NEW YORK – “George Bush is so dumb, it wouldn’t surprise me if he thought Peter Pan was a washbasin in a whore house,” opined Kurt Vonnegut ’44 in his remarks at The Sun’s 125th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday night.
Vonnegut, a former Sun associate editor and assistant managing editor, joined more than 360 alumni and guests to commemorate The Sun’s 125th anniversary at the Marriott Marquis in New York. The event featured a series of current and former Sun editors sharing their insights on the past, present and future of the organization.
Those in attendance included former editors, business managers, photographers, writers and others affiliated with The Sun. Bernard Gartlir ’38, a former Sun editor in chief, was the most senior alumnus to participate.
“I thought the speakers were phenomenal, and I thought the stories they told were wonderful, warm stories,” said Stan Chess ’69, president of The Cornell Daily Sun Alumni Association and former Sun editor in chief.
The speakers, Chess added, were united in their “love of The Cornell Daily Sun as an institution and a desire to maintain lifelong relations with the people from the paper.”
Jeremy Schaap ’91, an Emmy Award-winning ESPN reporter, best-selling author and former Sun sports editor emphasized The Sun’s impact on his professional career.
“The most important article I ever wrote was at The Sun,” he recalled, referring to the resignation of varsity football coach Maxie Baughan. Baughan stepped down after Schaap uncovered a sex scandal involving the wife of one of Baughan’s colleagues.
“Of anything I’ve ever worked on anywhere, that was by far the best. At the end of the day, it made me a better writer, a better reporter,” Schaap said. “I’m always surprised when I meet people in my business that didn’t write for their school papers.”
“We were able to break a number of stories that the administration at Cornell didn’t want published,” said Jay Branegan ’72 of his days on the Hill. The takeover of the Straight by Afro-American Society members in 1969 left an indelible mark on Branegan’s mind.
“It was a huge story, and there we were in the middle of it,” he said. “I learned to look below the surface and see what is going on, which is an invaluable journalistic technique.”
An associate editor at The Sun, Branegan went on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his work covering patient abuse and Medicaid fraud at two Chicago hospitals and would later serve as Time Magazine’s White House correspondent.
Scott Jaschik ’85 relayed his memories of uncovering inside information about the University while cleaning rooms occupied by trustees as part of his Statler Hotel housekeeping work. S. Miller Harris ’43 shared fond memories of a bygone era in which the varsity football team finished the 1939 season undefeated, winning contests over Ohio State, Syracuse, and Penn State, among others.
Although he could not attend the banquet, Congressman Bob Filner ’63 (D-Calif.) expressed his appreciation in a letter to The Cornell Daily Sun Alumni Association.
“My time at Cornell and, specifically, my time at The Sun, gave me both the intellectual and personal strength to prepare me for my Congressional career,” he wrote. “As a very introverted person, the Sun community helped me to develop the social skills so necessary for political life.”
While Vonnegut’s cunning political commentary was the highlight of his oration, he also paid tribute to The Sun’s contribution to his life’s work.
“The Cornell Sun, thank goodness, showed me what to do with my life, and I did it,” he said, referring to his writing. Vonnegut was working at The Sun the night the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and would find inspiration for some of his best writing from such tragedies as the Dresden fire-bombing and his experience as a prisoner of war.
Former Sun photographer Ross Wagner ’55 hailed The Sun for fostering a passion in photography that still burns today.
“I think I learned to get the picture,” he said. “I had the chance to meet and photograph people that I would never otherwise have had the chance to spend an intimate 15 minutes with. That was very useful to me. I feel it helped build my confidence.”
Maia Aron ’74 commented on the culture of journalism that prevailed while she wrote for The Sun. The Watergate era and the aura of journalistic objectivity surrounding Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s coverage of President Nixon’s downfall rubbed off on Sun staffers.
“We were so concerned about being objective that nobody on The Sun joined any other organization on campus,” she said. “We worked really hard at that.”
The Sun, which published its first issue September 16, 1880 and incorporated in 1905, is the nation’s oldest continuously independent college daily.
“Believing that the interests of the University and of the students would be subserved by the publication of a daily paper, one which should present news not only from the various colleges, but whatever was of especial interest to students wherever it occurred, we determined to publish The Cornell Sun,” wrote The Sun’s editors in the inaugural issue. Austin Hoyt was on hand to celebrate the vision of his grandfather, William Ballard Hoyt 1891, The Sun’s founder.
Archived article by Joshua Goldman
Sun Staff Writer