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Founding Principles From Ezra…

Words of wisdom from Ezra and Andrew.


“I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

— Letter to A.D. White, 1868

“If I could have my choice, I should prefer that my name should be immortalized by its connection with some good deed, by alleviating the sufferings of humanity.”

— Letter to J. H. Wade, 1852

“The satisfaction of being right and doing right is ample reward for the little extra exertion required to accomplish so desirable an object, and those least worthy generally succeed in getting the most newspaper glory.”

— Letter to Alonzo Cornell, 1848

“It is my desire to secure still further endowments so that the institution shall at no time be embarrassed by want of means, and shall at all times be able to command the best talent in America or in the world.”

— Letter to W. A. Woodward, 1865

“I hope we have laid the foundation of an institution which shall combine practical with liberal education, which shall fit the youth of our country for the professions, the farms, the mines, the manufactories, for the investigations of science, and for mastering all the practical questions of life with success and honor.”

— Address at the University’s opening, October 7, 1868

“To be successful, you must be honest, industrious, economical, and persevering. Earn your money before spending it and spend less each day than you earn. As the balance accumulates to sufficient sums, invest it safely at legal interest and you will soon become rich. Having acquired fortune honestly, spend it wisely & usefully and you will become honorable. Treat others as you would wish them to treat you and you become Christian and noble.”

— Letter to Washington Ford, 1870

“I shall be very glad when I get through with the business here so I can go home and see you and your little brothers, and have you and them go with me up on the hill to see how the workmen get along with the building of the Cornell University where I hope you and your brothers and your cousins and a great many more children will go to school when they get large enough and will learn a great many things that will be useful to them and make them wise and good women and men. I want to have girls educated in the university as well as boys, so that they may have the same opportunity to become wise and useful to society that the boys have. 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 grand Pa, that girls as well as boys should be educated at the Cornell University.”

— Letter to Eunice Cornell, 1867


…And A.D. White

“I have never known a man more entirely unselfish. I have seen him, when his wealth was counted in millions, devote it so generously to university objects that he felt it necessary to stint himself in some matters of personal comfort. When urged to sell a portion of the university land at a sacrifice, in order to better our foundations, he answered in substance, ‘Don’t let us do that yet; I will wear my old hat and coat a little longer, and let you have a little more money from my own pocket.'”

— On Ezra Cornell, in White’s autobiography, published 1905

“Six years ago, in the most bitter hour of the Republic, in her last hour, as many thought, amid most desperate measures of war, the councils of the United States gave thought and work to a far-reaching measure of peace. They made provision for a new system of advanced education; they cut this system loose from some old ideas under which education had been groaning; they grafted into it some new ideas for which education had been longing; they so arranged it that every State might enjoy it; they imposed but few general conditions, and these grounded in right reason; they fettered it with no unworthy special conditions; they planned it broadly; they endowed it munificently. This is one of the great things in American history—nay, one of the great things in the world history. In all the annals of republics, there is no more significant utterance of confidence in national destiny out from the midst of national calamity.”

— Address at the University’s opening

“In answer to your letter first received, I would say that we have no colored students at the University at present but shall be very glad to receive any who are prepared to enter. Although there is no certainty of the entrance of any such students here during the present year, they may come and if even one offered himself and passed the examinations, we should receive him even if all our five hundred white students were to ask for dismissal on that account.”

— Letter to C. H. McCormick, 1874

“The faculty of this institution is the last place in the world for a man of mere dignity or of elegant ease. But if the toil be great, the reward also is great. It is the reward which the successful professor so prizes—the sight of men made strong for the true, the beautiful, and the good through your help.”

— Address at the University’s opening