Contact: Ellen Marsh
Phone: (607) 254-4680
Ezra Cornell: Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Feats
Library exhibition celebrates university founder’s 200th birthday
An exhibition that celebrates the 200th birthday of Ezra Cornell and the founding of Cornell University begins March 8 in the Hirshland Gallery of Carl A. Kroch Library. “‘I Would Found an Institution’: The Ezra Cornell Bicentennial” will display letters, diaries and photographs from Ezra Cornell as well as the university’s charter.
The exhibition opening will begin at 4:30 p.m. with a ceremonial cake cut by Cornell President David Skorton and the founder’s great-great-great grandson Ezra Cornell, ’71. The event is free and open to the public.
"The University Library houses a wealth of information on our founder," said President Skorton. "I am delighted that Ezra Cornell’s 200th birthday is giving us an opportunity to celebrate his singular contributions to American higher education while also highlighting the strength of the Library’s Rare and Manuscript Collections."
The exhibition details how Cornell, who came to Ithaca with no formal education, went on to amass a fortune in the telegraph business and found one of America’s finest universities. Highlights from the exhibition include the telegraph receiver used to receive the world’s very first telegraph message, Cornell’s safe and tools and a collection of shells from Hawaii that he purchased to enhance the university’s holdings.
"Ezra Cornell was an extraordinary man, entirely self-educated and self-made," said Elaine Engst, the director of the library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections and one of the exhibition’s curators. "With Andrew Dickson White, his remarkable ideals constituted a radical educational experiment for the 1860s, and led, in the small rural community of Ithaca, NY, to the realization of the first ‘truly American university.’"
As part of the bicentennial celebration, Cornell University Library will host a presentation March 28 at 4:30 p.m. by Carol Kammen, a senior lecturer in the university’s history department and the historian of Tompkins County, NY, entitled, "Ezra Cornell and Any Person.” A reception will follow.
"There is a special place in our heart for Ezra Cornell,” said Interim University Librarian Anne R. Kenney. “He was a great book lover and his very first philanthropic act was to fund the establishment of a public library in Ithaca. He also made sure that Willard Fiske, the first university librarian, had the resources to build the foundation for what has become one of the very best libraries in the world.”
"‘I Would Found an Institution’: The Ezra Cornell Bicentennial” exhibition opens March 8 and closes Aug. 31. For more information, call 255-3530 and visit rmc.library.cornell.edu/Ezra. For press information, go to library.cornell.edu/communications/Ezra.
About Cornell University Library
One of the leading academic research libraries in the United States, Cornell University Library is a highly valued partner in teaching, research, and learning at the university, offering cutting edge services and a full spectrum of library resources, from rare books and manuscripts to a rapidly expanding network of digital resources. Through such initiatives as the life sciences portal, the installation of a pioneering high-end mobile and flexible computer laboratory designed specifically for collaborative use, and innovative scholarly publishing support, the Library is an integral component of the many educational programs and research projects under way at Cornell. To learn more about Cornell University Library, visit <http://www.library.cornell.edu>