Ezra Cornell: Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Feats

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Contact: Ellen Marsh
Phone:  (607) 254-4680
E-mail:  ebm7@cornell.edu

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>