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Human Ecology salutes past, future at NYC sesqui event

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Melissa Osgood
Alan Mathios
Jesse Winter Photography
Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios discusses the vision for the future of the college at an Oct. 9 sesquicentennial celebration dinner in New York City.

At a celebration of Cornell’s past, Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios shared a rousing vision for the future with more than 200 Cornellians gathered at the college’s sesquicentennial dinner Oct. 9 in New York City.

Mathios’ address included a surprise announcement: $10 million given by longtime Cornell supporters Joan Klein Jacobs ’54 and Irwin Mark Jacobs ’54 to support endowed professorships – the largest single gift in college history. The gift, Mathios said, continues a series of fundraising milestones for the college leading up to the university’s sesquicentennial, marking a “convergence of our college’s storied past with amazing potential for the future.”

The gift provides support to attract and retain faculty members representing the college’s eight multidisciplinary research themes: community and family policy; economics and federal policy; fashion and technology; health and design; lifespan development; neuroscience; public health and nutrition; and sustainability. The gift allocates $4 million to endow the college’s Joan K. and Irwin M. Jacobs Professorship, paired with a named graduate fellowship. The remaining $6 million funds a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge to create up to four more endowed professorships in the college.

Along with the Jacobs’ gift, Mathios announced to steady cheers that the college has surpassed its $30 million goal for the “Cornell Now” campaign, raising $35 million to date. Furthermore, the college exceeded $1 million in annual fund gifts last year – another fundraising first.

“These historic successes contribute to a special moment in the college,” Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean and professor of policy analysis and management, told the crowd gathered at Conrad New York in Lower Manhattan. “We have resources necessary to support an extraordinarily diverse group of students, faculty, staff and alumni all working toward our mission of improving lives by exploring and shaping human connections to natural, social and built environments.”

Attendees also enjoyed the debut of a sesquicentennial video featuring Human Ecology alumni, students, faculty and staff reflecting on the college’s evolution from its home economics roots. Introducing the video, Mathios acknowledged the enduring vision of college co-founders Martha Van Rensselaer and Flora Rose, who helped spur the nation’s early 20th-century domestic science movement and greatly expanded educational opportunities for women.

“The multidisciplinary approach is in our bones as a college; it’s part of our DNA,” Mathios said. “This can be traced back to Martha and Flora, who believed in bringing the top experts from different disciplines together to work on common issues, and it’s still at the core of our approach to the world today.”

Following the video, alumni leaders from the Human Ecology Dean’s Advisory Council, Sloan Program Alumni Association, Human Ecology Young Alumni Council and Human Ecology Alumni Association rose to proclaim their support for the college and Cornell.

“The spirit was very inspiring and made everyone feel proud to be part of Human Ecology,” said Paige Berger ’15, a human biology, health and society student. “I felt a real sense of community and a solid direction for the future of the college.”

To conclude the evening, Terry Horner ’92, Ph.D. ’98, a former member of the Glee Club and the Hangovers a cappella group, led guests in singing “Give My Regards to Davy” and Cornell’s alma mater.

“This celebration is a great moment for Human Ecology and Cornell University,” said Seth Plattus ’83, chair of the Human Ecology Dean’s Advisory Council. “The college has a remarkable history, and Dean Mathios and his leadership team have built a foundation for a very exciting future.”

Ted Boscia is director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.


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