Amidst the Homecoming festivities that took place on Saturday, a 100 year memorial service was held for Corporal Morgan Smiley Baldwin 1915, an officer who served in France during World War I and who was mortally wounded during the 1918 offensive on the Hindenburg Line.
The ROTC color guard, along with dozens of current members and alumni of the Delta Phi fraternity, gathered at a service held at the Baldwin Memorial Stairway above University Avenue, which was named after the corporal and dedicated in 1925 to Ithaca and the University as a gift by the fraternity, The Sun reported then.
Baldwin, who was at the time practicing law in New York City, enlisted in the national guard on April 16, 1917, upon hearing the news that the U.S. had declared war on Germany, according to Columbia University.
He was sent to France in May 1918 and was severely wounded on September 29. He died on October 9 in the same year and was buried in Somme American Cemetery and Memorial in Bony, Aisne, France, according to the Cornell Rare Manuscript Collection.
“Smiley Baldwin came from an obviously very successful family, had completed law school, had passed the bar and enlisted himself to serve his country,” said Derek Edinger ’95, an alumnus of Delta Phi, which was founded by Baldwin’s father.
After Edinger’s remarks, Elaine Engst M.A. ’72, Cornell archivist emerita, noted that 8,851 Cornellians were in uniform, among which 4,598 served as commissioned officers.
“That’s more than any other institution including West Point,” she said, adding that even Willard Straight ’1901, the namesake of the hall on Ho Plaza, also served in World War I.
Engst said that the Baldwin Memorial Stairway specifically was a “really interesting memorial because it has the added remembrance of a cornerstone box,” a time capsule that contains among other documents, a list of a Delta Phi members who died in World War I.
“Ordinarily you don’t get to see what’s in a cornerstone — there’s a building on top of it,” she said.
Engst closed her remarks with a final tribute to the veterans.
“It’s an honor and a privilege today to commemorate Morgan Smiley Baldwin, Frederick Lewis Drake and the many Cornellians and other young men whose lives were cut short serving their country a century ago,” she said.