opens
Cornell’s School of Business and Public Administration begins operation, offering business programs to graduate students. Today, the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management has over 15,000 alumni and works with 65 corporate partners to create better business solutions across the globe.
Correspondence with Einstein leads to creation of television camera tube
While working at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Ernest Sternglass ’44, M.S. ’51, Ph.D. ’53 observes a phenomenon different from Albert Einstein's photoelectric effect. Sternglass’s research, informed by a meeting with Einstein in 1947, leads to the development of a highly sensitive television camera tube that enables millions to watch Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in July 1969.
Nabokov arrives in Ithaca
Vladimir Nabokov and his family arrive in Ithaca, with Nabokov beginning his duties as a professor of Russian literature at Cornell. During his more than 10 years at Cornell, Nabokov becomes famous as the author of “Lolita” and “Pnin” and becomes known on campus as a lecturer not to be missed.
Noyes donates copy of Gettysburg Address
In recognition of her husband's nearly 50 years of service to Cornell and its ideals, Marguerite Lilly Noyes presents the Nicholas H. Noyes Collection of Historical Americana‚ including a copy of the Gettysburg Address handwritten by Abraham Lincoln‚ to Cornell University Library. Nicholas Noyes was a member of the Class of 1906.
America's first accredited wine course offered at School of Hotel Administration
The first accredited wine appreciation course in American collegiate history is offered to School of Hotel Administration (SHA) juniors and seniors, with guest lectures from seven leading New York and California vintners.
Greatbatch and the first pacemaker
Surgeons at the Veterans Administration hospital in Buffalo, New York, test the first practical implantable pacemaker, designed by Wilson Greatbatch ’50. His pacemaker, patented in 1962, is regarded as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century.
Future U.S. Attorney General Reno graduates
Janet Reno ’60 graduates with a degree in chemistry. Reno would go on to be nominated for U.S. Attorney General by President Bill Clinton in 1993, becoming the first woman to serve in the post and the second-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history.
Gogolak transforms place kicking
Peter Gogolak ’64 kicks a 41-yard field goal soccer-style against Princeton. Gogolak, who went on to kick for the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants, revolutionized place kicking and making soccer-style kicking the norm throughout football.
Chicken takes on a new form: chicken nuggets
Robert C. Baker and his colleague Joseph Marshall propose a first-ever chicken stick, made of ground, blended and frozen chicken. Baker, a professor of poultry science, also creates over 50 other products made from chicken and eggs, including chicken hot dogs.
Arecibo Observatory opens
The Arecibo Observatory opens in Puerto Rico. Designed by Cornell physicist and astronomer William E. Gordon Ph.D. ’53, the observatory's 1,000-foot radio telescope is the world's largest single-aperture telescope for several decades. The telescope closes permanently in November 2020, following the breaks of two cables that support the structure.
Puff, the Magic Dragon born at Cornell, not Honalee
The folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary (including Peter Yarrow ’59) releases the single “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” which is based on a poem written in 1959 by then-freshman Lenny Lipton '62. The single reaches number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
Committee on Special Educational Projects launches
First convened in 1963, the Committee on Special Educational Projects (COSEP) officially launches by Dr. James Perkins, the seventh president of Cornell. The first program of its kind at a major American university, increases the number of Black students enrolled from eight to over 250 during Perkins’ presidency.
A new sound defines an era
Robert Moog Ph.D. ’65 debuts the electronic analog Moog Synthesizer, one of the first widely used electronic musical instruments. The invention introduces a new landscape of sound to the music world, with organic, rich tones embraced by greats such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Stevie Wonder.
Future NIAID director Fauci graduates
Anthony Fauci M.D. ’66 graduates with his Doctor of Medicine. Fauci goes on to serve as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. President George W. Bush awards Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 for his contributions to an AIDS relief program, PEPFAR.
Men’s hockey team wins first NCAA title
Playing in its first Frozen Four, the Big Red hockey squad defeats Boston University, 4-1, at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, New York to win its first NCAA hockey championship. The team again wins the title in 1970 with a 29-0-0 record‚ the only unbeaten, untied national championship season in NCAA hockey history.
Collingwood is first U.S. network journalist in North Vietnam
CBS News broadcasts an Emmy Award-nominated personal documentary on the North Vietnamese capital by Charles Collingwood ’39 titled “Hanoi: A Report By Charles Collingwood.” The chief foreign correspondent for CBS News, Collingwood is the first American network journalist to visit North Vietnam and his reports earn him an Overseas Press Club Award.
RNA structure discovery leads to Nobel Prize
Robert W. Holley wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work interpreting the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. Holley was the first to isolate and map the structure of transfer RNA‚ or tRNA‚ a key molecule that carries amino acids to ribosomes to produce proteins.
Sagan arrives at Cornell
A star of science and the small screen, astronomy and space sciences professor and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies, Carl Sagan shares his sense of wonder about nature through the 1980s PBS series “Cosmos; A Personal Voyage” and his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Dragons Research Stations of Eden.” In 2015, the Carl Sagan Institute was founded at Cornell to explore other worlds both inside and outside our solar system.
Students occupy the Straight
On April 19, members of the Afro-American Society occupy Willard Straight Hall for 36 hours, protesting against racism and Cornell's judicial system, as well as the university's slow progress establishing a Black studies program. The takeover receives national attention as thousands of Black and white students become involved, sparking broad discussions about race relations and educational matters.
The Cornell Conference on Women convenes
The Cornell Conference on Women takes place over a four-day period during winter intersession. Sessions attract more than 2,000 attendees from Cornell and the Ithaca community. Betty Friedan and Kate Millett return to campus for the conference. Three years later, on March 31, 1972, the Women's Studies Program is founded, one of the earliest programs of its kind in the country.
Grumman helps humanity reach new heights
An aeronautical engineer, test pilot and industrialist, Leroy Randle Grumman 1916 co-founds Grumman Aeronautical Engineering in 1929. On July 20, 1969, the Grumman-made Apollo lunar module carries astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to make the first landing on the moon.
Redding is first African American full professor in Arts and Sciences
J. Saunders Redding is named the Ernest I. White Professorship in American Studies, making him the first full African American professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and the first African American to hold an endowed professorship in literary criticism at an Ivy League university. At Redding’s insistence, Humane Letters was added to the professorship's title and remains there to this day.
DNA sequencing and fundamental tools for DNA cloning developed
Plant genetics pioneer Ray Wu invents the first method for sequencing DNA, enabling researchers to more closely understand how genes work. Wu’s invention leads to further development of widely grown rice plants resistant to pests, drought and salt.
Sy Katz starts a little rogue parade
Following the Cornell-Columbia rivalry football game in New York City, Cornell and Big Red Band enthusiast Seymour “Sy” Katz ’31 drums up a one-block parade down 50th Street to the Cornell Club. Today, the semi-annual Sy Katz ’31 Parade is a chance for the Big Red Band to shine and for Cornellians to showcase their Big Red pride.
Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum opens
Designed by I.M. Pei & Partners, the museum‚ named for its benefactor and graduate of the class of 1922‚ typically welcomes more than 80,000 visitors annually. Holdings include 35,000 works from cultures around the world representing six millennia.
Actor Reeve graduates
Christopher Reeve ’74, a film and stage actor best known for his portrayal of Superman, graduates with a degree in English. Reeve followed in his father's footsteps to attend Cornell and following an equestrian accident in 1995 that left him paralyzed, became a tireless advocate for the disabled and for medical research until his death in 2004.
Cook is Cornell's first female vice president
Constance Knowles Eberhardt Cook becomes vice president for land grant affairs, the first female vice president in Cornell history. Widely respected for her support for the expansion of the State University of New York system, she serves as vice president until 1980.
Voyager spacecraft launches
Voyager 2 is launched August 20, followed 16 days later by its sister spacecraft, Voyager 1. Cornell astronomers and astrophysicists are extensively involved in the missions to explore the outer solar system. A committee chaired by Cornell professor Carl Sagan decides on 115 images and natural sounds to include on a Golden Record, offering insight to life on Earth; the record is included in both spacecraft.
Rings discovered around Uranus
Cornell researchers led by James Elliot identify rings around the seventh planet in our solar system. The observations are made from the Kuiper Observatory and represent the first major structures discovered in the solar system since Pluto's discovery in 1930.
LGBT alumni organization founded
The Cornell Pride LGBTQIA+ Alumni Association is one of the oldest and largest LGBTQIA+ university alumni organizations in the country. Originally called the Cornell University Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association, Cornell Pride’s mission is to engage alumni to foster an inclusive, global Cornell by leading, programming for, communicating to and supporting the LGBTQ community and by serving as the voice of LGBTQ alumni.
Canine parvovirus vaccine stays rampant infections
As canine parvovirus ravages the world starting in 1978, scientists at the Baker Institute of Animal Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine isolate the virus and develop the first vaccine for “parvo.” By 1981, they create the improved attenuated vaccine, still in use today.
McClintock receives Nobel Prize in Medicine
Cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock ’23, M.A. ’25, Ph.D. ’27 receives the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for her discovery of mobile genetic elements, also known as genetic transposition. She becomes the first woman in history to win an unshared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In 2021, Cornell honors her memory with a name for a new North Campus residence hall.
The world as a campus
The Cornell Abroad program begins, offering a wide array of opportunities for a meaningful international experience as part of a student's education‚ university study, language skills, fieldwork, service learning, internships and research.
Harmon becomes first Cornellian to win Super Bowl ring
Following a stellar football career at Cornell, Derrick Harmon ’84 is a ninth-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 1984. In the following season he becomes the first Cornellian to win a Super Bowl ring.
Cornell in Washington program celebrates permanent D.C. home
The Cornell in Washington (CIW) program celebrates its permanent home at 2148 O Street NW. Supporters mark the occasion by transplanting ivy from the Cornell Botanic Gardens on the walls of the building and soaking it with water from Beebe Lake. The Dupont-neighborhood building is renamed the Cornell University Wolpe Center in 2003.
Asian American Studies program founded
Cornell's Asian American Studies program, the first of its kind in the Ivy League, focuses on the transnational, comparative and interdisciplinary dimensions of Asian America. Courses provide a cultural, historical, social and political context for understanding Asian Americans' place within the university and beyond.
OLED technology shapes the future of screens
Ching W. Tang Ph.D. ’75 and a colleague build the first practical organic light-emitting diode (OLED) device in 1987. OLED screens employ a thin layer of organic compounds that lights up when a current passes through it. The technology is now employed in an array of consumer products, from smartphones to television screens.
WuDunn shares Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting
Sheryl WuDunn ’81, a history major, and her husband, Nicholas Kristof, share the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for their coverage of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. WuDunn is the first Asian-American journalist to win the prize.
Public Service Center is created
President Frank H.T. Rhodes establishes the Public Service Center at Cornell to coordinate, expand and institutionalize faculty and student community engagement and outreach. The Public Service Center merges with the Office of Engagement Initiatives in creating the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement in summer 2021.
Akwe:kon residence hall opens
The residence hall, named the Mohawk word for "all of us," becomes the first university residence in the U.S. built to celebrate Native American heritage. In 2021, Cornell celebrates the Cayuga Nation with the naming of Ganędagǫ: Hall, literally meaning it's in the hill in the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ language. The ancestral name for Ithaca area, the naming is supported by the Cayuga Nation's current leadership.
Jemison takes Cornell to new heights
Serving as a mission specialist on STS-47 Spacelab-J, a mission flown on the space shuttle Endeavour, Mae Jemison M.D. ’81 becomes the first African American woman to travel in space. Jemison resigns from NASA in 1993 to found the Jemison Group, Inc., which researches, markets and develops science and technology for daily life.
Morrison earns Nobel Prize in Literature
The 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to author Toni Morrison MA ’55 who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality. Morrison, whose works highlight the Black American experience, is the first African American woman to win the prize. Cornell celebrates her memory in 2020, naming a residence hall after her.
Bader Ginsburg joins Supreme Court
Ruther Bader Ginsburg ’54 is sworn in as an associate justice of the United State Supreme Court, becoming the second woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. Ginsburg’s commitment the advancement of the rights of all people, particularly women, helps transform American society. Cornell celebrates her memory in 2020, naming a North Campus Residence Hall in her honor.
Bill Nye the Science Guy premieres
The beloved television creation of William Nye ’77 debuts in syndication, featuring Nye's unique brand of kinetic and quirky science education. The show airs 100 half-hour episodes over five seasons. Nye remains closely connected to Cornell, returning on several occasions including as Convocation speaker.
Lesbian, bisexual & gay studies established
To expand and institutionalize the sexuality component of the Women’s Studies program, a minor in Lesbian, Bisexual & Gay (LBG) Studies is established at both the graduate and undergraduate levels‚ around the time when queer theory was taking root in academia. In 2009, LGB Studies changes its name to LGBT Studies.
“Pumpkin watch” begins
The morning of October 8, Cornellians notice a large pumpkin impaled on the spire of McGraw Tower. The pumpkin, its placement and purpose shrouded in mystery, remains on the tower — 173 feet in the air — for 158 days, causing a buzz throughout the campus and beyond with non-stop coverage reports carried by the Associated Press, CNN and MTV.
Cornell Prison Education Program begins
The program begins to offer courses for credit, charging neither tuition nor fees. The Prison Education Program provides a liberal arts curriculum leading to an Associate of Arts degree for men incarcerated at the Auburn, Cayuga and Five Points correctional facilities, helping them build meaningful lives inside prison and prepare for successful re-entry into civic life.
Lake source cooling brings Cayuga’s chill to campus
After a 1994 launch, Cornell’s Lake Source Cooling program begins operation, using cold water from the depths of Cayuga Lake to chill water circulated through campus, cooling buildings while using a fraction of the electrical energy. The system — the first of its kind — wins several awards, including the New York Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention in 2001.
Cornell establishes medical college in Qatar
Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar is established in Doha, Qatar, via a partnership with the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development. With its dedication in October 2003, it is the first American medical school overseas.
First-year students move into North Campus
Move-In Day marks the first time that all first-year students will live in one place: the new residence halls on North Campus. The North Campus Residential Expansion, reaching completion in 2022, creates even further enriched living-learning experiences for students.
Mars Rover discoveries are Science’s Breakthrough of the Year
The Mars rover Spirit lands on Mars, followed by Opportunity three weeks later. Astronomy professor Steven Squyres is principal investigator on both missions. The rovers, outfitted with Cornell-designed scientific instruments, find evidence that liquid water existed at some point in Martian history. Initially expected to have 90-days of roving, Opportunity ends its mission in 2019.
Hip Hop Collection donated
Author and collector Johan Kugelberg donates the foundation of Cornell's Hip Hop Collection. Kugelberg’s donation stems from his concern that the true origins of Hip Hop culture will be lost if someone does not intentionally locate and save surviving documentary evidence. The growing collection currently features more than 250,000 items.
A Madison Square Garden hockey tradition is born
In what becomes a Thanksgiving weekend tradition, Cornell takes on Boston University in the first-ever sold out college hockey game at the Garden. The “Red Hot Hockey” game between Cornell and Boston University alternates with the Frozen Apple Series played against a slew of opponents, drawing the Lynah Faithful to the city in droves every year.
Díaz wins Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Author Junot Díaz MFA ’95 receives the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” Díaz is the third Cornell graduate (after Toni Morrison MFA ’55 and Pearl S. Buck MA ’25) to receive the award.
Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability opens
The multidisciplinary center receives permanent endowment by David Atkinson ’60 and his wife, Patricia. Since its inception, the center has supports more than $28M in faculty research for a more sustainable future.
Human Ecology Building earns LEED Platinum Rating
With certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Human Ecology Building earns a LEED Platinum rating — the highest rating for sustainable structures — making it the first building to achieve the distinction on the Cornell campus. Four more Cornell buildings later earn LEED Platinum ratings, among the 28 total certified green buildings.
Dake named SI College Athlete of the Year
Kyle Dake ’13 is the inaugural Sports Illustrated Male College Athlete of the Year. The four-time Academic All-American finishes with a collegiate record of 137-4, including winning his final 79 matches. Dake continues his wrestling career, winning back-to-back World Championships and earning a bronze medal in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Abrams receives National Humanities Medal
Cited “for expanding our perceptions of the Romantic tradition and broadening the study of literature,” English Professor Emeritus M.H. Abrams receives the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Rev incubator supports entrepreneurs in Ithaca
Cornell is a key partner in the launch of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works in downtown Ithaca. A place for regional entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, use workspace and receive mentorship from seasoned professionals, Rev is a partnership among Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
Garrett becomes first woman to serve as president of Cornell
An attorney and a professor of law, Elizabeth Garrett came to Cornell from the University of Southern California, where she served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs before becoming Cornell’s 13th president. Garrett’s tenure as president is tragically cut short when she dies on March 6, 2016, after battling colon cancer.
First puppies born by in vitro fertilization
Research at the Baker Institute for Animal Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine leads to the world's first litter of puppies born by in vitro fertilization, opening the door for conserving endangered canid species, using gene-editing technologies to eradicate heritable diseases in dogs and for study of genetic diseases.
Cornell Tech campus is dedicated in New York City
After winning a highly publicized competition among the country's top research universities to build the campus with its partner, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Cornell dedicates the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Seen as a powerful symbol of possibility at its dedication, Cornell Tech offers a graduate and professional education that focuses on research, education and innovation for the digital world.
Gift names Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Following a $150 million gift from H. Fisk Johnson ’79, M.Eng. ’80, M.S. ’82, MBA ’84, Ph.D. ’86, and SC Johnson, and in recognition of the Johnson family’s multigenerational legacy of philanthropy to Cornell, the Board of Trustees approves a name change for the College of Business, renaming it the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.
Cornell adapts, gives back in face of COVID-19 pandemic
The Cornell community rises to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cornellians also band together to donate crucial medical supplies and continue Cornell’s core education and research missions while maintaining safe health practices and implementing a massive testing effort.
Cornell forms school of public policy and university-wide departments
The university reveals plans to launch a new school of public policy alongside university-wide departments drawing faculty from multiple colleges or schools in the disciplines of economics, psychology and sociology. A gift endows and names the school the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.
Gift establishes new college of computing and information science
A transformative gift from a Silicon Valley champion and longtime philanthropist Ann S. Bowers ’59 lays the groundwork for and names the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, supporting Cornell’s preeminence in these fields and enabling construction of a new building.
Perseverance Lands on Mars
Launched seven months prior, the Perseverance rover lands on Mars’s surface. Several Cornell researchers are involved with instrument design and development on the rover, from cameras to radar imagers. Swati Mohan ’04, a NASA aerospace engineer and the mission’s guidance, navigation and controls operations lead, calls the play-by-play landing of the rover.
Landmark gift names school of hotel administration
A historic $50 million gift from Peter Nolan ’80, MBA ’82, and Stephanie Nolan ’84 establishes the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration. The gift, which supports financial aid in the school, also provides scholarship funding to expand educational access for future generations of hospitality business leaders.
North campus reshapes campus residential community
With the final projects reaching completion in 2022, Cornell’s North Campus Residential Expansion creates new capacity for housing, dining, recreation, community building and more and provides intentional and consistent support during the most formative years of the student experience. New buildings, named for a diverse group of Cornellians and the Cayuga Nation, include Toni Morrison Hall, Ganędagǫ: Hall, Barbara McClintock Hall, Hu Shih Hall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall.