The Big Red road show


The Cornell Association of Class Officers (CACO) invited alumni to clear their attics, basements and closets of remnants they could not otherwise part with from their years on the Hill.

Cornell sign

At a three-hour reception Feb. 6 hosted by the Cornell Club-New York, the association was not let down during its “Super Sesqui Evening of Exchange.”

More than 125 Big Red fans – some wearing varsity letter sweaters or Cornell scarves – carted buttons, photos, CDs, T-shirts, a 70-year-old Cornell blanket, and a marching band clarinet that cracked in frigid temperatures.

John Sarna ’57 donated part of a goalpost from the Thanksgiving Day 1958 win over Penn at Franklin Field that he helped tear down – a tradition that predated indestructible single-post goals – and the winning score, 19-7, is painted on the wooden post. Margaret Gallo ’81, senior director of Class and Reunion Programs in alumni affairs and development, gave Sarna a hug for the historic keepsake, destined for the Hall of Fame Room.

Like an elaborate archaeology project, a half-dozen tables were manned by enthusiastic volunteers and Alumni Affairs staff who scanned photographs, old newspapers, car window stickers and anything else that could be preserved digitally.

Donors were warmly greeted by co-hosts Alice Katz Berglas ’66, Paul Cashman ‘73 and several other local alumni volunteers.

Matt Palumbo ’83 donated his metal clarinet and case that fractured while playing for the Big Red Band during a 1981 football game.

Suzanne Jonker ’83, who has two daughters attending Cornell, donated a 70-year-old Cornell blanket.

Cashman said he shared an idea about collecting Cornell photos two years ago with his co-vice president for CACO communications, Michael Avery ’55. They thought, why not merge a PBS-like “Antiques Roadshow” with Cornell’s sesquicentennial? The Feb. 6 event kicks off a long-term drive to retrieve Big Red collectibles, he said. By coincidence, Cashman was a fraternity brother of Palumbo’s and marched with him in the Big Red Band when Palumbo’s clarinet broke.

Items that can be preserved or displayed are being sorted at Kroch Library under the direction of University Archivist Elaine Engst, M.A. ’72.

Alice Katz Berglas ’66 told participants that they “have ensured that your years on the Hill are now available to generations of Cornellians to come. It was the very special 150tth anniversary gift that only you could give. ...It was fabulous to see what each of us saved and chose to share.”

The conversations across generations, connecting old friends with new ones over Finger Lakes wines, went on all evening, much like a multiple-class reunion. On the side, officers from the Class of ’65 excitedly discussed their upcoming 50th reunion in June in Ithaca.

Anyone who missed the event is invited to email scanned photos or documents. Include a title in the subject line and a description in the body of the email so archivists can tag metadata to the scan.

This story was written by Jon Craig ’80 and appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.