November 18, 2015

Willard Straight Hall Celebrates 90th Anniversary

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Correction appended

Willard Straight Hall celebrated its 90th anniversary Wednesday at an event hosted by its Student Union Board of Directors.

Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67 and members of the Board of Directors spoke in commemoration of the building’s history.

Students celebrate the 90th anniversary of the opening of Willard Straight Hall to student organizations at an event Wednesday (Yichen Dong / Sun Staff Photographer).

Students celebrate the 90th anniversary of the opening of Willard Straight Hall to student organizations at an event Wednesday (Yichen Dong / Sun Staff Photographer)

Speeches were followed by a ceremonial cake cutting and a Jeopardy-style game incorporating facts about the building’s history. The activity allowed students to learn more about the hall, which was primarily created to serve the student body, according to Kristen Crasto ’17, Student Union Board public affairs director.

“Willard Straight Hall was a building designed for the students outside of the classroom. Before this building, there were no other buildings for students to just relax in and not do homework,” Crasto said. “The fact that this building was specifically created with no classrooms, no lectures and was meant to promote the arts, to promote clubs and to promote talking and dialogue created a space with so many different possibilities.”

Willard Straight Hall has provided the Cornell community with space for artistic communion and student collaboration in keeping with the legacy of Willard Straight 1901, according to Crasto.

“We try to bring cultural awareness and one of the ways you can do that is through the arts. Willard Straight was a supporter of the arts, so that is something we take pretty seriously,” Crasto said. “The art gallery puts on different showings and there is also art throughout the building. In fact, his grandson Michael Straight did a lot of the searching and collected a lot of the artwork that’s currently in the building.”

The Student Union Board continues to make Willard Straight Hall accessible to the student body by providing funding and space for student organizations, in addition to holding its own programs, according to Crasto.

“The space Willard Straight Hall provided for students made it so unique at the time and the fact that it’s still here and all of these rooms are constantly buzzing with student groups that need it for different meetings and practices really shows how students still appreciate the building and have used it throughout the years,” she said.

Another celebratory event, Night at the Straight, will be held Friday from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. To increase student awareness of Willard Straight Hall’s resources, the Student Union Board and multiple student organizations will be hosting activities throughout the building.

“We’re trying to get people to open the doors and find the different rooms and ways they can be used, which is why we’re doing activities like tours of the building,” Crasto said.

Despite significant changes to Cornell’s landscape since the construction of Willard Straight Hall, Student Union Board members said they aim to celebrate the building’s continued contribution to student activities.

“In the past, Willard Straight Hall was the place to be, so we try to provide that same environment when the campus has become so much bigger,” Crasto said. “There are so many other places you could go now, but our goal is to have Willard Straight Hall become a second home for students as it was when it was created.”

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Corey Earle ’07, associate director of student and young alumni programs, spoke at the event. However, Earle was not in attendance. 

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