While searching through The Sun’s online archives for a Solar Flashback story last fall, I came across an editorial that touched me profoundly. It was from September 27, 1910, over a century ago, and it captured the very essence of my experience as a Cornellian.
“And let us say that you do not realize now the days you are passing through,” it read, addressing new students. “Look back at the remembrance. It is a wholesome existence with room for work and play, room for thought but little thoughtlessness. Not the ‘college life’ whereof you read, nor what you see on flaring posters. But this you surely realize in a day. The future will, as it has for all before, fashion as you desire. Only the broad boundaries have been laid, and within this University sphere is room for your rosiest prospect, if you but work aright.”
No other quotation that I have read throughout my four years at Cornell better expresses the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, joys and stresses of being a student here. It is tough. It requires immense focus and determination. Yet, the opportunity to attend this University, and all of the possibilities that it opens up, have made it well worth it.
When I was a freshman, standing wide-eyed on the Arts Quad and admiring the old buildings, I euphorically believed the University to be an “academic utopia.” It may have been a slight exaggeration — this was before I took my first prelims — but now, as I graduate, I still feel that exhilaration. Over the course of college, I have studied so many fascinating subjects, pondered so many difficult questions and met so many kind and dedicated friends and acquaintances. I have been constantly inspired by my fellow Sun editors, writers and staff, my classmates and my professors. They are the reason for the unforgettable experiences I have had at Cornell, and they deserve the utmost gratitude.
To Cornell, then, I say thank you. Thank you to my peers, my professors, my advisors, the TAs who graded my papers, the chefs who prepared the delicious meals, the staff who kept my favorite buildings up and running. Thank you to all those, past and present, who have made Cornell what it is. Thank you to all who will surely keep Cornell the special place it must be, well after our Class of 2020 has left its halls.
While I cannot spend my last day as an undergraduate wearing a cap and gown and eagerly celebrating on campus, wide-eyed and thrilled just as I had been as a freshman, I am humbled and grateful for all of the memories I made at this challenging and wonderful place. Of course, the University itself is imperfect; much reform remains to be done, and changes are required to ensure that every student can have a positive experience. Together, we and our fellow Cornellians can and should make that possible.
And the words written by the author of that editorial all those years ago, facing extreme uncertainty just like us — a few short years later the world would be engulfed in war — can help tie together the loose ends that remain. As we end our college years already scattered to the wind, we can turn to the determined Cornellian spirit developed through hard work and cold winters. As the student in 1910 wrote, “The future will, as it has for all before, fashion as you desire.” Whatever comes next, our experiences at Cornell and our solidarity as a graduating class can help us get through.
BreAnne Fleer is graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences. She was a Senior Editor on The Sun’s 137th Editorial Board, and a News Editor on the 136th Editorial Board.