SPEAKER 1: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The 150th Charter Day ceremony has begun. Leading the procession is the university marshal, Professor Charles Walcott.
SPEAKER 2: Following the university marshal throughout the procession will be student marshals who are leaders representing various student organizations.
SPEAKER 1: Student marshal Don Muir, president of the class of 2015, and Rachel Harmon, a 2015 Rhodes Scholar recipient are leading the delegates representing peer universities and colleges.
SPEAKER 2: Student marshal Sarah Balik will now lead several groups in the procession. First, Cornell's ROTC commanding officer is Captain James Horten of the Navy. He is accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel David Schrader of the Air Force, and Lieutenant Colonel David Barber of the Army.
SPEAKER 1: Next are the leaders of the university's shared governance groups, the University Assembly, Employee Assembly, Student Assembly, and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.
SPEAKER 2: Representatives of our world-renowned libraries are next, led by university librarian, Anne Kenney.
SPEAKER 1: Student marshal Thaddeus Talbot is now leading Interim Provost Harry Katz and Dean of the Faculty Joe Burns, and several of our distinguished Charter Day weekend presenters.
SPEAKER 2: Joining student marshal Lucia [? Mongia ?] are representatives of our first college in the procession, the New York State Veterinary College, which is led by Michael Kotlikoff, the Austin O. Hooey Dean. Veterinary student Catherine Beebe is carrying the college symbol banner.
SPEAKER 1: Student marshal Philip Goldstein is now bringing in the Cornell Law School, led by Eduardo Penavler, the Allan R. Tessler dean. Law student Joshua Robinson is carrying the school symbol banner.
SPEAKER 2: Student marshal Sidney [? Reid ?] is now ushering in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, which is led by Soumitra Cutta, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean. Johnson student Raymond Tuwumu is carrying the school symbol banner.
SPEAKER 1: Joining student marshal Terrence [? Louis ?] are representatives of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, led by Kent Kleinman, the ale and Ira Druckier Dean. AAP student Cora Visnick is carrying the college symbol banner.
SPEAKER 2: Student marshal Theresa [INAUDIBLE] is ushering in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations led by Kevin Hallock, the Kenneth F. Kahn Dean. ILR student, Laura [? Bext ?] is carrying the school symbol banner.
SPEAKER 1: Student marshal Armaan Kapoor is bringing the School of Hotel Administration led by Michael Johnson, the Bradley H. Stone Dean. Hotel student Kathleen Davin is carrying this school symbol banner.
SPEAKER 2: Joining student marshal Veronica D'Agostino are representatives of the College of Human Ecology led by Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean. Human Ecology student Logan [INAUDIBLE] is carrying the college symbol banner.
SPEAKER 1: Joining student marshal Erica Whitestone are representatives of the Engineering College led by Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean. Engineering student Lee Wang is carrying the college symbol banner.
SPEAKER 2: Next are student marshals Inez Morales and Jerry Freeman and representatives of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences led by Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean. CAL student Maynard [INAUDIBLE] is carrying the college symbol banner.
SPEAKER 1: Next are student marshals Lipi Gupta and [INAUDIBLE] and representatives of the College of Arts and Sciences led by Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean. Arts and sciences student Amy Delano Frankhouser is carrying the college symbol banner.
SPEAKER 2: Student marshals Rachel Price and Emma Court are now leading members of Cornell University's administration.
SPEAKER 1: Ladies and gentlemen, next, please welcome past university presidents, Hunter Rawlings, Jeffrey Lehman, and Frank Rhodes.
Joining them is president-elect Beth Garrett.
They are led by student marshal Cameron Pritchett.
SPEAKER 2: Student marshals Michael Ostro and Rachel Gerber are now leading the chair of Cornell's board of trustees, Bob Harrison, followed by past chairmen of the board, Austin Kiplinger, Harold Tanner, Peter Meinig, as well as fellow trustees and emeritus trustees.
SPEAKER 1: Student marshal Natalie Rosso is next. She has been the student representative on the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee and is leading our program participants.
SPEAKER 2: University archivist, Elaine Engst.
SPEAKER 1: Cornell University historians, Professors Glenn Altschuler and Isaac Kramnick.
SPEAKER 2: Ezra Cornell, a descendant of the university's founder, is bearing a copy of the Cornell University charter.
SPEAKER 1: And we welcome Lieutenant Governor of New York State, Kathleen Hochul.
SPEAKER 2: Vice-Provost Judy Appleton is carrying the symbol of the university, the Cornell mace.
SPEAKER 1: And the president of Cornell University, David J. Skorton.
[BELLS RING MELODICALLY]
We ask everyone to please now take your seats as we begin our ceremony. Thank you.
BOB HARRISON: Good morning, everyone. And happy Charter Day. We have such a vast and varied Cornell community, easily 270,000 people strong. And it is a thrill to see it represented in this gathering of students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, neighbors, and friends. Welcome, everyone.
My name is Bob Harrison and I'm a member of the class of 1976 and the parent of a member of the class of 2017. I also have the tremendous honor of serving as chairman of the board of trustees during this extraordinary anniversary year.
We were welcomed into Barton Hall this morning by a video produced by the gifted Micah Cormier and a performance by the incredibly talented Cornell University Wind Ensemble. Please join me in thanking them for setting the stage so beautifully.
This weekend's festival of ideas marks the culmination of nine months of celebration here on campus and around the world. We began our birthday party last September in New York City by lighting the Empire State Building in Cornel; red, and continued on to seven more cities in the United States and in Asia, with one more to go, London. We have been celebrating the unique personality, spirit, tradition, and community that has tied the Cornell family together across the years and around the world.
This weekend, we renew our pride at home in Ithaca by celebrating the profound academic, scientific, artistic, and social accomplishments of this great university. It is the perfect capstone for an historic year.
Exactly 150 years ago today, Cornell University's charter was signed into law by Governor Reuben Fenton, giving birth to a truly revolutionary American institution. This morning, we commemorate that day.
Our typical manner of speaking does not make it easy. Every day, we confront ordinary things described with superlatives, like incredible or transformative. We characterize everyday phenomena as game-changing, disruptive, or revolutionary. Overuse threatens to diminish their meaning on occasions like this. But I would, without exaggeration, use every one of those terms in describing this very young university.
The great European universities--
The great European universities like Oxford and Cambridge had already existed for more than 700 years when Ezra Cornell and AD White sought to emulate the best of their curricula and culture for their new American university. We are by far the youngest institution in the Ivy League. Harvard was 229 years old in 1865, and Dartmouth, our closest in age, was 104. And yet Cornell's 150 years have touched three different centuries, helping shape the meaning of American higher education in each of them and improving our world in countless ways.
In the 19th century, Cornell declared its radically democratic, anti-elitist founding ideal to become an institution where any person can find instruction in any study. We opened our doors from day one to anyone with the talent and drive to pursue education, regardless of his or her financial means, gender, race, nationality, or religion. We offered instruction from day one that combined the best of classical and practical education. And we adopted, from day one, an overtly public mission. This combination of access, breadth, and engagement is what we reflexively recognize today as the shape of the modern research university.
If any person, any study is the foundation upon which Cornell is built, freedom and responsibility is the compass by which its course has been guided. Professor Carl Becker delivered this phrase to an audience just like this one gathered to celebrate Cornell's 75th anniversary in 1940.
"Both on campus and in the world outside, Cornellians are driven to balance the freedom we have to define our own paths toward greater knowledge and personal growth with the responsibility we feel to participate fully in the community and to develop and deploy knowledge with a public purpose."
This balance enabled the Cornell of the 20th century to develop global leadership in areas as diverse as agriculture, literature, engineering, architecture, and human development. It also prompted Cornell to establish a medical college in New York City, 230 miles from Ithaca, because that is where the public need was greatest.
At Cornell's centennial celebration in 1965, Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared that Cornell is-- and I quote-- "a major contributor to the intellectual growth and material abundance of America and to the very peace of the world." The governor recognized that this beautiful and vibrant university, tucked into the Finger Lakes in rural New York State, had a line of sight and a breadth of influence that reached very far beyond Cayuga's waters. His statement resonates just as strongly today as it did then.
Today, Cornell Tech, in New York City, is reimagining education and outreach in the 21st century and creating the leaders and companies for the digital age. Today, Cornell's line of sight is truly global, as its students and faculty are solving issues of great complexity and grave consequence on every continent. From food insecurity, to climate change, to poverty alleviation, we are the land grant institution to the world.
This weekend's events have given us vivid and stirring examples of what Cornell has achieved so far and what it continues to stand for. As I stand here today, it is impossible to overstate the pride I feel in what Cornell has accomplished in only 150 years. It has been a profound honor to participate in the life of this great American University and a privilege to be with you today to wish Cornell, to wish all of us a very happy birthday. Thank you, each of you, for the ways that you personify what makes Cornell such a special place. We should all be very proud to be part of Cornell's living history. Thank you.
And now, it is my pleasure to introduce Elaine Engst, the Cornell University archivist, who will help us understand Cornell's roots a bit better. Elaine, who earned a master's degree in history from Cornell in 1972, has been an indispensable steward of the university's story since 1979. Her knowledge of and affection for this institution are unmatched. Elaine, welcome.
ELAINE ENGST: Our story begins on February 7, 1865, when Andrew Dickson White the young state senator from Onondaga County, introduced into the New York State Senate an act to establish the Cornell University. The bill provided for the creation of "a corporation to be known as the Cornell University, which shall be located in the town of Ithaca." The corporation would be funded by income from the sale of lands granted to the state by the Morrill Land Grant College Act. The bill also stipulated that "the Honorable Ezra Cornell of Ithaca would provide a fund of $500,000 at least."
Having established the legal and financial base of the university, the charter also provided the blueprint for the radical educational experiment that would become Cornell University.
While the Morrill Act provided a mandate and support for the teaching of agriculture and the mechanic arts, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White considered it essential that these studies be integrated into a broad liberal education, with all subjects treated equally.
White's senate bill reiterated that "New York's Land Grant Institution would be established for the cultivation of the arts and sciences, and of literature, and the instruction in agriculture, the mechanic arts, and military tactics, and in all knowledge." These ideals continue to define Cornell's educational mission.
Equally important was the founder's commitment to a non-denominational university. Cornell and White met when the bill to charter the Cornell Public Library in Ithaca came before the Senate Committee on Literature, which White chaired. They discovered that they shared similar sentiments about religion. The charter, therefore, specified that "persons of every religious denomination or of no religious denomination shall be equally eligible to all offices and appointments." Despite the controversy surrounding this commitment, religious orthodoxy would not limit the scope of instruction in the new university, and religion would remain a private decision for Cornell faculty, students, and staff.
Both Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White had also long supported educational opportunities for women. In an 1862 letter to the abolitionist Garrett Smith, White declared that his first requirement for a truly great university was to secure a place where the most highly prized instruction may be afforded to all, regardless of sex or color. Along with the explicit word "persons" the charter is deliberately gender neutral, using the words "applicants" and "students."
Two years later, Ezra Cornell would write to his four-year-old granddaughter, "I want you to keep this letter until you grow up to be a woman and want to go to a good school, where you can have a good opportunity to learn, so you can show it to the president and faculty of the university to let them know that it is the wish of your grandpa that girls as well as boys should be educated at the Cornell University."
Cornell's charter also mandated that the university be open to applicants without distinction as to rank, previous occupation, or locality. Although the charter makes no specific mention of racial and ethnic diversity, White had sponsored legislation to integrate New York's public schools. His bid was unsuccessful. But Cornell University would be open to anyone who was academically qualified, regardless of sex, color, or national origins. After--
After much political maneuvering, on April 21, the New York State Assembly passed the bill. The Senate approved it on April 22. And 150 years ago today, on April 27, 1865, New York State Governor Reuben E. Fenton, in his chambers in the old state capitol in Albany, signed the bill that constitutes the charter of Cornell University. Citizens of the small, rural community of Ithaca, New York would witness and contribute mightily to the first truly American University. Thank you.
BOB HARRISON: Thank you, Elaine. And now, please join me in welcoming the Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York, Kathleen Hochul. A graduate of Syracuse University, the Lieutenant Governor is no stranger to our part of centrally isolated upstate New York.
KATHLEEN HOCHUL: Thank you very much. First of all, I want to commend the makers of that video for having the academic integrity to show some scenes of snow. Just a little truth in advertising there. And as a Buffalonian who endured 7 feet of snow in four days, I thought, this looks pretty good compared to where I come from. So well done on that spectacularly emotional video.
President Skorton, we're soon going to find that Cornell's loss is the Smithsonian, and indeed, the world's gain. But thank you for your many contributions here. And I look forward to working with you in your new capacity.
And to our incoming president, Elizabeth Garrett, I kind of like the sound of first female president. So congratulations on that. It has nice ring to it.
And your board of trustees chairman, Robert Harrison, thank you for your philanthropic work that is transforming the world. So thank you very much for your many contributions. And Ezra Cornell, congratulations on having an incredibly fascinating bloodline that brings you here today.
So good morning. And thank you so much for inviting me to join this incredible gathering of individuals. And on behalf of Governor Cuomo, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to everyone part of the Cornell community on your sesquicentennial celebration of the charter.
You know, in researching the fascinating history-- I don't know nearly as much as Elaine does, and I won't pretend to. But what caught my attention in doing my research is that, yes, the governor, Rubin Fenton, did sign the charter in his office, but he was also invited to come to the first graduating class and speak at the graduation.
And he was ready to come. And all of a sudden, there was some controversy brewing. And as an elected official, it's not something you like to hear about. But apparently, there were critics of this institution from its early inception because it was non-sectarian, it was not favoring one religion over the other, and it did not have a religious leader at the outset as president. And he was starting to hear rumblings that if he came, there might be some criticism from the people who considered this a godless institution. So he sent his lieutenant governor to fill in for him.
So-- and I understand from the writings of the first President White that the lieutenant governor discharged his duties admirably. So I hope I can reach that standard as well. So I just want to assure you, when you don't see our governor here, it had nothing to do with that. He really did have a preexisting commitment and could not be here today.
But you know, that story itself says so much about the institution as well, that it truly was a trendsetter, not afraid of criticism for its novel concept, so unique in its day, unafraid to forge its own path and chart its own destiny.
And as we reflect on the last 150 years, I just want to ask a question. Have you ever thought about what this community, our state, and our nation would be without the vision of Cornell and White 150 years ago? It's hard to imagine. It's truly hard to imagine, a place whose mission is outreach and public service, a place committed to active public engagement, not an ivory tower unto itself.
I can tell you, this area would always be beautiful. There's nothing as beautiful as Ithaca and Tompkins County. But I think it's story would be far different had we not had this vision implanted right here in this community 150 years ago.
In fact, currently, because of Cornell, Tompkins County has the lowest unemployment rate in the entire state. Indeed, it does. It also has the youngest age of any county in the State of New York.
And because of Cornell, this area has become a beacon of progressive thought and has had a profound impact on our political discourse and landscape.
But Cornell University has not just impacted the Southern Tier. It's impacted all corners of the Empire State, from Wall Street to Main Street. And that's because you graduates, you Cornellians, take such an expansive, multidisciplinary approach not just a problem-solving, but to living life, to living life. And your charter that we celebrate today has allowed this campus to have entertained study in every discipline possible.
And this is where I come in. This is where we find that fascinating intersection of government and academia. And it continues to evolve to this day.
Because of the Morrill Land Grant and the establishment, we've seen sustained economic growth in New York State for over 150 years. And in fact, currently, Governor Andrew Cuomo has established 10 regional councils to develop long-term strategic plans. And Mr. President, the governor wanted me to extend his gratitude for you for being involved in the active engagement sought by your founders and actually chairing the regional council in the Southern Tier a few years ago when it was established.
And as a result of these economic development councils, Cornell has been at the center of distributing $10 million to local communities to promote economic development. New businesses are coming here. The Startup New York Plan, we just announced, two major businesses are going to be able to take advantage of economic opportunity right here.
One of them is one of your graduates, who developed a commercialization process when he was a graduate student here. Now, he's going to be starting a business right here in Ithaca. This is the kind of partnership that benefits not just the university but all of us as New Yorkers. And in fact, his business is going to be contracting with the Department of Defense. It's very exciting work.
I've got lists and lists of such stories. But here's just a couple examples of how people on this campus are making a difference in our state.
Cornell engineers are currently studying organic phosphorus in our upstate lakes to eliminate pollution. You know what that means? When they figured this out, we're going to be able to export technology all over the world to give people clean drinking water and save lives.
Right now, your engineers are studying fracture critical bridges and roads all over the state to prevent the next catastrophic event and, again, save lives.
Your college of Agricultural Life Sciences, I had the most rural, congressional district in the state. I saw your graduates everywhere. I saw the impact of what your school does right here in coming up with new innovation to help the farmers be more productive, helping them overcome their challenges. It's incredible. It's incredible.
Your school of Industrial Labor Relations, New York State relies on them for advice and for their labor studies program. It goes on and on. I could be here all day. So--
But I want to tell you a personal story. I'll never forget being at a farm-to-table event to celebrate agriculture in very rural Niagara County when I was in Congress. And a man came up to me. And he was just bursting with pride. He says, I've got to tell you. My son got the letter. He will now be the fourth generation Cornell student from our family, who's going to go to Cornell University. And he's promised to come back and use the education he learns in that institution and come back, just like I did, my dad did, and my father's father did. So I felt the legacy of Cornell, even in the far reaches of our state. He just couldn't wait to tell me that.
And on a personal note, when I was a member of Congress, two of my top staffers were Cornell graduates. And they let me know it every day of the week.
So there's a lot of pride out there. So no doubt, no doubt your founders would be so proud that their vision truly has been realized.
And I was studying about the floor debate that we heard about from Elaine. And the chambers right now preside as president of the Senate. And Senator White said, "Cornell would meet the wants of our children, our children's children, and our children's children to help what is in the best interests of this state." And indeed, it has.
But finally, one cannot overlook, when you're studying the history of this institution, that Cornell University was an ideal born in one of the most tumultuous months in our nation's history. A civil war had just ended, and questions remained. Would the fragile peace last? A president was assassinated. Would the young democracy survive?
A new radical concept in higher education was born in our state capital, but would it endure? 150 years later, we have the answers to those three questions, for collectively, our nation, our state, and this institution have done much more than endure and survive. Each has taken its place elevated above its peers.
Today, Cornell is entering a new era of leadership that stands on the progress of the past and the present. And I can attest that New York State has a brighter, more hopeful future than it has seen in decades, for in this state, we are on the cusp of bold new education reform, bold economic strategies, and bold agricultural initiatives. And the intrinsic bond that has existed for a century and a half between Cornell and the State of New York will only strengthen and grow for the next 150 years.
So on behalf of Governor Cuomo, myself, and the people the State of New York, I thank you, and I wish you all a happy birthday. Thank you very much.
Want me to stand here for a second?
BOB HARRISON: [INAUDIBLE]
And now, it is my honor to introduce two legends of our faculty whose decades-long friendship and abiding love for Cornell have sculpted so much of the celebration that we've experienced this entire year, and particularly, this weekend, Glenn Altschuler and Isaac Kramnick.
One or two of you may have heard about a book they published recently about the history of Cornell, coincidentally, just in time for our sesquicentennial celebration.
Glenn Altschuler, who serves as the chair of the sesquicentennial steering committee, is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies, the Dean of the School of Continuing Education, and a Weiss Presidential Fellow. He also happens to be my daughter's advisor for the past two years and my personal advisor since I became a trustee in 2002.
Isaac Kramnick is the Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government, a Weiss Presidential Fellow also, and truly one of Cornell's most beloved professors. As a member of the sesquicentennial steering committee, he spearheaded the development of the Sesquicentennial Grove, the stunning monument at the top of Libe Slope. Much to the sorrow of many, many people, Professor Kramnick will be retiring at the end of this year after an extraordinary and inspirational Cornell career. Please join me in welcoming Professors Altschuler and Kramnick to the podium.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: The year is 1865. The Civil War has just ended. It is two weeks after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In Upstate New York, two distinctly different men create a university.
GLENN ALTSCHULER: One is a youngish man, aged 33, born to wealth and position, educated at Yale, and well traveled. A former professor of history and rhetoric at the University of Michigan and an outspoken opponent of slavery, Andrew Dickson white envisions an American Oxford or Cambridge, built with a quadrangle system, animated by freedom of learning and teaching, and the urgent need to prepare citizens for public service. Although he supports higher education for women and blacks, White does not, at first, care all that much that his ideal university would attract only the more affluent classes.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: One is an older man, nearly 60, a Quaker, with an antipathy to ostentation and unnecessary expense. He is a self-educated farmer and tinkerer who had barely eked out a living for decades before coming to wealth through an invention that would make Western Union's telegraph network possible.
Inspired by a practical spirit and by the provisions of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, Ezra Cornell envisions a peoples' university located on his farm on Ithaca's east hill. It would teach useful subjects-- agriculture and mechanic arts.
GLENN ALTSCHULER: So different in background and temperament, these two men, who sat together as members of the New York State Senate, ultimately agreed on fundamental and revolutionary principles for higher education in the United States. Their university would be non-denominational, open to individuals who embraced any religious faith or none at all. Their university would be open to women and to Negroes. It would welcome students from families who could not afford the expense of higher education, proposing at first to let them earn their way by manufacturing chairs and shoes or by working in Cascadilla Dining Hall.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: Their university would allow students some degree of choice in selecting their courses. It would offer scientific and classical courses, treat them as equals, and bring together basic and applied studies.
Jacob Gould Sherman, one of White's successors as president, would codify Cornell's character by maintaining that, quote, "at Cornell, the analysis of soils is as important as the analysis of literature."
GLENN ALTSCHULER: The year is 1965, Cornell University's centennial. The practical spirit of Ezra Cornell helps feed the world through the Green Revolution and the expansion of rice production everywhere. It hovers over the brilliant collection of physicists and engineers who make his university the center of nuclear studies. It animates experts on law, labor relations, and organizational behavior, demography, financial accounting, marketing, management, and medicine, design and environmental analysis, hospitality, human development, and family studies, vegetable crops, and veterinary medicine.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: Andrew Dickson White's spirit flourishes in 1965 with the illustrious contribution to literature of Professors Vladimir Nabokov, MH Abrams-- who, by the way, was the chair of Cornell's centennial commission, who died last week at the age of 102-- Alison Lurie, Archie Ammons, and alumni Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon. It flourishes as well with the completion a few years later of an art museum, designed by IM Pei.
White's commitment to public service is reflected in the work of language and area studies specialists, including George Kahin, David Wyatt, and Eleanor Jordan, who make Cornell the leading center for the study of East Asia and Southeast Asia.
GLENN ALTSCHULER: In 1965, at the centennial celebration, Professor Morris Bishop affirms a solemn duty, to bring the dreams of Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White quote, "to earth, to house them in stone, to plant them in the spirits of the teachers and the taught, to look forward and not back, and without forgetting old wisdom, to seek wisdom ever new to prepare an even greater Cornell."
ISAAC KRAMNICK: The year is 2015, the university's sesquicentennial. The practical spirit of Ezra Cornell is embedded in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's selection of Cornell to build a tech campus on Roosevelt Island. Cornell Tech will provide world-class training in applied science, engineering, computing, and entrepreneurship.
GLENN ALTSCHULER: Andrew D. White's commitment to classical studies is reinforced by the construction of Klarman Hall on the Arts Quad, the first new building in more than a century that is dedicated exclusively to the humanities.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: In 2015, Cornell's student body is one of the most diverse among its elite peers. Some 16% of Cornell undergraduates are Asian. 12% are Hispanic. 7% are African-American. And 11% are international. Women constitute a sizable percentage, and often, a majority in every college at Cornell.
GLENN ALTSCHULER: 150 years, two different men, differently trained, and with different temperaments, one shared vision, one revolutionary and beloved university, an Ivy League school with a Big 10 soul, but always the same commitment-- to ensure that the liberal arts complement more self-evidently utilitarian studies.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: In 1898, the different visions of White and Cornell were inscribed on the Eddy Street Gate. They capture the Cornell experience, the Cornell idea, even unto 2015. "So enter, that daily, thou mayest become more learned and thoughtful. So depart that daily, thou mayest become more useful to thy country and to mankind."
GLENN ALTSCHULER: Although Cornellians do indeed have a lot to celebrate, contemporary Cornell should not be complacent. It must advance the aspirational goal of the founders, a university where any person can find instruction in any study, by securing greater socioeconomic diversity in its student body. It must combat an increasingly narrow view of the value of an undergraduate degree and restore public trust in institutions of higher education. It must create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge, theoretical and practical, and maintain a dynamic and productive tension between the equally worthy and elusive ideals of freedom and responsibility.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: In our judgment, Cornell must not allow alumni, corporations, or government agencies to dictate or distort curricula and research priorities.
And particularly important, given their current concerns, faculty, acting as responsible university citizens, should play a more substantial role in setting those priorities and making the financial decisions necessary to implement them.
GLENN ALTSCHULER: As the land grant university to the world, committed to public engagement, Cornell must help us understand and address the challenges of this generation, the growth of income equality, the concentration of economic and political power, the contempt for science and scientists, the climate changes that threaten the planet.
ISAAC KRAMNICK: The advice once given by the playwright Samuel Beckett seems appropriate for Cornell. "Fail, try again, fail better." And so just as they were at the university's 1868 opening, Ezra Cornell's words remain true today. "We have not invited you to see a university finished, but to see one begun." Thank you.
BOB HARRISON: Thank you for that beautiful performance.
And now, I have the honor of introducing president. David Skorton for one of the last times before he leaves to become Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in July. I believe that President Skorton will go down in Cornell history as one of our truly great leaders, and we will have plenty of time around next month's commencement festivities to honor the Skorton legacy. For now, I would like to express my personal gratitude for nine years of leadership, mentorship, and friendship.
Everyone, please join me in welcoming the 12th president of Cornell University, David J. Skorton.
DAVID J. SKORTON: Thank you, Chairman Harrison. And thank you everyone for being part of this historic occasion.
Charter Day weekend has been a wonderful opportunity to highlight the numerous diverse and distinctive achievements of our Cornell faculty, students, staff, and alumni, so many of whom have been part of this weekend. I thank everyone, and especially, the hundreds of volunteers who worked for many, many months on the weekend's events.
The weekend has also been a time to acknowledge and strengthen Cornell's connections with our local community, beginning Friday at the Tompkins County Public Library, which, like Cornell, University owes its inception to the generosity of Ezra Cornell, and continuing downtown with a presentation of a Cornell University 150th anniversary planter to the city for the Ithaca Commons.
Ithaca has always played a vital role in Cornell's success, always will. And we continue to strengthen that partnership day by day.
On this day so rich in Cornell history, I invite all of us to take a moment to remember one of the great Cornellians of our time, whose 70 years as a member of our university and Ithaca communities enriched so many of our lives. MH Mike Abrams, class of 1916, Professor of English Literature Emeritus, who passed away last week at the age of 102, was one of the dominant figures in literary criticism of a 20th century.
Just last summer, a few days before his 102nd birthday, Mike received the National Humanities Medal in a White House ceremony with President Obama. Mike was also the quintessential Cornellian, an inspiring teacher, an extraordinary colleague, chair of the Cornell University centennial commission of 1965, and a Big Red football fan. His good judgment, his perennial optimism, his deep wisdom, his sense of humor, and his fundamental decency will be sorely missed.
As with all landmark anniversaries, Cornell's sesquicentennial provides an opportunity to reaffirm the values that give our university its unique character, while also considering how best to move forward.
As our historians have noted, Ezra Cornell, our founder, and Andrew Dickson White, our first president, took what was best in the distinguished colleges of the time and augmented it with a philosophy and a practice that would address the needs of post-Civil War America. Our university combined classical education with new areas of inquiry to serve agriculture and the nation's rapidly growing industrial base.
In his book, Curriculum, Frederick Rudolph noted that at its inception, quote, "the Cornell curriculum brought into imaginative balance the openness of American society, the temporary nature of its directions and opportunities. It multiplied truths into truths, a limited few professions into an endless number of new, self-respecting ways of moving into the middle class."
We have continued to add new areas of inquiry, scholarship, and creative endeavor and to adjust the curriculum as our students require and the times demand. Programs in human ecology, hotel administration, industrial and labor relations, business, and medicine, for example, were not part of the university's original offerings but are popular and prestigious schools and colleges today.
And the evolution continues. Cornell Tech, our new campus in New York City, is redefining graduate education for the digital age, bringing academic and the tech community together in an array of programs that encourage creativity, technical depth, and entrepreneurial thinking. There will be more opportunities for innovation when the permanent campus on Roosevelt island opens in two years.
Here on the Ithaca campus, our university courses, open to undergraduates across all colleges, cover a wide range of topics, innovations in teaching and learning, from eCornell to MOOCs, massive online courses, to the Engaged Cornell Initiative are changing how, what, and where we teach.
I have no doubt that as Cornell begins its second 150 years, our curriculum will continue to evolve. Given the national climate of skepticism about the value of higher education and our own sense of responsibility to our students and their families, we are beginning to develop more robust measures of student learning outcomes. In my judgment, we must do a better job assessing what students have gained from their college careers, including from the broadly applicable skills and insights gained through a liberal arts education.
A second enduring aspect of Cornell is its commitment to student access, reflected in our motto. Cornell continues to admit undergraduate students without regard to their financial means and to provide need-based financial aid so that they can attend without incurring a crushing burden of debt.
At least partly because of our strong commitment to financial aid, our student body is more representative of America and the world than ever before. The newly admitted class of first year students, the class of 2019, is the most diverse in our history, with prospective undergraduates representing 100 nations from around the world, based on citizenship, and a slightly higher number and percentage of underrepresented minority students than last year.
Still, finding ways to balance our commitment to access with the financial realities we face will be a continuing challenge at Cornell, as it will elsewhere. I fervently hope that, no matter the challenges, this university will stay the course with substantial financial aid.
A third enduring value of Cornell is faculty excellence. Building on the strong foundation laid by Andrew D. White and continuing the legacy of scholars like Mike Abrams, we seek out the very best faculty members from around the country and around the globe. In anticipation of a wave of faculty retirements over the next decade or so, we are making progress toward replenishing our faculty.
To maintain and enhance the university's excellence, though, we need to hire strategically in areas of promise and in areas of opportunity and also, I believe, to institute a rigorous process of post-tenure peer review.
A fourth constant of Cornell, and surely one on which Cornell's prestige has always rested, is the good that our graduates do in the world. To cite but one example, Cornell again ranked fifth among the nation's medium-sized universities in producing Peace Corps volunteers. And as we have seen so clearly this weekend, Cornell alumni are leaders across the spectrum of human endeavor. Going forward, I have no doubt that Cornell, through its faculty, alumni, staff, and students, will contribute to efforts to promote environmental sustainability, to transcend cultural, racial, and sectarian divisions, to ameliorate the social inequalities that are holding back human progress in so many parts of the world, and yes, in our own country, to realize the potential for personalized precision medicine as we better understand the molecular basis of health and disease, create partnerships with industry and government, and new works of literature, music, and art.
All these and challenges that are not yet known will provide opportunities aplenty for Cornell to lead in its teaching, its research, and creative work, and its public engagement over the next 150 years. And they will offer ways for Cornellians to help create a better, more humane, and sustainable world.
At this commemoration of Cornell's sesquicentennial and the granting of the university's charter 150 years ago this day, we can look back with pride at our enduring and durable values. And we can look ahead to our pre-eminent, if still imperfect, university, a great and noble enterprise where ideas matter, where individual lives are transformed, where the seeds of positive change are sown.
May it always be so. Happy birthday, Cornell. And here's to another remarkable 150 years. Thank you.
SPEAKER 3: Thank you, President Skorton. I'd like now to invite President-elect Elizabeth Garrett to join us for singing the Alma Mater. And please, all of us, join.
[BAND PLAYS "FAR ABOVE CAYUGA'S WATERS"]
ALL: (SINGING) Far above Cayuga's waters, with its waves of blue, stands our noble Alma Mater, glorious to view.
Lift the chorus. Speed it onward. Loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our Alma Mater. Hail, all hail, Cornell.
Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of Heaven looks she proudly down.
Lift the chorus. Speed it onward. Loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our Alma Mater. Hail, all hail, Cornell.
[BAND PLAYS "MY OLD CORNELL"]
CHOIR: (SINGING) Oh, I wish we'd go back to the old days, those good old days on the hill. Back to my Cornell, for that's where they all yell. Cornell. I yell Cornell. Cornell! Far above Cayuga's waters, I hear those chiming bells. Oh, I'm longing and yearning and always returning to my old Cornell.
[BAND PLAYS REPRISE]
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
Formal ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Cornell University Charter. Part of Cornell's Sesquicentennial celebration, April 24-27, 2015.