Campus plans yearlong celebration of Ezra Cornell's 200th birthday

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Blaine Friedlander

Jan. 11 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ezra Cornell -- one of the university's two co-founders. His monument is a campus of such unusual breadth that it is often called "the first truly American university."

The eldest of 11 children, he was born into a family of very modest means but went on to make a fortune in the telegraph industry. Rather than bequeath his estate to his children, Cornell directed that his wealth be used to found a comprehensive and practical institution of higher learning dedicated to all forms of intellectual endeavor.

To honor Ezra Cornell's bicentennial, the university will sponsor a series of events throughout the year, beginning Jan. 11 with a "Library Salute to Ezra" at 11 a.m. in the Carl A. Kroch Library. Cornell historians will discuss Ezra Cornell's life and times. In addition, objects and documents from the Ezra Collection will be on view on level 2B.

At noon, the university community will celebrate with a birthday cake in Olin Café. Ezra Cornell's great-great-great-grandson, Ezra Cornell, a member of the university's board of trustees, will cut the cake and make a short speech. At 12:30 p.m., a chimes concert, led by chimesmaster Gretchen Ryan, will feature songs from the 19th century and a special rendition of "Happy Birthday." Audio of the chimes concert will be available the following week on CornellCast,

On Jan. 18, in its first edition of the new year, the Cornell Chronicle will launch "The Ezra Files," a weekly column detailing who Ezra Cornell was and how he evolved into a philanthropist dedicated to founding New York's land-grant university. The column will feature excerpts from letters written to and by Cornell.

On March 8, the "I Would Found an Institution": The Ezra Cornell Bicentennial Exhibition will open with a reception from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Hirshland Exhibition Gallery in Kroch Library. The event is open to the public and will include cake and refreshments in Olin Café.

In addition, an academic symposium is being planned for Oct. 18, 4:30 to 6 p.m.

For more information about Ezra Cornell and events surrounding the bicentennial celebration, see:

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