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WINTER 2 0 0 5

Daughter of soldier collects shoes for Afghan orphans

  Campus Digest  
Emily Moore and Becky Kakac

Cornell students Emily Moore (left) of Bailey, Colo., and Becky Kakac of Garrison, Iowa, package shoes to mail to orphans in Afghanistan, where Kakac’s father is stationed with the Iowa Army National Guard.

In an e-mail junior Becky Kakac received from her soldier father in Afghanistan, he asked for more than 300 pairs of shoes for barefoot children left orphaned by the Taliban. Six months and more than 2,000 pairs later, her Shoes for Kids drive has generated donations and media attention nationwide.

The shoes have been distributed at schools and orphanages in Afghanistan, where Sgt. 1st Class Alan Kakac of Garrison, Iowa, is serving with the Iowa Army National Guard’s Task Force 168 at Bagram Air Base.

Local news stories were picked up by national media—including the Associated Press and CBS News Radio in New York—prompting Midwesterners to e mail and call with offers of shoes. Donations are coming from churches, schools, and businesses, including a Marion, Iowa, tanning studio that offers customers a free session for each pair of shoes donated.

“This project has helped me realize that a few people can really make a difference. We all want Dad to come home soon. The project keeps him close to us. It is a constant reminder that he needs to be there and that an 18-month sacrifice from us may mean an entire lifetime being improved for someone else,” said Becky, who is majoring in politics and economics and business. Since launching Shoes for Kids, she wants to pursue a career in organization and management work for nonprofits.

Her father is due home in August, but she would like the shoe drive to continue. The soldiers are working to establish long-term connections in Afghanistan that can continue to receive the shoes after troops leave.

For an update on Shoes for Kids, go to

Students donate to tsunami relief

In the month following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, Cornell students collected $1,181 from various fund-raising activities for UNICEF’s Fund for Tsunami Relief.

Students sold tickets to an independent Thai film showing at the Bijou in Mount Vernon, staged a talent show on the Orange Carpet featuring comedians and bands, sold blue ribbons of support in The Commons, and canvassed the residence halls for spare change.

“Our target for collections was around $1,000. We hoped that if each student gave $1, we would easily reach this target,” said Robert Fisher, president of the student organization Eyes of the World. “Ultimately, I was really ecstatic to hear the total.”





Robert Dana

Robert Dana, professor of English and poet-in residence emeritus, is the new Iowa poet laureate.


Dana named Iowa poet laureate

Robert Dana, professor of English and poet-in residence emeritus, plans to use his time as Iowa poet laureate to help teachers better understand poetry so they can encourage students to see poetry has relevance to their lives.

Dana was named in September as the state’s symbolic leader of poetry. It’s a two-year appointment that will have him writing poems commissioned by the state, reading poems at official Iowa public events at the invitation of the governor, and touting the joys of poetry as a member of the Humanities Iowa speakers bureau. He is only the state’s second poet laureate since the 1930s; Marvin Bell, professor at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, filled two terms from 2000–2004 after the position was revived by the legislature.

Dana joined Cornell in 1954 after graduating with a master’s degree from the Writers’ Workshop. At the time, he was the youngest (age 25) tenure-track professor hired by Cornell. During his 40-year Cornell career, he received $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, in 1985 and 1993; the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award for Poetry in 1989, given by New York University to honor a promising young poet or a gifted poet whose work has been largely unrecognized; and the Rainer Maria Rilke Prize for Poetry. His book, Starting Out for the Difficult World, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. He has written 13 books of poetry, the most recent, The Morning of the Red Admirals, published in 2004.


Michael Conklin '69

Michael Conklin ’69, who has interviewed hundreds of notable people in his 35 years at the Chicago Tribune, was honored with the Distinguished Achievement Award at homecoming.



Matt Weiss '99

Matt Weiss ’99, a distinguished scholar, athlete and medical school graduate, received the Young Alumni Achievement Award.

Alums, authors honored

Former Alumni Board president and longtime Chicago Tribune writer Michael Conklin ’69 was presented with Cornell’s highest honor, the Distinguished Achievement Award, at homecoming in October. A Lisbon native whose first reporting stint was at The Sun, he has accumulated bylines in numerous publications including Basketball Weekly and Sports Illustrated, written three sports books and a play, and been a weekly TV commentator in Chicago. He has served the Cornell College Club of Chicago as president and, along with honorary alumna Diane Conklin, chaired the Chicago Sesquicentennial Gala.

Matt Weiss ’99 received the Young Alumni Achievement Award. After an outstanding academic and athletic career at Cornell—graduating Phi Beta Kappa, earning an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, and twice named a football Academic All American—Weiss completed medical school. He is a general pediatric resident in Kansas City, with ambitions in international humanitarian medical work.

Cornell historians and authors Charles Milhauser, William Heywood, and Richard Thomas, as well as Vivian Heywood, who assisted in producing her husband’s scholarly history volume, received Leadership and Service Awards. Milhauser, classics professor and registrar emeritus, wrote Cornell College: 150 Years from A to Z, has given historical tours of the campus for 25 years, and has written the Cornell Report’s Cornelliana column for 10 years.

Heywood and Thomas produced the two-volume Cornell College: A Sesquicentennial History. Heywood, professor of history and dean of the college emeritus, covered the years 1853 to 1967. The remaining years were covered by Thomas, chaplain of the college and professor of history emeritus, who wrote the nomination that earned Cornell a place on the National Register of Historic Places 25 years ago, the first college campus named in its entirety.


Richard Thomas, Charles Milhauser, and Robert Dana

Emeriti professors Richard Thomas, Charles Milhauser, and Robert Dana (right to left) signed copies of their books at homecoming. Dana has written 13 books of poetry, Milhauser authored Cornell College: 150 Years from A to Z, and Thomas and William Heywood wrote the two-volume Cornell College: A Sesquicentennial



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