An exhibition of items and uniforms from the First World War will be featured at Risley’s Great Hall on Saturday, Nov. 10 in an event to honor Cornellians who served in the war a hundred years ago.
Cornell commissioned over 4,500 officers and enlisted nearly 9,000 men to fight in the First World War, according to Grady Owens ’21, chair of the Risley arts sub-committee and lead for the centennial commission.
Five Cornell pilots became aces and three Cornell physicians became the first women officers in the U.S. Armed Forces. Of those who served, 264 lost their lives. These individuals are commemorated in the War memorial on West Campus.
“116,000 Americans lost their lives in the First World War; they lost their lives fighting for the freedoms and rights of people they didn’t even know,” Owens said.
“That’s powerful; that is a price that no one can repay. It is the hope that this event would help to shed light on these heroes; people tend to forget the First World War, and I think that needs to change,” he continued.
After becoming “restless” that Cornell was not planning to throw any official celebrations or ceremonies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, Owens took the initiative to organize one himself.
The Risley Centennial Commission was approved for creation and allocated funding early in August from Risley. Almost $5,000 has been fundraised for hosting of the event.
The commission has prepared an exposition of items and uniforms from the First World War, collected from Sgt. Barber of the United States Army and the Cornell Textile Collection.
Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, and Rick Burgess, vice president of facilities, will speak at the event, and various student groups, such as the Glee Club and the Cornell Syncopators, will perform.
Lombardi will be the main speaker and honored guest, and Burgess has agreed to read “Last Letters Home.”
“[Last Letters Home] shows the humanity of those fighting a war; they showed fear, they showed love, they showed homesickness,” Owens said. “I want to shed light on who fought the war rather than numbers and names; I want to show that these were regular everyday people that went off to fight.”
Additionally, the celebration will feature a number of other organizations from Cornell and the greater Ithaca community. The Tri-Brigade Color Guard from Cornell ROTC will be present at the ceremony. The Glee Club, Chorus and the Cornell Syncopators will also perform, along with the Finger Lakes Pipe Band.
The celebration will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in Risley’s Great Hall followed by light refreshments and a swing dance from 8 p.m. to midnight.