August 28, 2014

EZRA’S ORACLE: August 29, 2014

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Welcome to a new semester of Ezra’s Oracle!

Ezra’s Oracle welcomes inquiries from all 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.

Not sure where to find the answer to your Cornell questions? Too lazy to use Google? Siri can’t help you? Ask Ezra’s Oracle.

Did a Cornellian really invent chicken nuggets? (Yes.) Will campus construction be finished before you graduate? (No.) Does Cornell actually have a secret weather-controlling machine in Bradfield Hall? (Maybe.) Ezra’s Oracle has the answers.

Questions can be submitted via email to [email protected]. Or whisper them in the ear of the Ezra Cornell statue on the Arts Quad.

With Cornell celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, what sort of special events are planned?

— Birthday Bash ’15

Compared to its Ivy League peers, Cornell is still a mere child. Harvard celebrated its own 150th birthday over 200 years ago. But that won’t stop Cornell from celebrating in style throughout the 2014-2015 academic year. The big celebrations kick-off in New York City with two gala events for alumni on September 13, followed by similar events around the world over the next year, from London and Hong Kong to Boston and San Francisco. On campus, Homecoming weekend will have a distinct “sesquicentennial” flavor to it, particularly the Friday night fireworks and laser show at Schoellkopf Field on October 17. Cornell’s exact 150th birthday will be celebrated in April 2015 with Charter Day weekend, commemorating the signing of Cornell’s charter in 1865. The four days of activities kick-off with a presentation by Bill Nye ’77 (“The Science Guy”) and Prof. Steve Squyres ’78, PhD ’81, astronomy (of Mars Rover fame). The rest of the weekend will include panels, performances and presentations from notable alumni, faculty, and student organizations. And keep an eye out for a special sesquicentennial ice cream flavor. To stay informed about Sesquicentennial events, visit

Is there a Cornell connection to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

— Wet Philanthropist ’15

You’re probably tired of seeing buckets of water in your Facebook newsfeed, and now even President David Skorton and Vice President Susan Murphy ’73, PhD ’94 have completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. But it’s tough to deny the challenge’s success at raising awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Many credit the challenge’s inspiration to Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball captain with ALS, who challenged his friends and families. Frates is the son-in-law of Cornellian Joe Kowalik ’74. As a student, Kowalik knew Michael Goldsmith ’72, J.D. ’75, who passed away in 2009 after being diagnosed with ALS. Goldsmith was a major advocate for ALS fundraising and awareness, inspiring Major League Baseball to declare July 4, 2009 as ALS-Lou Gehrig Day. On that day, every MLB game included ceremonies to raise awareness, and Goldsmith himself threw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium.

Baseball legend Lou Gehrig actually has his own Cornell connection. While playing for Columbia University’s baseball team, Gehrig hit the second home run on Cornell’s Hoy Field in 1923.

I just got back to campus after the summer, and everything is under construction. What projects are currently ongoing?

— Tired of Detours ’16

It was Ezra Cornell who famously said, “I would found an institution where any person can find construction in any study,” or something like that. Newcomers to campus may not have realized it yet, but Ithaca only has two seasons: winter and construction. With fewer people around during the summer months, plus relatively cooperative weather, summertime is when the University catches up on capital projects. Here are a few you might have noticed:

But look on the bright side. Construction is a sign of a vibrant, healthy university. Buildings require maintenance and upgrades. And without construction, we wouldn’t have the great new Dairy Bar and a nice new sidewalk that leads right to it from central campus.

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