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From David Skorton

On to the Sesquicentennial!


As you probably know, I will become the next secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on July 1, 2015—but Robin and I look forward to enthusiastically continuing our Cornell work over the next fourteen months, including celebrating our University’s sesquicentennial at events on our campuses and around the world.

David Skorton

Photo: Lindsay France/UP

The sesquicentennial is a singular opportunity to reflect on the things that unite Cornellians across the generations and around the globe, to recognize our collective achievements, and to reaffirm our confidence in the future that Cornell will help to shape. For 150 years, Cornell has set the standard for distinguished private higher education with a formal public mission. In the coming year we will celebrate this proud heritage as we aim even higher for the future.

We’ll be foreshadowing the sesquicentennial and celebrating significant milestones in our history during Reunion 2014. Dean Glenn Altschuler, PhD ’76, the Litwin Professor of American Studies and chair of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, and Isaac Kramnick, the Richard Schwartz Professor of Government and a key member of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, will give the Olin Lecture at Reunion, talking about their soon-to-be-published book, Cornell: A History, 1940–2015. During the summer they will expand on their lecture in a CAU course, “Cornell’s America and America’s Cornell: The Big Red from World War II to 2015,” offered on the Ithaca campus July 13–19. And, in the fall 2014 semester, they will co-teach a one-time, four-credit undergraduate course that focuses on Cornell’s past seventy-five years.


We’ll officially start the sesquicentennial year with a September 13 celebration in New York City. On campus, we’ll mark the beginning of the celebration with our first-ever combined Homecoming and Trustee/Council Joint Annual Meeting on October 17–18. The weekend will bring together alumni, students, faculty, staff, and the Ithaca community for two days of Cornell pride, including a fireworks and laser show in Schoell­kopf Stadium on Friday night. We also will dedicate the Sesquicentennial Commemorative Grove near the top of Libe Slope. This landmark will consist of plantings, stone benches engraved with quotes capturing the spirit of the University, and walkways tracing a timeline of significant events in Cornell’s first 150 years. Weiss/Manfredi, co-founded by Michael Manfredi, MArch ’80, submitted the winning architectural design, which allows for future additions to the timeline.

Throughout the rest of the academic year, we will bring our celebration to seven cities, including two international locations (see sidebar). Our most ambitious undertaking will be Charter Weekend, April 24–27, 2015. The weekend program will feature magnet events with nationally and internationally recognized presenters, virtually all with ties to Cornell. Among the confirmed speakers are all of Cornell’s living former presidents; Pulitzer Prize-winner and MacArthur Foundation Fellow Junot Diaz, MFA ’95; Andrew Ross Sorkin ’99, financial columnist for the New York Times; Abby Joseph Cohen ’73, senior U.S. investment strategist at Goldman Sachs; and Sanford Weill ’55, former CEO and chair of Citigroup. We’ll serve food, enjoy live music by students and community groups, and celebrate the intersection of town and gown. On Monday morning, there will be a reenactment of the presentation of the University Charter. And, of course, there will be a birthday cake. We hope that many alumni will make the trip to Ithaca for this important weekend.

Even those who cannot visit Ithaca or attend one of the global events will have an array of ways to celebrate. During Charter Weekend, Cornell clubs around the world will host simultaneous celebrations to connect Cornellians in their regions to the campus event. The Cornell Association of Class Officers will be sponsoring a series of “memorabilia parties” throughout the year for alumni to digitally scan old photos, or duplicate existing digital materials, and send them on to our collection. And Cornellians everywhere will be able to celebrate together online by watching live streams and recordings of Charter Weekend festivities, ex­ploring Cornell’s fascinating history, contributing their own photos, videos, and stories, and showing off their Big Red pride.

Robin and I will conclude our sesquicentennial activities with Reunion 2015, and we will carry with us to Washington the enduring spirit of Cornell, which has taught us so much over these past eight years. For the next fourteen months, though, we have much to accomplish at Cornell and much to celebrate with our remarkable family of faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Onward!

— President David Skorton

Sesquicentennial Timeline

Sept. 13, 2014 New York City: Sesquicentennial Celebration
Oct. 17–18 Ithaca: Homecoming and 2014 Trustee-Council Joint Annual Meeting
Nov. 14, 2014 Washington, D.C.: Sesquicentennial Celebration
Dec. 15, 2014 Hong Kong: Sesquicentennial Celebration
Jan. 17, 2015 Boston: Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference
Feb. 14, 2015 Florida’s East Coast: Sesquicentennial Celebration
Mar.  6, 2015 San Francisco: Sesquicentennial Celebration
Mar. 8, 2015 Los Angeles: Sesquicentennial Celebration
Apr. 24–27 Ithaca: Cornell150: A Festival of Ideas and 2015 Imagination (Charter Weekend)
May 14, 2015 London: Sesquicentennial Celebration