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Programs prosper

  by Melinda Pradarelli  

When Richard Williams ’63 was a student in the early 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to campus to speak about the civil rights movement.

“I remember feeling very inspired by the speakers who came to campus,” said Williams, a Chicago attorney and Cornell trustee. “King gave a talk one evening in the Chapel, which was completely filled. When I heard him, the hair on the back of my neck literally stood up. The result of that speech was that I ended up getting involved in the civil rights movement, marching on a couple of occasions in Chicago.”

Williams wanted to pass on this feeling of inspiration to Cornell students and faculty. In 1991, Williams set up an endowed lectureship fund. “I really wanted the college to be able to bring in speakers that the students want to hear,” he said. “That’s what made King’s talk special. It was really a student-driven event.”

Delt Lecture

Thanks to a group of early-1960s Delts, Cornell can now bring speakers of King’s magnitude to campus regularly. In anticipation of the 1998 Delta Phi Rho centennial and inspired by prestigious lectureships on several other campuses, the Delt alumni conceived of the Delta Phi Rho Lecture endowment. After committing $150,000 themselves, the group single-handedly campaigned to raise $400,000 from other Delt alumni. The first speaker, in March, was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Bob Woodward.

“We wanted to do something that would bring distinction to the college,” said Delt Bob Bowman ’62, co-chair of the endowment campaign with John Urheim ’62 and R.K. Scott ’63. “The purpose of the endowment is to bring a nationally prominent figure to campus every other year to interpret current issues and encourage student and faculty involvement in public affairs. The endowment also allows alumni and students to connect with Cornell in a new way.”

Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, which has a global readership of 3.5 million, will be the next Delt speaker in November 2005.

“I’m pleased we were able to create this endowed lectureship, and I would love to see other alumni groups try to do something similar in the future,” said Urheim, who is also a Cornell trustee. “It doesn’t have to be a lectureship, but raising money to support any number of causes at Cornell is a terrific goal for any group.”

Arts and sciences

In the arts, the Peter Paul Luce Gallery and endowed funds are having the same eff ect. The gallery is expected to attract more than 15,000 visitors a year for exhibitions that feature local, regional, national, and senior thesis exhibitions. Included in the gallery funding is a $250,000 endowment to allow the college to extend more opportunities to artists all across the United States.

Tony Plaut ’78, associate professor of art and chairman of the department, said the endowment will attract shows that were previously considered to be out of reach and to support visiting artists. In 2005, the department plans to bring Kristine Diekman ’79, a well-known video artist, to Cornell to work with students on creating a video project as an enrichment activity outside of the classroom.

Across campus, the Sherman and Vera Phelps Shaffer Fund endowing a chemistry chair, equipment fund, scholarships, and off-campus study also is having an impact. The chair was established in 2000 with a $1.25 million endowment from the estate of Sherman Shaffer ’22 and Vera Phelps Shaffer ’22. The Shaffers’ $3 million estate also endowed a scientific instructional equipment fund ($1.5 million) and a scholarship and off-campus study fund for chemistry majors ($250,000). Sherman was an authority on physical chemistry. The Shaffers studied geology at Cornell and maintained a lifelong interest in the subject. Chemistry professor emeritus Truman Jordan, who has taught at Cornell for 34 years, was the first recipient of the endowed chair.

Other endowed programs and lectures are adding a new dimension to Cornell.

• In 1998, the Catherine Levy Off-Campus Study Fund was established by David and Lucy Levy, in memory of their daughter, Catherine “Cat” Levy ’98. She died in a car accident prior to receiving her degree. Her endowed fund provides support for Cornell-sponsored off-campus study programs taught by Cornell faculty. More than 50 students applied for the funds in 2004.
• The Deskin Fund created in honor of retired Cornell chemistry professor Bill Deskin supports faculty-student research to fund student stipends, and can be used to cover travel expenses for bringing students to academic meetings.
• The annual Small-Thomas Lecture addresses diversity and community from a faith perspective. It was conceived and funded by Richard Small ’50, a past chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees, and his wife, honorary alumna and trustee Norma Thomas Small. In 2003, the fund brought Sean Farren, a key negotiator in eff orts to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
• The Eric C. Kollman Memorial Lecture is held approximately every other year in honor of the former distinguished professor of history at Cornell.
• The May Music Festival endowment now supports Music Mondays, a series of four musical performances held throughout the year.
• The Anderson Natural Science Lecture endowment, given by Richmond Anderson ’29 and his wife, Cleo, supports science lecturers and residencies.
• The Hendriks Student Research Fund supports geology student research in honor of geology professor emeritus Herb Hendriks ’40.

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