A Message from President BrandWhen Commencement ended this year, held outside for the first time since 1987, we were all able to appreciate what had just concluded. The trees and our historic buildings on the eastern edge of campus served as our backdrop. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze. Will Dinneen ’12 had just offered a passionate and humorous description of his Cornell experience. Jim VanValen, assistant professor of theatre, led all of us, including hundreds of guests, in a sing-a-long of Harry Chapin’s “All My Life’s a Circle” (even with cue cards for the faculty!). And we had just graduated 254 Cornellians, ready to tackle their next challenges with the skills, appreciations, and relationships hewn from a Cornell education. It was a quintessential Cornell moment—honoring the seriousness of our academic purpose and also celebrating our playfulness and sense of community.
After Commencement, around College Hall, our students, their families, our faculty and staff simply lingered—to celebrate and to be together. It was as if they were saying: “We love this place and not one of us is ready to see this year or this period of life end.” I shared that sentiment.
This past year was marked by significant successes and energy. At the highest level, we reaffirmed our mission as “an innovative and rigorous learning community where faculty and staff collaborate with students to develop the intellectual curiosity, creativity, and moral courage necessary for a lifetime of learning and engaged citizenship.” And, we boldly decided that the education of our students and Cornell’s distinguished place in higher education require us to reimagine the liberal arts experience as no other school has done. This is our path and our future choices will reflect this vision; I, myself, am eager to achieve it.
As we enter this new academic year, we have now launched the Center for the Literary Arts in the renovated Van Etten-Lacey House, the McLennan Center in Chicago, and the renovation and expansion of the Thomas Commons. We have planned over 25 exciting off-campus study opportunities. We have now rejoined the Midwest Conference. We are beginning to contemplate how each experience at Cornell should advance our institutional dream to reimagine the liberal arts experience. From all of this, we have energy and a sense of purpose that pushes us forward.
I am more convinced than ever that the financial strength of an institution will increasingly become a critical determining characteristic of the most successful schools. As a result, Cornell’s ability to thrive in the future will be a function of our ability to articulate a compelling vision that inspires you—our own alumni and friends—to support Cornell. We are thankful for your past support, without which Cornell would simply not be possible. And, we hope that our plans for the future energize you to continue to play a role in the life of Cornell. Thank you.