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Trustee endows Bethe House professor-deanship in Dale Corson's name

The post of house professor-dean of Hans Bethe House has been named in honor of Cornell's eighth president, Dale R. Corson, thanks to a $2 million gift from university trustee Robert Harrison '76.

The gift is the first to endow one of the five house professorships in the West Campus House System. Porus Olpadwala, the house professor-dean of Bethe House since it opened in 2007, is now the first Dale R. Corson House Professor-Dean of Hans Bethe House.

Harrison, who was a student trustee and speaker of the now-defunct University Senate when he was an undergraduate, said those roles enabled him to get to know Corson, whom he described as "the model university president."

"I learned a tremendous amount about how large, complicated institutions are run from Dale Corson," said Harrison, now CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative. "He had a very calm, thoughtful, moderate demeanor. He was a great listener.

"He was able to muster support for important initiatives and … balance the interests of different constituencies extremely well," Harrison added. "And there were some difficult issues at that time."

Corson served as president from 1969 to 1977 in the aftermath of the 1969 Willard Straight takeover and led the university through the final years of the Vietnam War and the economic stagnation of the 1970s. He is held in high esteem by many Cornellians for bringing stability to Cornell and returning research, teaching and scholarship to the forefront of the university experience.

A former chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees' Committee on Student Life and current chair of its Executive Committee, Harrison said he also wanted to make a strong statement about the importance of the West Campus House System and its impact on the undergraduate experience at Cornell.

"I believe it's a transformational event for Cornell to have invested in the new housing on West Campus and the concept of these houses being living-learning environments -- with faculty leading the program and living in the house, graduate resident fellows and faculty fellows," said Harrison.

"This gift is a milestone for us with West Campus fundraising for a number of reasons," said Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services. "To have any position endowed, and certainly that first one, is most significant. Having it done by a trustee who understands the student life experience … I think that sends a very strong signal as well. And then to have it in honor of Dale Corson … is just fabulous."

Olpadwala said he felt "very lucky" to be in a post named for Corson.

"I admire him professionally and personally. He has the capacity to make people work together, said Olpadwala. "He's been my role model for an academician."

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Claudia Wheatley