50 Favorite things
There are so many things to love about Cornell. The campus, Mount Vernon, the calendar. But memories reside in the specific, not the general, so we asked our alumni to name the things they cherish most about Cornell.
The King Chapel bells.
Arianne Hartlove Dooley ’00 said she loved how amazing her legs looked after climbing four flights of stairs every day to her room in the tower of Bowman-Carter.
Having a burger and fries at the Rathskeller.
The sine qua non of the Cornell experience since 1978. Our three-and-a-half-week blocks allow students and faculty to delve deeply into the topic at hand.
Ink Pond and the chair swing.
Affinity seating at Commencement.
They’ve been your friends all through college;
you should get to sit with them one last time
Open Field, publishing student work since 1968.
Faculty-Staff No-Talent Show,
which features lip-syncing, pies in the face,
and support for the college’s Alternative Spring Break.
The classrooms, especially the historic classroom in College Hall.
Having roommates and neighbors
become lifelong friends.
“I describe Cornell frequently as ‘steel sharpening steel.’ My friends and classmates are all absolutely brilliant, and I learn a lot by engaging in discussions with them in class, at club meetings, at lectures by visiting speakers, and just over the dinner table. I would never have become an environmentalist, a feminist, or an outspoken LGBT activist if it wasn’t for what my peers have taught me. I love nothing more than engaging in debates with them about religion, philosophy, history, and current events, and discussions with other Cornell students are really what taught me how to take a stand for things I believe in and how to defend my own points and stances without getting overly emotional. Every time I am able to take a stand for what I believe in articulately in my adult and professional life, I will thank Cornell and its students.”
Elizabeth Brown ’12
The busy bonding week of New Student Orientation, where you meet your classmates for the first time.
Late-night Breakfast, where faculty and staff serve breakfast food to students up late studying for finals.
The magnolia tree outside of Law Hall,
dedicated to Harry McCormick Kelly,
a professor of biology from 1894–1936.
Being part of something greater than yourself.
Shannin Stein Salnier ’97 explained it as, “the pride of being a graduate of an institution which has and continues to encourage and embrace open political, social, artistic, and scientific discourse and exploration.”
Sit-down dinners in the Thomas Commons (and before).
Suite living with your friends in New and Russell halls.
The squares in front of King Chapel.
The Alma Mater.
It’s more than a song, it’s a charge from our history to always make Cornell a better place.
The gingko tree,
one of the largest of its kind in Iowa.
The diverse course load at a liberal arts college.
Toilet paper toss.
It might garner a technical foul, but it’s also a way to show school spirit and celebrate success against Coe.
Moosehead Lounge, home of Cornell T. Moose.
Since 2005 more than 200 students have been Cornell Fellows, getting the chance to take on a high-level project and connect the skills they learned in class to the world of work.
Junior MacKenzie Dreeszen spent eight weeks as the Armstrong Fellow in Food Consumption, expenses covered.
“This has been an invaluable opportunity that has taught me skills I will use not only in school but as a member of the workforce,” she said. “I learned how surveys are conducted, from distribution to entering and analyzing data, how the grant application process works, how to plan field trips, the importance of community support, and about sustainable, local food production. This experience refined my writing skills, developed my critical thinking and problem solving abilities, and I have used time management to prioritize and accomplish tasks by deadline. I will greatly miss the sense of community at Matthew 25, whether it is working on grant applications together, staff meetings, or potlucks, and I hope to keep in touch.”
The roof of Altoona Hall,
which on an unseasonably warm spring day
was the next best thing to the beach.
where you spend three-and-a-half weeks immersing yourself in not just a new subject, but a new culture.
Pfeiffer hill in the winter.
The perfect place to tube, tray, or sled in the snow. Here, Dave Obst ’87 sleds down the hill during Winter Weekend.
BACO House, once home to Cornell’s longest-running intercultural life program.
Whether the cherubs are wearing painted-on bikinis or naked as their sculptor intended, it’s a landmark.
the voice of Cornell
(and for a while, at least, the “Foster Home of Rock & Roll”) since 1948.
The disc golf course.
Visit campus on a warm spring day and keep your ears alert for the “FORE!” that precedes the appearance of the disc.
Baccalaureate senior tributes.
This is when seniors get to express their thanks for the people who made their Cornell experience so special, like these:
“For the Math Department. You strike the perfect balance between care and brutality.”
“Mom: No matter how bad I screwed up you were there to pick me up off the ground and tell me it would all be OK—even when you weren’t sure it would be.”
“I came because I thought it was Cornell University. I stayed because it wasn’t.”
“You know, I’ve really been looking forward to graduation. The end of childhood, that period of life when you’re told what to do and how to do it. Graduation means adulthood begins, a period of life when you must find a job and will be told what to do and how to do it. Is it too late to go back to childhood?”
“I have learned a lot from my professors, but thank you to my sisters for discovering with me the important things; like how NOT to light a grill and how quickly cake disappears if no one uses a fork. Much love and thanks to my families, by blood and by sisterhood.”
in all its incarnations from tree trunk to cement posts.
The chairs by the windows in Cole Library,
a place to curl up with a good book and soak in the warmth of the sun.
Alumni Board President Sheila Kruse Boyce ’85 put it this way:
“Block Breaks are a delightful, welcome opportunity to recharge after the intense work of the previous term. A time to turn off our intellectual side for a few days of fun on campus or a visit home—and sleep.”
And Derek Johnson ’04 really, really misses them, saying, “It’s borderline immoral that block break hasn’t been adopted by the working world.”
William Fletcher King,
the college’s longest-serving president (and his scholarships, which are still helping students attend Cornell).
“A personal favorite place on campus for my wife Heather Gordon Rausch ’98 and I will always be The Rock and the kiosks. In July 1998 I painted the kiosks (there were two concrete ones then) and The Rock with a friend, Betsy Campbell Hoppe ’99; the kiosks were painted white with red hearts, and the rock was painted red with a marriage proposal on it. It was the only time as a student that I was involved with painting The Rock; not surprisingly, given that it was summer, my messages stayed up for over a month until school began again!”
Darren J. Rausch ’99
May Music Festival,
which ran from 1898 to 1998 and hosted such musical luminaries as Marilyn Horne, the Bill Evans Trio, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Student art openings and senior recitals,
where Cornell’s artistically inclined students
can show off their talent and hard work.
The Orange Carpet.
The Cornellian office.
Mike Conklin ’69 had this memory:
“The Cornellian office became my home one night a week in my senior year. I had left school for two years to be a reporter for a daily newspaper in Illinois, but returned and was appointed editor by the publication board to restore some order to the paper. This was the late 1960s, a tumultuous time on campus; opinions ruled, objective information was rarely found in its pages. No one wanted to be edited and, by the end of the year, I was putting it out mostly by myself with the help of a few others. In my last semester, I needed only six hours to graduate and added a full-time job as an on-air reporter for KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids from 2 to 10 p.m. Everything came to a head on Thursday nights. I would drive to campus from my day job, stay up until 5 a.m. fine-tuning stories written during the week (on typewriters), write headlines, lay out sections, catch a few Zs at my desk, and drive proofs to Independence to go to press at 7 a.m. It was a 22-hour day. I loved every second of it.”
Ulysses the Ram.
He’s undergone a few transformations, but since 1948, he’s been the face of Rams athletics.
The beauty of the Hilltop in fall (or any season, really).
Deb Stewart Bowman ’74 said,
“The fresh country air makes you happy to be alive. The warm sun on the hill leading to King Chapel makes you believe you can climb any mountain. Finally, the colors of green in the spring and the various golds of the fall fill you with wonder at such a beautiful place.”
Academic regalia at Commencement.
The pomp, the circumstance, the hats.
Norton Geology rock collection,
with some specimens dating back to department founder William Harmon Norton.
The train whistle.
Alice Whitehead Purnell ’46 wrote: “When back on campus for a reunion, I heard it: The train whistles! I stood stock-still, listening. I hadn’t realized till that moment how its sound—lonely and echoing—had become so infused in my Hilltop memories, a favorite thing!”
Building your own major.
“When presented with the opportunity to make a proposal to work toward and receive a Bachelor of Special Studies, I took it. I ended up with concentrations in English, art and communications. At the time, I had my heart set on working for a fine arts organization. I didn’t end up doing that, but the experience of putting a proposal together, making my case, planning my classes, and guiding my own education was beyond valuable.”
Jennifer Albrecht ’98
So adorable, so fluffy, so many of them.
The Ped Mall,
the backbone of the campus and
a place to say hello to just about everyone.
The faculty and staff.
“Most of us probably remember the close friendships with students, but for me another important part of Cornell was the relationships with staff and faculty. From the friendly and thoughtful maintenance staff who kept the campus running to the professors who befriended and mentored me, I felt a community that went beyond students. I took a Latin course from Charles Milhauser who was the registrar then. After that I was an occasional visitor to his office. I am certain he had work to do, but he always had time for me. The time and concern the staff and faculty demonstrated was amazing. I loved being in class with professors, but more important was the time outside of class. Office doors were open when I needed help with a paper idea or a homework problem. Many welcomed us into their homes. 4 a.m. departures to speech competitions were bonding experiences, albeit sleepy ones, and our faculty advisor driving the van bonded right along with us. The faculty and staff at Cornell gave a lot to create the sense of campus community that was an essential part of many of our Cornell experiences.”
Paul Hutchison ’87