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Birth of the College


Rev. George Bryant Bowman, Cornell’s founder.

Members of the 1914 cross country team.

The idea for an institution of higher education in the frontier country of eastern Iowa and the dynamic spirit that turned this dream into a reality belonged to the Rev. George Bryant Bowman, a North Carolina native who came to Iowa City in 1841 as pastor of the Methodist Church. While at Iowa City, Bowman founded Iowa City College, but it closed after only two years when its president resigned to become the first Iowa state superintendent of public instruction. Later assignments required Bowman to travel to the settlement of Mount Vernon, whose first resident had arrived in 1837, nine years before Iowa's entrance into the Union as the 29th state. Mount Vernon, platted in 1847, was considered by the early 1850s to be “one of the most beautiful, healthy, and prosperous villages in the State.”

The history presented on these pages was adapted by Peter Hoehnle ’96 based on the catalogue history and Cornell College: 150 Years from A to Z by Charles Milhauser, and on the forthcoming scholarly history by William Heywood and the Rev. Richard Thomas. Hoehnle is the author of The Amana People: The History of a Religious Community (Penfield Books, 2003).

The park now known as Palisades–Kepler has been linked to Cornell for more than 100 years and is captured here in an early photograph by William Harmon Norton, class of 1875 and professor of geology from 1881–1924.

Cornell as it appeared in 1918, by art professor Henry Mills (1897–21).

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