September 25, 2014

EZRA’S ORACLE: September 26, 2014

Print More

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.

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

What is a unimal (pronounced YOU-NI-MAL) and what does it have to do with Cornell?

— Confused Zoologist ’15

The unimal is a fictional creature invented by Howard Babcock, an influential agricultural economist who chaired Cornell’s board of trustees in the 1940s and taught marketing in the College of Agriculture. An agricultural chimera — part cow, steer, pig, lamb and rooster — the unimal had a cow’s body and sheep’s head combined with a chicken’s wings and hind feet. It became a plastic toy in the early 1950s, intended to help teach children about animal agriculture and a healthy diet. Pushing down on the toy caused it to “lay” one of five different food products: milk, butter, a hot dog, ham or an egg. The box explains, “Press UNIMAL down; a Bell Rings, and Presto! — there’s a Vitamin Rich Product! … You’ll have a Farmyard of Fun with this Fantastic Little Fellow!” Unimals were only 98 cents from The Cornell Co-op (predecessor of The Cornell Store).

I’ve read a lot about the retirement of Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94, vice of student and academic services. Is that a big deal?

— SMurph Fan Club ’15

When Vice President Murphy retires in 2015, she will have served over 20 years as vice president and nearly 40 years as a Cornell employee. Although the average student may not interact with her personally, her jurisdiction includes athletics, public service, residential life, health services, the Dean of Students Office and nearly every non-academic aspect of student life. She has had more impact on Cornell students, directly or indirectly, than perhaps any other administrator over the last 20 years.

Murphy is the longest-serving current Cornell vice president and has had the longest tenure of any vice president in charge of student affairs since the position was created in 1958. The role was originally created following student riots in response to a restrictive social code of conduct. With student services and staff expanding at the University in the 1950s, there was a need for better coordination and communication, as well as an administrator focused on student needs. Whether you agree or disagree with Cornell policies, Murphy has been a tireless advocate for the student voice and a kind and thoughtful mentor to generations of student leaders and alumni.

With everything planned for the University’s sesquicentennial this year, what happened on Cornell’s 100th anniversary?

— Birthday Boy ’15

Cornell likes to throw parties for itself, and the centennial was no exception. During the 1964-1965 academic year, Cornell organized five major events to commemorate its birthday.

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