[APPLAUSE] Morning and welcome. Welcome to the 69th annual meeting of the board of trustees and the Cornell University Council. This morning, it is my honor to welcome my predecessor on the board, Harold Tanner and his wife Nikki.
And our university's lifetime trustees Ezra Cornell, who is here today with his wife Daphne, his daughters Alice and Jackie, his daughter Katie with her husband Brian and his granddaughters Marion and Araya. Cornells.
More on that later. My wife and lifetime honorary Cornellian, Jane. And my daughter.
And my daughter Caroline Junior, who should get course credit for having attended this event so many times. Thank you, Caroline.
And a very special welcome to all 700 trustees, council members, and guests who have made this annual pilgrimage to Ithaca. Thank you, everyone, for being here. It is now my honor to introduce a particularly large group of newly-elected members of the Board of Trustees, 11, which is the largest class since 1996. And I'll briefly introduce each one of them. And I'd ask you to hold your applause until after I've said a few words about each of them.
Let's start with JT Baker. JT? JT is a junior in the School of Hotel Administration, and a star defensive back for the big red football team. He's also a student ambassador for [INAUDIBLE] he's in the minority business association and a member of the dean's advisory board. Outside Cornell, JT has interned for the Minnesota Vikings, where he created a Generation Z advisory board to help the team reach new audiences. And he helped establish the first ever LGBTQ summit for the NFL, which is now an official annual event. JT, please don't spend so much time on trustee activities that you neglect your other interests, particularly the football season.
We need you on the field. Welcome to the board, JT
Second is Peter Call, a member of the class of 1979 and our new trustee from the field of agriculture. Peter is the president of My-T Acres farm in Batavia, a family-owned 8,500 acre vegetable farm that spans three counties. Peter is from an active and dedicated Cornell family. His father, Dick Call, 52, was a Cornell trustee. His uncle, David Call, class of '54, is a former dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. And both of Peter's brothers, Nate and Philip, were CALS graduates, and they all work together on the family farm.
At Cornell, Peter was a star basketball player, and more recently has served on the Cornell University Council and the advisory councils for CALS and Cornell agro-tech. I'm told that Peter still plays basketball, but his knees are starting to object. Welcome to the board, Peter.
Third is alumni elected trustees Cynthia Cuffy, Human Ecology class of 1974. There we go. Cynthia is a physician who led drug development at Merck and Schering-Plough for many years. Today Cynthia offers career and leadership development advice as an executive coach at her own firm.
At Cornell she served on the Human Ecology Advisory Council, the President's Council of Cornell Women, Cornell Mosaic, and the Cornell Black Alumni Association. Cynthia is also the mother of three daughters, including Ariana, class of 2011, though her latest and greatest passion is her first grandchild. Congratulations, and welcome to the board.
Fourth is Laurette Simon Gross, the other alumni-elected trustee. She received a bachelor's degree from CALS in 1989, and a Cornell MBA the following year. Laurette's first career was in advertising at D'Arcy Masius Benton and Bowles, and at Daly and Associates. She then focused on the much more challenging job of raising her children, philanthropy, and community service, including stints on the Cornell University Council, co-chair of the class of 1989's last two reunion campaigns. Laurette and her husband Keith have two sons, including Bennett, a senior at CALS. Congratulations, Laurette, and welcome to the board.
Fifth is Mary [? Madusky ?] from the class of 1980. Mary has nearly three decades of experience in the media, telecom, and technology industries. And she's currently the president of TierPoint, a national provider of information technology and data center services. Mary has received many honors and awards over the course of her career, including my favorite from a cable and media trade publication in 2012 when she was named Wonder Woman of the industry. Mary, if that honor came with a red cape, feel free to wear it at trustee meetings.
For Cornell, she is a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council and the President's Council of Cornell Women. Mary and her husband Michael have two children, including Nicholas, class of 2018. Welcome to the board.
Sixth is Howard Morgan, who received a PhD in operations research and information engineering from Cornell in 1968. Howard is a legend in the tech industry, having begun his career as a computer science professor in the early days of the internet, teaching at a number of universities, including here at Cornell. He then left academia to become a venture capitalist for more than 30 years, identifying high-tech entrepreneurs and investing in literally hundreds of early-stage companies, some with Cornell DNA.
Howard's very first startup was with two other Cornell faculty members, and their very first salesman was a guy named Dave Duffield, who was also a founder of a couple of little companies named PeopleSoft and Workday. I'd also like to point out that Howard is an incorrigible overachiever. He completed high school at Bronx Science in three years, his undergrad degree at City College in three years, and then his Cornell PhD in three years. Howard, there is absolutely no rush here. Please stick around for your full four-year term.
Seventh is Becky Robertson, an engineering alarm from the class of 1982. Becky is also a venture capitalist with decades of experience, but in the health care field. She is the co-founder of Versant Ventures, specializing in early-stage medical device and diagnostics companies.
For Cornell, Becky has served on advisory councils for biomedical engineering, the College of Engineering, and the McGovern Center, and she is active on the west coast with Cornell's Silicon Valley advisors. Becky lives in Palo Alto with her husband Neil, and he is also a class of '82 engineering alum. Welcome to the board, Becky.
Eighth is Steven Robinson, who received his BA In government from the arts college in 1981, and a JD from Cornell Law School in 1984. Steven has had a distinguished career in an incredible variety of legal positions. He was general counsel of the FBI, US attorney for the state of Connecticut, a federal judge in the southern district of New York, and he's now a partner at Skadden Arps where he chairs its diversity committee.
Steven must be either an amazing lawyer or an amazing politician, because he was nominated for federal jobs, first by President Bill Clinton and then by President George W. Bush. For Cornell, Steven has served on the Cornell University Council, the Law School Advisory Council. And I'd like to welcome him to the board, and I look forward to your bipartisan advice.
Ninth is Susan Schnabel, a Cornell engineer from the class of 1983. Susan is the co-managing partner of Apriori Capital Partners, a leveraged buyout fund that she founded after many years in the merchant banking business at Credit Suisse and DLJ. Susan, who is one of a handful, more like a finger-full of women studying chemical engineering in the early 1980s, has a deep commitment to supporting women in higher education, and particularly low-income women in STEM fields.
She is a member of the Cornell University Council and the President's Council of Cornell Women, and a vocal champion for Cornell on the west coast. She and her husband Ed Plummer live in Los Angeles, and he is from the class of 1982. Welcome to the board, Susan.
10th is our student-elected trustee, [? Jawan ?] Simm, class of 2021. [? Jawan ?] came to Cornell via Indonesia, China, and South Korea. He's a computer science major and a law and society minor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and has served on the student assembly since freshman year, where he has held two vice presidency roles and chaired the executive cabinet. Most famously, during his student assembly service, [? Jawan ?] spearheaded the very popular free printing initiative, which grants every undergraduate 200 pages of free printing each month. That earned him the respect of many grateful voters during the student trustee election. Welcome to the board, [? Jawan. ?]
Last but not least is Enrique [INAUDIBLE], engineering class of 1994 and [INAUDIBLE] 1995. Enrique is well-known to all of us as the immediate past chair of the Cornell University Council and our extraordinary ambassador to Puerto Rico. He runs the island's largest facilities management company, which has put him in the center of hurricane recovery efforts over the past few years, helping secure generators and fuel in the aftermath of each storm's devastation.
He's also been instrumental in relaunching the Cornell club of Puerto Rico, recruiting increasing numbers of students from the island and helping create a thriving Puerto Rican community here on campus. During TCAM weekend, Enrique used to host all of the kids from Puerto Rico for pizza at The Nines until, due to his incredibly effective recruiting effort, the group grew too large to fit. And now with The Nines sadly closed, it's no longer even an option. Enrique, if you're looking for an alternate venue, my vote is Hot Truck deliveries tonight at the Statler lobby.
Enrique and his wife Rosalind have three children, two of whom are students on campus-- Sofia, senior in Human Ecology, and Veronica, class of 2023, who is following in her father's footsteps in engineering. Welcome to the board, Enrique.
I would now like to welcome the new members of the Cornell University Council. I will not introduce every one of the 700 of you, but I would like to ask all of you to stand, the new members to stand and be recognized.
Welcome to the council. Thank you for your leadership, your commitment to the university, and for acting as our most important ambassadors. It is now my honor and privilege to announce that we have a unique milestone to celebrate this year. Exactly 50 years ago at the age of 21, Ezra Cornell, class of 1970, the great, great, great grandson of our founder, took a seat on the board of trustees. And with the passage of time, he has now tied the record at 50 years as the longest serving active trustee in the university's history. For those of you who are wondering about his competition, it was that household name Mynderse Van Cleef, class of 1874, a local banker, judge, and university counsel.
Cornell is unique among institutions of higher education in that our charter, the document that created the university in 1865, specifies that the eldest living descendant of the founder serves as the lifetime trustee. And I will note that the charter originally specified that the eldest male lineal descendant of Ezra Cornell serve as the lifetime trustee. But in 1984, in the spirit of our democratic any person ethos, the trustees asked the New York State legislature to amend the charter to remove the word male from that provision. So this was fortunate and a very timely development, since Ezra's oldest child is his daughter Katie, class of 2001. So there is unlikely to be a battle royale for the crown and the throne among the Cornell clan.
But please bear with me for just a little bit of history on the Cornell clan. Our Ezra Cornell is the fifth life trustee. Sadly, when Ezra was just 11 years old in 1959, his father, William Ezra Cornall, passed away after serving only two years as a trustee. Of course, this was tragic for the family, and for the university it presented a dilemma, since young Ezra as a minor was not old enough to serve on the board of trustees under New York state law. So Ezra was named a trustee in waiting.
At age-- it's true, trustee in waiting, age 11. And he had to wait until his 21st birthday to take his seat on the board of trustees as the life trustee. And it was the only time in university history, from 1959 until 1969, that the life trustee slot was vacant. At that time, young Ezra got quite a bit of national press upon being named a trustee in waiting. Newspapers ran headlines like, Cornell to get a second Ezra, and, a 12-year-old boy will not serve on the Cornell University board of trustees.
In 1960, Ezra even appeared on an episode of a TV show hosted by a very strange comedian named Ernie Kovacs. The show was called Take a Good Look. Does anyone here remember that show? I'm embarrassed to say that I think my parents watched it. It was a seriously quirky game show in which a panel of very minor celebrities tried to guess the claim to fame of a seemingly ordinary person who was brought onstage. So here is Ezra's debut.
- All right, panel. Now we'd like to bring on our second guest. Take a good look, if you will.
It will not be necessary to identify this young gentleman by name, however we are going to tell the people at home now just what brought him into the news.
- Our guest is Ezra Cornell, age 11, a sixth grader in public school who was appointed a trustee in waiting at Cornell University.
SPEAKER 1: So by the end of that episode, Ezra had stumped the panel, braved Kovacs' is ever-present cigar smoke, and left with $300 in prize money to apply toward tuition.
Several years later, when it came time for Ezra to actually apply to college, he was still serving as trustee in waiting, of course, and he submitted his Cornell application like any other prospective student-- mailing it from his home in New Jersey. Back then, neither computers nor the internet existed. So Ezra filled out his application by hand. He put a stamp on the envelope and kept what some of you may remember as a carbon copy of the application for himself.
Well, Ezra heard nothing back from the university for months. His grandmother became particularly impatient, and made an appointment for the family to go up to Cornell to meet the dean of admissions on a Saturday morning early in March to see what was up with Ezra's application. At first, the relatively new dean seemed pleased that a young man with the last name Cornell was interested in applying to the university, and he suggested they fill out an application. Ezra's now irate grandmother immediately produced the carbon copy of the application that he had submitted months earlier.
The dean quickly discovered, to his flustered staff's embarrassment, that the application Ezra had so carefully filled out and mailed had been thumb tacked to a bulletin board for display in the office by an admissions clerk who thought that Ezra Cornell applying to Cornell had to be a joke.
This is a true story. A call from the admissions dean to university President James Perkins at his home that morning quickly rectified the situation, as Perkins ordered the dean to admit him.
Ezra finally turned 21 in his senior year, and he took his rightful seat on the board of trustees in November of 1969, 50 years ago. At that moment, he became Cornell University's de facto first student trustee. The average age of trustees at the time Ezra joined was 58. He was a breath of fresh air, and he has been ever since.
I've known Ezra personality since 1972 when I was a freshman on campus. And at that time-- OK, we can get rid of the slide.
And at that time, I rushed Sigma Phi fraternity, which was Ezra's fraternity, along with a number of other houses. And this was when fraternities invited potential recruits in their freshman year to meet with the brothers over drinks on a Sunday afternoon. They called these events smokers for some reason. It was at one of these Sigma Phi smokers that I met Ezra. I recall he came up to me in the fraternity's living room. He stuck out his hand and introduced himself as Ezra Cornell. And I'm not sure whether I had the guts to say it at the time, but my first thought was, yeah, right, and I'm Abraham Lincoln.
I've known Ezra now for almost half a century, from when I was his fraternity brother, when I was a student trustee, and then again many years later when I returned to the board in my current role. And at that time, Ezra's presence has been a constant, almost as much as the university itself. In fact, Ezra, in a very natural and remarkably effective way, has served and continues to serve as the university's conscience. He has been the living embodiment of the board's guiding principle-- always act in the long-term best interest of the university as a whole.
A half century ago, right at the beginning of his service on the board, an article about the youngest trustee in Cornell history was remarkably prescient in forecasting how effective a trustee he might be. I quote, "Only time will show whether Ezra can achieve the traits or foresight, humility, truthfulness, persistence, courageousness, and unbounded generosity that his ancestor is noted to have possessed. Already he has established a fine start." That fine start is still blossoming 50 years later. Ezra, you have been a steady inspiration, a thoughtful, balanced, and stellar example of a lifetime of dedication and service to us all. You are the personification of not only the founder, but of the university, its idea, its mission, and its promise.
- What's it like to be a trustee of Cornell University?
- It's, first of all, a great responsibility, a great honor, and honestly, it's a lot of fun. There's a lot of joy to serving one of the most important universities in the nation. It's a fiduciary responsibility. And although the board has 64 members, every one of them is sincerely involved with the future of the university.
- It's very hard for an institution to have a memory. It really doesn't. It isn't a live being. What Ezra brings to Cornell is a kind of real institutional history.
- He has this pervasive knowledge of what's happening on campus, at the alumni, the students, and that's an incredible resource for the board. But I would say that the greatest thing about Ezra as a board member and a colleague is he's just warm. He has incredible candor. He's a very thoughtful person. So he's listening to others, and he makes people feel very welcome.
- Ezra, in many respects, brings to the board of trustees-- has brought to the board of trustees-- what he brings to his life, and that is integrity, graciousness, principle, and conviction.
- He exudes a kind of kindness which resonates with the trustees, with his fraternity brothers, with his clients, his employees, but to a great extent, to the trustees that he works with.
- And we can count on him reflecting the attitudes of the community and helping our deliberations based on his being local as well as at Cornell.
- What I really like about Ezra is his warmth and personality. He's just such a great individual, a great guy, and I just really enjoy knowing him. I've known him for 50 years, and he's one of the nicest people, one of the people that I most highly value in my network.
- He cares about Cornell. He cares about that board. He cares about the people on the board and making their experience better. I don't think there is a better person to help guide new board members through their first year and years on the board.
- He's not thinking about next year, about the next five years. He's thinking about the next 50 years.
- The area I think he's done the most that I've seen is in the relationship between the local Ithaca community and the university. He's been a great ambassador for Cornell in that community, but he's also been a great advocate for the community within Cornell.
- Ezra, I just want to congratulate you on 50 years of board service for Cornell University. I think that's an amazing achievement. It's been great to have your service on the board, and I'm sure you're going to have many, many more. But thank you very much indeed for what you've done for Cornell and all of us. Hope to see you soon.
- Congratulations, Ezra, on 50 years of service to Cornell.
- Happy 50th to the ultimate Cornellian. Thank you for everything you do. You set such a high standard for all of us.
- You started so young. So 50 years doesn't mean you're old. Just keep on trucking, man.
- Congratulations on 50 years, Ezra.
- In honor of your 50 years of service to Cornell, I'm going to be changing the Cornell club's Wi-Fi password to Ezra Cornell.
- Ezra, the only trustee with more seniority than me, and I don't mind that one bit.
- I don't want to see you go Ezra, but 50 years is a lot of service to Cornell into the board. So congratulations.
- Happy anniversary, Ezra.
- Congratulations, Ezra. 50 years on the Cornell board of trustees. Well done.
- Congratulations on 50 years. You're much too young.
- Congratulations, Ezra, on 50 amazing years. Thanks for everything you have done and will continue to do for our amazing institution.
- Ezra, Sigma Phi love.
- Ezra, congratulations on 50 years of service to the trustees. And I would particularly like to offer you my thanks for your service to the Buildings and Properties Committee.
- Happy anniversary, Ezra, and well done.
- Ezra, congratulations on 50 years on the Cornell University board of trustees. Wow. You sure had a big influence on generations of people, including me. Congratulations, Ezra. Happy 50th.
- Hi, Ezra. Congratulations on 50 years on the board.
- Congratulations on this amazing anniversary. I hope you are with us for many years to come.
- Hi, Ezra, it's Jaewon.
- Hi, Ezra, it's JT
- From the most junior members to the most senior member of the board of trustees.
- We would like to wish you a happy 50th anniversary.
- Go big red.
- Congratulations, Ezra. 50 years, wonderful. It's just a remarkable achievement. It feels like 75.
- Congratulations on a half a century of commitment and work for Cornell.
- Congratulations on reaching your 50th year of Cornell board service. Your personal grace and humility are truly exemplary, and I'm proud that I'm your friend.
- Congratulations, pa. I love you.
- Do you think Ezra Cornell could imagine where we are today?
- I think not only Ezra Cornell, but Andrew White would expect us to be as large and as dynamic and full of purpose as they were. I enjoy being a trustee, and I think the university benefits from my experience, knowledge, and dedication. But maybe it makes sense to pass that torch to a younger person with more ideas. And so [INAUDIBLE] work that out.
SPEAKER 1: On behalf of Cornell University and the board of trustees, it is my honor to present you with this certificate expressing profound and sincere gratitude for your 50 years of dedicated and distinguished service. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
50 years, and he got a certificate.
It is now my pleasure to introduce the chair of the Cornell University Council, Dr. Nathan Connell, a 2001 graduate of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Nathan is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the chief of hematology at Brigham and Women's Hospital. In the past year, Nathan has been working on a new alumni advocacy effort, the alumni mentorship program for current students, and shaping the council's role for the upcoming capital campaign. Please join me in welcoming Nathan this morning as he begins his second year.
NATHAN CONNELL: Good morning, and thank you, Bob. Can we just get another round of applause for Ezra Cornell?
Thank you. Thank you for showing us what a lifetime of service means to Cornell. And that's what we're here today to talk about-- all of you and your lifetime of commitment and service to Cornell. I'm pleased to welcome you to our joint annual meeting and talk about the success of council this year.
We have had phenomenal success. We've seen expanded engagement through ambassador updates, nominations to volunteer positions, and record attendance at TCAM weekend. Last year, council members logged over 400 ambassador updates through formal talks, social media, and meeting with prospective students through CAAAN, our Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network.
I'm also very pleased today to announce that our development committee has helped secure 411 gifts from council members, representing a 92% participation rate amongst council members, a record all time high for the history of council.
Through a partnership between council and Cornell Career Services, we launched CUeLINKS two years ago, and now several thousand students and alumni are making new connections to each other to facilitate career development and lifelong engagement with the university. Our membership committee has selected one of the most diverse classes in council history, and we continue to make sure our membership reflects the diverse demographics are of our alumni body.
Among the members joining us today we find physicians, attorneys, farmers, writers, publishers, consultants, along with an Academy Award winning filmmaker, a jewelry designer, an aficionado of Cornell history, and experts in strategy and development for higher education. Our theme this year for TCAM weekend is from theory to practice and back again, and this represents Cornell at its core.
Students, faculty, and alumni take theories out into the real world as a living experiment. We use it in practice, learn from that experience, and it allows us to continue the work and improve what we do. As a student in CALS, and now as an alumnus, I get the privilege of seeing this happen every day.
CALS and the Cornell Cooperative Extension is woven into the fabric of every county in New York state. Work from our researchers is translated into practice and applied across farms and other businesses where the experiences, both the successes and the failures, are brought back to campus and we learn from those experiences. The lessons that we learn are not just brought back to the state of New York, but to the global community. It is a true global classroom for our students and faculty.
Yesterday we learned about the future of nanotech, the role of digital agriculture, and inequality in American education. Today we will have faculty present lightning talks, and students will pitch ideas for startups. I think a lot about where council has been and where council is going. Council was created at the end of the greater 1950 Cornell campaign, and it was our first chair, Francis [? Sheets, ?] who attributed this success to the dedicated knowledge and advice of our alumni volunteers. He called the volunteers catalytic agents to ferret out the interests of Cornellians and direct those interests to the right places at Cornell.
Over the past decade, guided by my predecessors, many of whom are here in this audience today, we have changed council to better meet the university's needs. Last year I outlined the role of education in our society and stressed the importance of the need for alumni to serve as advocates for higher education, not just a Cornell education, but all colleges and universities.
Over the past year, with the charge from the board of trustees and the university administration, volunteers from council partnered with university relations and alumni affairs to develop an Advocacy Network. We are now going to engage alumni in support of the university's public policy priorities. And if you'd like to learn more about this. We are having a session tomorrow morning at 10:30 to talk about the pilot and its anticipated rollout next spring.
As you have probably noticed, I keep referencing a framework of alumni volunteers partnering with the university staff to create and launch a program and sustain it for the university. With that in mind, I'm going to take a brief moment to shine a spotlight on the university's staff-- a group of individuals at Cornell who are always here tirelessly working behind the scenes to make Cornell what it is every single day.
The experience that we have this weekend, just like every weekend we come back to the university, is because of the dedication of the staff, from the groundskeepers who maintain one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world, to the staff who help our students and alumni navigate their careers. This university exists because of the people, the staff who are integral and inseparable from the Cornell community.
Thank you again for all that you do as alumni volunteers. We've had tremendous success this year because of your commitment to our mission to inspire, inform, and engage Cornellians around the world. We're here today because of our love of this university, its history, its present work, and its potential for the next 150 years. So with that, please enjoy the rest of your TCAM weekend, and thank you for all that you do.
SPEAKER 1: It's now my privilege to introduce President Martha Pollack for her third state of the university address. Since her inauguration over two years ago, President Pollack has steadily advanced her four priorities-- academic distinction, educational verve, civic responsibility, and One Cornell. She meets regularly with faculty, students, and employee groups on campuses here in Ithaca and in New York City to articulate her vision and to incorporate their suggestions for advancing these themes.
She travels around the country and the world to engage an ever-expanding number of alumni for the same reasons. I think she has a secret goal of meeting all 250,000 Cornell alumni face-to-face to make the case for investing in Cornell's future. When I hear from Cornellians who have met her, the nearly universal reaction is how genuine, down to earth, unpretentious, and accessible she is. We are very, very fortunate to have her as our leader. Please join me in welcoming the 14th president of Cornell University, Martha Pollack.
MARTHA POLLACK: Thank you, Bob. And let me say what an amazing partner Bob is in the work I do. In fact, the entire board of trustees is really quite amazing. And even though we've been doing a lot of acknowledgment, can I ask all the trustees to stand, and let's give them one more round of applause.
It's really great to see everyone here. I have a number of wonderful things to tell you about what's going on at Cornell, but before I do, I just want to take a moment to thank all of you as alumni. One of the things that I've been so impressed on as I've been on this quest to meet every single one of our alumni is how strong our community is, not just here on campus, but around the world. Whenever I meet alumni, I'm struck by how the education they began here at Cornell never really ended. Cornell alumni are voraciously curious. They, you, are creative and innovative. And the things you do are simply amazing. To me, seeing so many Cornell alumni there in the world constantly learning, thinking, and having an impact, that, to me, is the best proof possible of the value of Cornell as an institution and of the importance of our mission.
Carl Sagan once said that to know the past you have to understand the present. So I'm going to start with a little bit of history. Now, a lot of people have said things like that, but this is Cornell. So I'll quote Sagan.
I think most of you already know that Ezra Cornell made his fortune on the telegraph. What you may not know is that in the years just before Cornell was founded, he was struggling with the question of what to do with that fortune. The way he put it was, "My greatest care now is how to spend this large income to do the greatest good to those who are properly dependent on me, to the poor, and to posterity."
And if you look back at the correspondence that he and Andrew Dickson White had in the months before Cornell was chartered, it's striking how many of the concerns that occupy us now as a society were at the forefront of their minds then. They talked about divisions within society, about inequality of opportunity, about racism and closed-mindedness, and about a devaluation of truth, very much the things you hear talked about today. And they struggled, as I think many of us struggle, with the question-- Of all the ways that I could react to this situation, what can I do that will actually help? Their response, of course, was to create this university with its rallying cry of any person, any study.
Ezra Cornell founded this university not only as a legacy, but also as an investment, and it was an investment he made seeking a very specific return. He was looking to do the greatest good with his fortune, and he was looking to do it for posterity.
154 years later, Ezra Cornell would have found some of our challenges as a society very familiar, and some unimaginable. Today we face problems that are both social and technical they demand both expertise and humanity. They're challenges that, in short, I think require the kind of education and the kind of knowledge that we strive for at Cornell, one that will do the greatest good not just for each individual student, but for the communities and societies that they live in, lead, and serve.
I'm going to divide my talk today into those four categories that chairman Harrison mentioned, corresponding to the four priorities that I see as central to Cornell's mission and success-- academic distinction, educational verve, civic responsibility, and One Cornell. And I'll start, as I always do, with academic distinction, because academic distinction is our bedrock. Everything we do, everything we achieve, stands on our world-class academics.
Thanks to continuing investment across all of our campuses, we continue to attract and retain some of the best faculty anywhere in the world who continue to garner recognition at all stages of their careers. Just over the past year, our faculties have earned the following awards. And get ready, it's a pretty long list.
A Guggenheim Fellow, three Sloan Fellows, two Simmons foundation Fellows, two inductees to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, two inductees to the National Academy of Sciences, one to the National Academy of Engineering, and one to the National Academy of inventors, seven NSF career awards, four Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, and one Wyndham Campbell Prize in Literature, which was awarded to poet and associate professor of English, [INAUDIBLE] Hutchinson, whose lines, to quote one reviewer, "act as though they've never heard of prose."
Many of our faculty are exceptional not only in their own fields, but across disciplines, taking advantage of both Cornell's extraordinary breadth of expertise and our institutional commitment to cross-disciplinary collaboration. We've introduced a number of structural changes this past year, as well as new initiatives that enable our faculty to step over even more of academia as traditional barriers.
Our radical collaboration initiative continues to push the boundaries of knowledge and creativity in realms of data science, digital agriculture, genome biology, the humanities, and beyond. New departments of computational biology and statistics and of data science, our new Institute of Politics and Global Affairs in New York City, and the new Center for Social Sciences here in Ithaca are all committed to bringing together different areas of human knowledge in pursuit of understanding that does not lie along traditional paths.
Our SC Johnson college of business, now in its third year, is doing extremely well, with increased enrollment across all of its graduate programs and a near doubling of applications to Dyson, as a result of which we've increased the size of our first-year class from 90 students to 159. Thanks to our generous donors, the College of Business endowment is growing steadily, ensuring that the college itself will continue its upward path.
In FY '18, our faculty conducted close to $700 million in externally-funded research, and our preliminary data for 2019 show a 7% increase over that. Indeed, over the last two years our Ithaca and Weill Cornell Medicine Campuses have seen a 27% increase in expenditures supported by the National Institutes of Health. Our Ithaca campus continues to diversify its research portfolio with funding not just from a number of federal agencies, but also from New York State, and from multiple foundations and corporations.
In tech transfer, our Center for Technology Licensing processed 59 new non-plant licenses, a record for us, and tied our previous record of startups based on Cornell technologies with 15. In entrepreneurship, Cornell ranked sixth nationally for its undergraduate programs in terms of producing entrepreneurs who successfully raise venture funding. Since 2006 we've produced 796 founders of 735 companies, cumulatively raising more than $23.8 billion.
I see the research enterprise at Cornell as core not only to our academic distinction, but also to our larger mission of doing the most good in all areas of human life and endeavor. For example, our Cornell initiative for digital agriculture, which is headed by the Barbara McClintock Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Susan [INAUDIBLE], is working to radically transform agriculture and food systems to meet the challenge of feeding a global population of 10 billion people by 2050.
At Cornell Tech our researchers are working with support of a grant from Facebook to find new ways to identify deep fake videos, which are created with the intent to deceive their viewers. And our new Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation-- we have researchers from both the Ithaca and Weill Cornell campuses who are studying the interactions among diet, the immune system, and the microbiome to better understand the complex relationship among nutrition, inflammation, and the development of disease.
Now, I got to tell you something. Last year after TCAM I started keeping a file on my computer. It was called cool research for the 2019 state of the university address.
But if I try to use it this morning, we'd never make it past my first priority, and you'd never make it to lunch, much less dinner. So I'm going to have to stop with these three examples and go on to my second priority-- educational verve.
Educational verve encompasses the entire experience of a Cornell education, both inside and outside of the classroom. It starts with our incredible faculty, of course, but it also includes our amazing students. And I could use all kinds of metrics to tell you how extraordinary our students are, but as much as I, a computer scientist, love numbers, our students are so much more than the sum of their awards or their test scores.
So I'd like to very briefly introduce you to three of them. First is [? Naidoom ?] [INAUDIBLE], a senior in biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering. [? Naidoom, ?] who came to Cornell from California, recently won the Robinson Appel Humanitarian Award, and he used the funding to help launch a mentorship and college prep program for minority students in New York City. The program consists of a two-week winter workshop a yearlong mentorship partnership that prepares high school juniors for the college application process.
He also recently co-authored his first paper, which appeared last month in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. Let me read you its title.
You're laughing already. Controlling Surface Chemical Heterogeneities of Ultrasmall Fluorescent Coarse Shell Silica Nanoparticles as Revealed by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography. [? Naidoom's ?] an undergraduate.
The second student I'd like to introduce you to is [INAUDIBLE]. He just finished his master's degree in plant breeding and genetics. Teddy one Cornell's three-minute thesis competition with his research on [INAUDIBLE] substrate specialty in potatoes. Or, as he explained it in his very abbreviated rendition-- what makes a red potato red?
Coming from Coimbatore, India, where all the potatoes are white, his fascination with potato breeding was born not in a lab, but in his first trip to Wegmans, where he encountered potatoes in a rainbow of colors. And he uttered the fateful words that herald so many great research projects-- I wonder how that happens.
And third, a young woman I won't name out of concern for her family's safety, who came to Cornell through an extraordinary path. Having been denied an education in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, she taught herself English, and then continued to teach herself all the way through the high school curriculum. After resisting both an arranged marriage and attempts on her life by relatives, she found her way to a scholarship in the United States and a job as a research assistant at Weill Cornell. With the support and encouragement of alumni, she is now a graduate student here in Ithaca with the goal of ultimately returning to Afghanistan to train health professionals.
Cornell students are more than just bright and hardworking. They're curious, they're resourceful, and they're intent on having an impact. And our goal is to support their learning in every aspect of their Cornell experience in ways that are innovative, evidence-based, and always moving forward.
We're building on the success of our active learning initiative, which uses creative activities, in-class problem solving, and technology to make classroom learning more engaged, engaging, and effective. Nine new awards were made last year across the university, transforming an additional 40 courses that serve 4,500 students per year. A new award competition is already planned for next fall to further expand the initiative, which is now receiving national recognition.
And our Engaged Cornell program, which aims to bring Cornell's foundational goal of community engagement into classrooms and student life, is now reaching the end of its first three years and reviewing its goals for its next phase. The program is currently ahead of all initial targets-- number of courses offered, course participation, and level of undergraduate involvement.
Athletics and physical education at Cornell are, as always, an essential part of campus life, whether a student is a varsity athlete or taking an outdoor ed course in tree climbing. Yes, we have an outdoor ed course in tree climbing. Our athletic accomplishments last year included, as part of a very long list, a men's hockey Evian championship, a national championship in wrestling, and a first-place finish for our equestrian team at the Ivy Show. And in case you haven't been paying attention this fall, our women's volleyball team has won 10 in a row.
But I also want to mention an athletics event that you might not have heard of, which is called the 400 Club Breakfast. It's the annual event at which we honor varsity athletes who have maintained a 4.0 grade point average. Now, that's obviously an extremely impressive achievement for any student, all the more so for a student also juggling the demands of varsity athletics. And last year we recognized 107 students for doing just that.
Wellness of body and mind are essential to developing into a capable adult. In support of that, Cornell Health has developed a number of new initiatives, including telehealth programs connecting Weill Cornell Medicine specialists with the Ithaca campus, and a revamped mental health service that significantly expands both access and flexibility. Concurrently, we're conducting a campus-wide mental health review with both internal and external assessments to find better ways to support our students and help them thrive at Cornell and beyond.
Also, construction is now well underway on our North Campus residential expansion. When complete it will look like the image you're seeing, and will provide an additional 800 beds for sophomores by fall semester 2021, and 1,200 additional beds for freshmen by fall 2022. The expansion will take a great deal of stress off of our students, who will now be guaranteed on-campus housing through their sophomore years, and will also allow for a modest increase in enrollment and access to some of our most popular academic programs.
All the buildings will be net carbon zero ready to accommodate future zero carbon technologies, with rooftop solar arrays and energy performance that will outperform the New York State energy code by 30%. The emphasis on sustainability and readiness for new technologies is part of our campus-wide commitment to being environmentally responsible, a commitment that's recognized by our number eight rating in the Princeton Review of Green Colleges, above all of our ivy plus peers.
Which brings me to our third priority-- civic responsibility. To me, civic responsibility refers to our responsibility to educate global citizens and to be a good institutional citizen, acting responsibly in the context of our community, our nation, and our world. A central part of that civic responsibility is honoring our commitment to be a university for any person.
So I am proud that our entering class, the class of 2023, includes more than 13% of students who are first in their families to attend college. Almost half identify as students of color, and 23% are underrepresented minorities. But of course, it's not enough just to admit a diverse student body. We must also support them, creating an environment in which each student has the opportunity to succeed. The world-class education that students receive here at Cornell is quite frankly expensive to provide, and the cost of a Cornell education is always a concern, especially for middle-class students.
Thanks to the generosity of our alumni, combined with a strong institutional commitment, we continue to meet the full financial need of every admitted domestic student and to move more and more of our aid away from loans and into grants. Last year we awarded $257 million in grants, and we also saw the lowest percent increase in undergraduate tuition in decades.
Now, the Cornell education does remain a very solid investment. According to pay scale, the 20-year return on investment ranges from about $650,000 to nearly $800,000, but we know that we still need to do more, both to hold the line on the cost of attending Cornell, and to increase the socioeconomic diversity of our student body. So it's impossible to overstate the importance of financial aid to our students, and also to the university, also to the future of our university. Not only is it key to meeting our any person commitment, but it's essential for us to remain competitive and attract the very best students.
I want to sincerely thank all of you who have contributed over the years with gifts that help us provide financial aid, which remains a primary fundraising priority. I also want to thank everyone who made possible our historic announcement last month that Weill Cornell Medicine, a new program that will eliminate debt for all medical students qualifying for financial aid. This is a huge--
I was there, and there were a lot of happy students. That's a huge step forward for the Medical College and our students, one that will allow them to choose their paths based on where they can do the most good, and not on whether they'll be able to pay back their loans.
There's another aspect of access that has been more and more in the spotlight lately, and has to do with changes in both law and practice surrounding immigration policy. International students have been a part of the Cornell community since our earliest classes, which included students from Bulgaria, Canada, England, Haiti, Hungary, and Russia. Today half of our graduate students are international, as is roughly 10% of our undergraduate class, and they contribute immensely to our community and our nation.
So it's incumbent on us to do what we can to keep the doors open to them, and we've been working to do so by signing on to relevant amicus briefs and with other Ivy Plus schools, writing to each member of the New York State Assembly and congressional delegation ahead of key votes, and, last March, co-authoring an op ed on the risks of curtailing student visas.
Access describes students' ability to come to Cornell. Inclusion is about what happens after they arrive, and that was a focus of the presidential task force on campus climate that I convened shortly after coming to Cornell. I'm pleased to report that about two-thirds of their recommendations have now been put into practice. Today I'll just mention one of those goals, which was creating, through an inclusive campus-wide process, a statement of Cornell's core values. The statement describes and reaffirms our core values of purposeful discovery, free and open inquiry and expression, a community of belonging, exploration across boundaries, changing lives through public engagement, and respect for the natural environment.
And you know, people say to me a lot, well, what are you going to do with that statement when you have it? And my answer is simple. I'm going to use it, and I hope you will too. It's there to be used, both as a tool to explain the Cornell ethos to new members of our community, and as a benchmark against which to make those tough decisions that we face as leaders and as Cornellians.
The last priority that I want to talk about today is One Cornell. One Cornell is about capitalizing on our strengths, both within and across our various campuses-- Ithaca, New York City, Geneva, New York, and Qatar, ensuring that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Cornell Tech continues to grow and thrive in its Roosevelt island home and to drive the ongoing tech real revolution in New York City. It is ahead of all scheduled milestones for square footage, for faculty and students. It's given rise to 64 startup companies, six of which have already been acquired, and which together employ more than 250 people and have raised more than $78 million in investment capital.
Our first class of the students in the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity will spend next summer at Cornell Tech, and the second class has now joined them in what has become one of the most sought after programs at Cornell, giving undergraduates the combination of liberal arts and tech education in Ithaca and in New York City.
A few months ago, I saw a tweet from a professor of biology at Cal State named Terry McGlynn, and he wrote, the sciences ask, can we do this, and the humanities ask, should we do this. In an age when technology seems unstoppable, these two twin questions-- can we and should we-- are key, and the Milstein Fellows are being equipped to answer them.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that this tweet was posted a pic above a picture of brownie batter flavored hummus.
And I feel fully confident to say that in this instance, while can we may be answered with yes, should we?
I'll say no more. In addition to our amazing Cornell Tech campus, we now have a new footprint at the former RCA building at 570 Lexington in New York City, where 11 Cornell programs, including ones from ILR, Human Ecology, and engineering now have dedicated space across four floors. It's tremendously important not just to have a permanent home for all of these New York City programs, but to have them in one shared location where students and faculty can interact, collaborate, and feel at home as part of One Cornell.
And as Cornell's size and distinction grow, so do its reputation and impact. Cornell researchers are tapped for their expertise in just about every area imaginable. Almost every morning you'll see major news outlets quoting Cornellians. Cornell was also very much in the news earlier this year in New York City, when Governor Cuomo tapped our dean of engineering, Lance Collins, along with Mary Boyce, the head of engineering at Columbia, to help avert a dreaded L-train shutdown for 15 months of repairs to damage that was caused by Hurricane Sandy.
A quarter of a million New Yorkers ride the L-train every day, and the closure had been dubbed L-pocalypse. Enter the engineers, who headed down for a midnight tour of the tunnel under the East River to see the situation for themselves. As they were walking, Governor Cuomo warned Dean Collins not to pet the cats, because they weren't cats.
Dean Collins did not pet them, and thanks to his leadership, an alternative solution was developed that has allowed the L-train to run during repairs.
I want to close today by quoting an author who, although not a Cornellian, captivated many of us with her memoir of intellectual awakening-- Tara Westover, the author of the book Educated. In an interview last summer, Dr. Westover was asked how being educated changes us as people.
She answered, "I don't think education is so much a state of certainty as it is a process of inquiry. I don't think an educated person is someone who can recite an army of facts, but someone who has some flexibility of mind, who's willing to examine their own prejudice, who has acquired a depth of understanding that allows them to see the world from another point of view." To me, education is exactly that-- a process of seeking that becomes a way of being.
For 154 years, Cornell has welcomed students into a community of learning and scholarship like no other, a community for any person in any study. It has taught them, challenged them, awakened them, and engaged them. It has sent them out with, yes, the knowledge, but also the understanding and curiosity and flexibility of mind to seek truth wherever it may lie, and put that truth to work. And it has sent them out with a love of this institution, which has done so much good for so many, and which continues year after year to provide returns on Ezra Cornell's investment to do the greatest good. Thank you very much.
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President Martha E. Pollack will deliver the State of the University Address to an Ithaca campus audience on Oct. 18, 2019 as part of Cornell's Trustee-Council Annual Meeting.