February 13, 2014

EZRA’S ORACLE | Feb. 14 2014

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Ezra’s Oracle welcomes inquiries from members of the Cornell community about anything and everything related to the University. We seek out answers to campus mysteries, research rumors and investigate issues of relevance to Cornellians. Questions can be submitted via email to [email protected].

How many Olympic medals have Cornellians won? How many Cornellians have competed in the Olympics throughout history?

–– Citius, Altius, Fortius ’13

Including those who attended Cornell as graduate students, 42 Cornellians have brought home a total of 50 Olympic medals. Cornell’s Olympic history dates back to the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, where a trio of Cornellian track and field stars brought home gold, silver and bronze medals. Since then, nearly 100 Cornellians have competed at the Olympic Games. This year, the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics includes four Cornellians on the Canadian women’s ice hockey team, as well as one each on the United States men’s and women’s bobsled teams.

The most decorated Cornell Olympian is swimmer Pablo Morales J.D. ’94, who has taken home three gold and two silver medals. Hammer thrower Al Hall ’56 is the only alumnus to have competed at four separate Olympic Games, though he peaked at fourth place and never medaled. Also, there’s one Cornellian in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame –– though he never actually competed. Robert J. Kane ’39, former Big Red athletic director and namesake of Cornell’s sports complex, served three decades with the U.S. Olympic Committee, including a term as president from 1977 to 1980.

Cornellian competitors have come home empty-handed for the last decade, with the exception of Rebecca Johnston ’12, who won a gold medal with the Canadian women’s ice hockey team at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. With Johnston competing once again, Ezra is hoping for a repeat performance.

Who was the first person of color to receive a degree from Cornell?

–– Any Person grad

Cornellians should be proud of the vision of their alma mater’s founders, which included offering a world-class education to “any person.” Although the University has struggled at times to live up to its founding ideals, the diversity of its student population has been a hallmark of the institution from its start. Students of color arrived in Ithaca shortly after Cornell’s doors opened in 1868. While it can be difficult to answer definitively, since data on race was not collected by the University in its early years, it’s possible that the first student of color to enroll was William B. Bowler, a Haitian student who studied here during Cornell’s second year of operation from 1869 to 1870. Among the first students of color to earn degrees are Japanese student Ryokichi Yatabe 1876 and Cuban student Francisco de Paula Rodríguez y Valdés 1878. Three black students graduated in 1890, including attorney and former slave George Washington Fields.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, what’s the best Cornell love story?

–– Be Mine ’14

There are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of Cornell alumni who would claim that their Cornell love story is the greatest. Countless Cornellians have popped the question on the Hill, sometimes with the help of carefully timed chimes and, in one case, with 250 tulips planted to spell “marry me.” One of the most creative proposals was made to a Cornell chimesmaster in 2007; it included an engagement ring made with bronze shavings taken from the bells themselves when they were re-tuned in 1998.

With this year’s men’s ice hockey Senior Night pitting the Big Red against the Harvard Crimson, it’s appropriate to bring up Love Story, a film released in 1970. It’s the story of an exceptionally stereotyped, wealthy Harvard student named Oliver Barrett IV and his Radcliffe College love interest, Jenny. Oliver plays for the Harvard hockey team, which takes on Cornell for the Ivy League championship. Hockey fans know that Love Story’s release coincided with Cornell’s national championship year, putting the Harvard hockey hero’s happy ending in jeopardy. The real life story goes that legendary Cornell head coach Ned Harkness was approached about having the team in the movie, but Harkness wisely refused to allow Cornell jerseys to be used unless the film depicted the Big Red defeating Harvard for the championship. And so, the story’s Crimson protagonist takes a five-minute penalty, and Cornell wins the Ivy League title on the big screen. The Big Red Pep Band ensures that Harvard will never forget that defeat by playing the theme from Love Story whenever the two teams meet.

What’s the story behind the “161 Things” list?

–– 100 Days Until Graduation ’14

The list of “161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do” dates back to the March 1995 issue of Cornell Alumni Magazine. The original list differed substantially from The Sun’s current iteration, placing more emphasis on intellectual aspects and less on sex and alcohol. Item number one on the early list was to “stay up all night arguing about the existence of God.” Others included “#51. Get a mantra,” “#150. Invent something” and, most importantly, “#79. Learn how to use the Internet.” In 2005, Sun staff surveyed the senior class to develop the updated version, which has been tweaked occasionally over the last decade. But it’s perhaps overdue for a major overhaul.

Curious about Cornelliana? Looking for Cornell lore behind a legend? Submit your questions to [email protected]. Ezra’s Oracle appears alternate Fridays this semester.