From the Hill


In memoriam: Members of the Cornell community, including some with close ties to Virginia Tech, packed Sage Chapel on April 19 to remember those who had died in the nation's deadliest school massacre three days earlier. "We will never forget the friends that we have lost," said Engineering college dean Kent Fuchs, whose son, Eric, is a member of VT's Class of 2008. "As long as there is a Virginia Tech, they will be remembered. They are more than friends. They are family."


PROVOST BIDDY MARTIN DELIVERED THE FIRST ACADEMIC State of the University Address in Kennedy Hall's Call Auditorium in March.Martin spoke to a capacity audience about the challenges facing Cornell over the next decade, which include replacing hundreds of retiring professors, expanding faculty diversity, and emphasizing teaching. "These are not new issues," Martin said. "I don't believe our priorities need or even ought to be dominated by 'the new.' Succeeding at these tasks is the lifeblood of the institution."Martin got a standing ovation at the end of her talk, which also included praise for the University's range of academic fields, from multiphoton microscopy to poetry. Day Hall,Martin said, is "a vantage point that offers me a continual experience of wonder at the breadth, depth, and impact of the scholarship and science across this university."

VoggegutVoice of His Generation KURT VONNEGUT, 84

Kurt Vonnegut '44--famed author, war critic, and Cornell dropout--passed away on April 11 from head injuries sustained in a fall several weeks earlier. A former assistant managing editor and humor columnist for the Daily Sun (a publication that, he once said, "showed me what to do with my life"), Vonnegut spent two and a half years on the Hill before enlisting in the military during World War II. "I never got close to getting a degree," Vonnegut wrote of his undergraduate career in an essay in A Century at Cornell, "and would have quit or been thrown out, if it weren't for the war."Vonnegut went on to write fourteen novels, including Slaughterhouse- Five, Cat's Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions. He is survived by his wife, Jill Krementz, and seven children.


BY LABOR DAY, TWO OF the University's best-known and longest-serving alumni leaders will have left their familiar positions. In March, it was announced that Mary Berens '74, director of alumni affairs since 1996, would be leaving that job to become a senior campaign officer for the capital campaign. Berens has worked for Cornell alumni affairs and development since 1977 and will focus on donor relations in her new job, which begins on September 1. A search is under way for her successor.

This summer will be the last for Ralph Janis '66 as director of Cornell's Adult University (CAU), a position he has held since 1983.He will be succeeded by Catherine Penner '68, who will work alongside Janis this summer. "While I am hanging up my hat as CAU director, I'm not sure if I'd call what I'm planning 'retirement,' " says Janis. "I'll continue to do special projects for the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, oversee program development for the Cornell Cyber- Tower, manage an occasional CAU study tour, and hope to write the book about Brooklyn that I've had in my head for many years. My wife, Rhoda, and I plan to travel some--on our own--and spend at least part of the winter in some place warmer than Ithaca."


IN MARCH, THE ARTS COLLEGE ANNOUNCED PLANS TO establish the Clinton Rossiter Professorship in American Institutions in the Department of Government. The chair honors the late Clinton Rossiter '39, who taught at Cornell from 1946 to 1970.Widely admired for both his teaching and scholarship, Rossiter was the author of such well-known works as The American Presidency and Seedtime of the Republic, which won the Bancroft Prize in 1954.

Profoundly affected by the Willard Straight takeover in April 1969, Rossiter was characterized by Donald Downs '71, author of Cornell '69, as a "victim of the crisis." Initially opposed to amnesty for five black students involved in a series of incidents that led up to the takeover, Rossiter reversed his position, believing it was in the best interest of the University to end the confrontation. The so-called "nullification" of charges against the students was approved by the faculty, but Rossiter was subsequently ostracized by many of his colleagues, fell into depression, and took his own life. In a lengthy obituary published in the September 1970 Alumni News, editor John Marcham '50 lamented the "tragic end . . . [of] one of the most brilliant careers in the University's history."

Funding efforts for the chair's endowment were spearheaded by three former Rossiter students: Houston Flournoy '50, Judy Biggs '57, and Stephen Weiss '57 (who served as chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1997). The establishment of the chair, said Arts college dean Peter Lepage, not only "creates a lasting tribute to a great Cornellian and a worldrenowned scholar . . . [but] will allow the department to invest in an area of traditional strength by recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty in American government."