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Campus Digest: In Brief

Beta Omicron alum program hosts venture capitalist

Cornell’s Beta Omicron Distinguished Alumni Visitors Program welcomed Ralph “Chris” Christoffersen ’59 (left) for a fall lecture on “Biotechnology as the Next U.S. Economic Driver.”

A chemistry and mathematics major at Cornell, he is general partner at Morgenthaler Ventures, a venture capital firm in Boulder, Colo., focused on biotechnology. Previously he worked in the pharmaceutical industry, first as a senior researcher at The Upjohn Co. and SmithKline Beecham, and then as CEO of Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals. In the early ’80s he served two years as president of Colorado State University, after teaching and administrative duties at the University of Kansas.

Besides his lecture, Christoffersen visited a class on capital markets and met with economics and business students and faculty, plus members of the Cornell Financial Group.

Emeritus Prof. Deskin with Christoffersen

Firsts for Ram athletics

Senior tennis player Emily Loewen and sophomore Pavla Brachova claimed Cornell’s first Iowa Conference doubles championship. The Rams, coached by Fred Burke ’70 in his 28th season, finished runner-up in the league for the fifth time in 10 years. With the spring season to come, Loewen is seven wins shy of Cornell’s all-time victory record (144) set by Marie Schutte ’06.

Women’s cross country crowned two all-IIAC performers at the league championships for the first time in school history—sophomores Rachelle Hawkins (14th in the 6K race) and Patricia Gonzalves (15th). The team placed fourth out of nine squads, with a point total (110) bettering Cornell’s previous best by 35 points (145 in 1997).

The wrestling team crowned multiple champions for the first time at their own Matman Invitational, in its 29th year in 2007. Junior Chris Heilman at 125 pounds, first-year Nick Nothern at 133, and junior Pat McAuley at 157 became the first champions for Cornell since Justin Dix ’01 in 2000. The Rams finished fourth out of 14 teams.

Matt Dillon ’81, in his first season as head football coach, extended Cornell’s season-opening winning streak to seven, with a 30–14 win over Northwestern (Minn.) in his college coaching debut.

For more athletics news, go to

Social groups now Greeks

Cornell’s 15 social groups are now formally known as Greeks, and its governing body is called the Greek Council.

The name change took place in December when Student Senate voted to accept the constitution of the Greek Council, formerly the Council on Social and Service Groups. The constitution also doubles the service requirement of each Greek member (to 16 hours a year), formalizes rights and responsibilities, and establishes a set of policies aimed at creating greater accountability among the groups.

A front-page article in The Cornellian described the name change as a “relief” to “Greeks strained to explain what a ‘social group’ was.”

Cornell’s literary societies, which began in 1853, died out in the early 1920s and evolved into secret Greek groups emphasizing social rather than intellectual life. In 1927-28, an advisory committee of faculty and students studied the Greek system and recommended that the organizations—soon to become known as “social groups”—not be known as fraternities or sororities, have Greek names, or affiliate nationally. In recent history, national affiliation has been explored but the local Greek system has prevailed.

A comprehensive new Web site on Greek life at Cornell is at

Kappa Thetas at Graduation

Block plan popularity spreads north

Quest University Canada will join the ranks of the block plan colleges when the private, liberal arts and sciences school opens in September in Squamish, British Columbia. A team of faculty and administrators from Quest visited Cornell last September. Cornell and Quest hope to develop a faculty exchange program and to share best practices in block-plan teaching.

Quest will follow Cornell’s One Course At A Time model of 3 ½-week terms where students study a single subject, with a 4 ½-day block break separating terms.

Quest’s $100 million, 240-acre campus has been under construction for the past four years. The inaugural class will be 160 students, and the university has set capacity at 650.

Quest will be the first university in Canada on the block plan. There are five schools in the United States currently operating on a block plan: Iowa’s Cornell and the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Colorado College, Tusculum College (Tennessee), and the University of Montana Western. Cornell has taken the initiative in fostering communication between the block-plan schools.

Rock's moving saga

Among Cornell traditions, marking up or moving the Rock is one of the oldest.

Seniors in 1889 hauled the 5,000-pound boulder from Palisades-Kepler State Park, carved 1889 on its granite face, and left it between College and South halls. Junior-senior rivalries in the 1890s kept the Rock on the move. In May 1948 the Rock was buried by some freshmen; it was unearthed just before they graduated in 1951. The Rock has been defaced numerous times, burned, and even covered in cotton.

For most of the past half-century, the Rock has rested between Old Sem and King Chapel. In the predawn hours of the Sunday after homecoming, the Rock was on the move again.

“We wanted to revive a great Cornell tradition that seems to have fallen by the wayside,” says senior Leland Levin, president of Phi Kappa Nu. The Newts rented a backhoe and hauled the Rock about 25 feet southeast of its longtime home near King Chapel. Because the weight of the Rock carved tire tracks into the grass, the Newts have agreed to cover the cost to repair the sod and also help with the work in the spring.

At press time, the Rock was resting peacefully where the Newts left it, in the grass south of Old Sem near the pedestrian mall.

The rock at Halloween

We toss toilet paper, they fling fish

We learned yet another distinction between Cornell College and Cornell University in a New York Times article about the hockey rivalry between the Big Red and Harvard. When the Crimson come to town, Cornell fans for more than 30 years have been throwing fish at Harvard players as they take the ice to start the game.

The Cornell-Harvard rivalry started with the 1909-10 season, but the fauna didn’t start flying until 1973, when a Harvard fan tossed a dead chicken at the visiting goaltender, poking fun at the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. When Cornell hosted the game, fans began throwing a variety of sea life—carp, minnows, and even a shark one time—to mock the fishing industry in the New England area. All the while, the Cornell band plays the theme from the movie Love Story, which includes a Cornell hockey victory over Harvard.

The Coe-Cornell College rivalry is just as old but not as fishy. When the Coe men’s basketball team comes to Mount Vernon, Cornell students sit in the bleachers with rolls of toilet paper to toss onto the court after the Rams’ first basket. Play is stopped, the floor is cleared of tissue, Cornell gets a technical foul, and the game continues, as it has since the basketball rivalry started in the 1909–10 season.

TP toss for basket ball game

Numbers worth noting

85 percent is the retention rate for first-to-second-year students on campus last fall. This is the best retention rate the college has ever experienced.

21.5 percent of Cornell alumni live in Iowa (2,635 of 12,252).

Sources: Institutional Research; Alumni Office.