March 30, 2001

HumEc Marks Centennial in College's Life

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When turning 100, many people have little to look forward to other than getting mentioned by Wilard Scott on the Today Show.

However, this weekend, faculty, students and alumni of the College of Human Ecology will ensure that this particular centennial does not go by without appropriate celebration.

The college’s centennial weekend events include guest speakers, panel discussions and exhibit openings commemorating the college’s past, examining its present and forecasting its future.

Events taking place today and tomorrow will honor the 100 year anniversary of the hiring of Martha Van Rensselaer, which marked the incorporation of the human ecology college into Cornell.

“[Rensselaer] was the first woman hired to the Cornell faculty and [was] one of the founders of the college, as well as one of its first directors,” said Associate Dean Kay Obendorf. “She was hired to teach reading to farm women. She was a pioneer and reformer for the education of women,” Obendorf added.

The centennial celebration is the brainchild of Francille Firebaugh, Dean Emerita of the College of Human Ecology, who proposed the idea two years ago to current Dean Patsy Brannon.

“Deans Firebaugh and Brannon wanted to celebrate the scholarship and teaching of the college, bring awareness, and rethink its history and future,” Obendorf said.

Last fall, Prof. Joan Jacobs Brumberg, human development, focused her archival research course around a project that celebrates the college’s history.

“The challenge to my class was to examine stereotypes about home economists, specifically the idea that the women who became home economists did nothing more than marry, have babies and decorate cakes,” Brumberg said.

The students who created an exhibit from Brumberg’s coursework will unveil it today. “From Domesticity to Modernity: What was Home Economics?” will be on display in Kroch Library until Aug. 17.

“The message of the exhibit should be pretty clear: home economics was more than just glorified housekeeping. It was a complex and influential professional field for American women in the first half of the 20th century,” Brumberg said.

The Human Ecology Ambassadors are hosting the weekend’s events, while another student group, the Human Ecology Voices, have created a time capsule that they will present today in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall.

“The time capsule is to be a snapshot of student life presently here in the College of Human Ecology, said Elizabeth Mirabelli ’02. “Someone who opens it years from now will be able to understand