Cornell recruits Doonesbury: 'They want me! They crave me!'

When teenaged Alex Doonesbury made up a list of engineering colleges to visit last year, Cornell University was one of them. Alex is the daughter of Michael Doonesbury. You probably know them. They are creations of Garry Trudeau, whose syndicated comic strip "Doonesbury" has been entertaining readers for decades.

When devoted Doonesbury fan Claudia Wheatley, a consultant-writer with Cornell's Office of Publications and Marketing Services, saw the Cornell name in the strip, she got an idea. With the blessings of Tommy Bruce, vice president for communications at Cornell, Wheatley "pulled together some admissions materials and sent them to Trudeau under the pseudonym 'Francis Gait-Kieper, Admissions Officer,' with publications and marketing as the return address," she said.

That was in December.

Some time in February, a signed note addressed to Francis Gait-Kieper arrived at Wheatley's office. It was from Trudeau.

"It was a brief thank you for the materials," Wheatley said.

She thought no more about it. Then on April 12 Cornell got a big nod in the Doonesbury strip. In the first of four panels, Alex is sitting with her dad reading her acceptance letters and exclaims: "A big fat yes from Cornell! They want me! They crave me!" To be fair, she also got accepted in the strip at Georgetown and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


"I have no idea whether anything I did helped us Doonesbury-wise, but it's fun to think it did," said Wheatley. "Sure the other colleges got subsequent mentions, but Cornell did come in first."

Now, Wheatley is pondering what she can do to tilt Alex's final choice toward Ithaca. Perhaps Alex happens to like hockey. Or Mars. Or searching for ivory-billed woodpeckers?

We do know Alex has engineering in mind. So last week Wheatley shipped off another package to Trudeau. It consisted of a personalized clean suit (also called a "bunny suit") from the Cornell NanoScale Science & Technology Facility, a Case for Cornell packet and a logo pin. C'mon Trudeau, this a great place to go to school.

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