Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Students walk by artwork promoting Martha Pollack's inauguration near Clark Hall on central campus, August 24th, 2017.

August 24, 2017

Cornell’s Past Presidential Inaugurations Resonate With Tenor of Times

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Cornell has seen the inaugurations of 14 different presidents, and while each inauguration includes common characteristics (almost all, for example, feature performances from Cornell’s music groups), the pivot of each new presidency seems to be unique to its contextual time.

Cornell celebrated its first inauguration day on October 7, 1868 for the swearing in of President Andrew Dickson White. Both he and Ezra Cornell gave addresses to the students and staff of the brand new University, cementing the idea that Cornell is an “institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

President Livingston Farrand, Cornell’s fourth president, kicked off the Roaring Twenties with his 1921 inauguration, inviting representatives from over 200 colleges and universities. In his address, President Farrand — who fought tuberculosis at the end of World War I as the head of the American Red Cross, The Sun reported — spoke about the crisis in post–war Europe. He also posed an “international responsibility” to students, faculty and staff, according to the University.

On the eve of World War II, President Edmund Ezra Day, the fifth president, declared that “the time has passed when it can be assumed that social well-being will flow automatically from self-interested individual enterprise” in his 1937 inauguration.

“If democratic institutions are to be preserved and individual liberty remain our proud possession,” he said, “the citizen must recognize his obligation to make his life add to the common weal.”

And at his 1969 inauguration, Cornell’s eighth President Dale R. Corson was disrupted by student demonstrators. He addressed the “increasingly critical and traumatic” recent years of the civil rights movement, and urged Cornellians to “respond to these problems out of a deep sense of our common destiny.”

The event itself is an opportunity for students, faculty, University officials, staff and alumni to come together and celebrate Cornell and it’s changing of the guard.

In the throes of an increasingly politicized and divided world, Martha E. Pollack will be sworn in Friday as the 14th president of Cornell.

Ceremonies began on Thursday with the Festival of Scholarship, where students presented their research in the Physical Sciences Building.

The procession will take place from 2 to 4 p.m., beginning on Ho Plaza and moving to the Arts Quad, where the ceremony will take place. The event will be a time for Cornellians past and present to celebrate the University and its future, now placed in the hands of Pollack.