September 15, 2014

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT: 150: Celebrating Cornell’s Sesquicentennial

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This past weekend, Cornellians across the country began celebrating the University’s Sesquicentennial – the 150th year since the University’s founding in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and A.D. White. The weekend began Friday in New York City when President David Skorton, Kate Snow ’91 and Touchdown lit up the top of the Empire State Building in red and white. Students, alumni, faculty and staff appeared on The Today Show representing Cornell, where they sang the Alma Mater and chanted “1-5-0.”

On Saturday afternoon and evening, Cornellians in New York had the opportunity to attend The Big Idea! at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which featured several prominent alumni, A.D. White and Ezra Cornell impersonators, as well as Wynton Marsalis and President Skorton sharing the same stage, playing some sweet jazz. Most importantly, however, the evening celebrated the reach and impact that Cornellians have had over the past century and a half, and previewed the contributions that we will continue to make for years to come.

Events such as the one in New York City will be occurring worldwide over the next year and you have the opportunity to be a part of it. There will be regional celebrations from Washington D.C. in November and Boston in January, to Hong Kong in December and London in May. In Ithaca, we will be celebrating the Sesquicentennial at the first-ever combined Trustee Council Annual Meeting and Homecoming during October 17 and 18 and Charter Day Weekend from April 24 to April 27. With over 250,000 living alumni, Cornellians across the globe can participate and celebrate together during this historic moment for our University.

Visit, where you can find information about the events, Homecoming and Charter Day weekends, and also share photos, videos and stories about your experiences at Cornell that may be featured on the official Sesquicentennial website to be launched in October.

This yearlong celebration provides us, as a Cornell community, not only with an opportunity to commemorate the past accomplishments of our students, staff, faculty and alumni around the globe through events such as the one in New York; but also with time to recognize and reflect on the immense amount of work that remains to be done in our University’s next era. Our students, staff, faculty and alumni are at the forefront of science and technology, medicine, the arts and humanities, the intersection of law and business, as well as environmental sustainability, to name only a few areas. Our land-grant mission charges us to work to solve society’s greatest challenges — here in Ithaca, across New York State and around the world. From Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell Tech in New York City, to our campus in Ithaca, students and scholars are making progress on identifying and creating solutions for the significant issues facing our society.

And we are not done. As A.D. White recalled in his autobiography, Ezra Cornell said, “We have not invited you to see a university finished, but to see one begun.” This statement could not be more true and fitting today. Though Cornell may be celebrating its sesquicentennial, we are just beginning, and we will continue to improve our education, research and outreach so that we can continue to make the world a better place for all people.

Someone had explained to me once that, as we enter our Sesquicentennial, the role of the Board of Trustees is to help guide our community and ensure the University’s success for the next 150 years and beyond. Throughout the year, I invite and encourage you to speak with me about the direction where you believe our University should head. As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions or would like to sit down to speak.

Ross Gitlin is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the undergraduate student-elected trustee. He may be reached at [email protected]. Trustee Viewpoint appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.