Ezra Cornell's statue was dedicated June 12, 1919, during an observance of the university's semicentennial. "The original intention was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the inaugural in October 1918, with a pageant, military evolutions, parades of learned delegates in scholastic motley, illuminations, the unveiling of a statue of Ezra Cornell, and speeches innumerable -- but with no award of honorary degrees," wrote historian Morris Bishop. "However, War intervened."
After the armistice, Cornell trustees decided to hold a family-oriented reunion weekend for all classes with observances of "a constructive character." It was noticed that the emotional force of the event spurred Cornellians to donate to their alma mater, and the event evolved into the Semicentennial Endowment Campaign.
Mary Cornell, Ezra's daughter, unveiled the Arts Quad sculpture of the founder that we know today. "The statue was the work of Hermon Atkins MacNeil," wrote Bishop. "His Ezra Cornell, spirited and faithful (save for the hat and the walking stick) has survived so far all the vicissitudes of taste." Miniatures of the statue, known as the "coveted Ezra," are given to the university's foremost benefactors as a token of the university's appreciation for their support.
-- Adapted by George Lowery from Morris Bishop's "A History of Cornell."