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Despite Ezra Cornell's decree that he would "found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study," instruction in hotel management at Cornell University almost didn't happen. In the early 1900s, Cornell President Jacob Gould Schurman rejected the idea that Cornell should provide hotel management training as "absolutely out of the question."

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While best known for his role in founding the university that bears his name, Ezra Cornell exemplifies the ingenuity and invention that was necessary to move the United States from an agrarian to an industrial base. During his lifetime, Cornell worked as a carpenter, mechanic, farmer, salesman, inventor, entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist.