The Halls of Presidents

7 07 2009

So, I was in an online correspondence with someone, and the comment was made that “apart from donating a s–tload of cash, the only other way to get a building named after you at Cornell is to be the [school] president”. Technically, that’s not true, as Lincoln Hall was named for Abraham Lincoln, and many other buildings were named for important college presidents, like Mann Library and Thurston Hall.

But, I decided to explore the topic a little further and check the “win/loss record” for Cornell presidents [listed at [1]]. Here’s the results.

1. Andrew Dickson White (1866-1885)

A.D. White is perhaps the most important president in this university’s history, so it seems fitting he had a building that was dedicated to him. North University Hall (built in 1866) was renamed White Hall in 1883 in his honor[2].

Result: WIN

2. Charles Kendall Adams (1885-1892)

Charles Kendall Adams was a student of A. D. White who served seven tumultuous years at the university. Unfortunately, although he was more than capable, no building was ever named for him. This could be for several reasons, according to Cornell historian Morris Bishop; for one, the trustees never really liked him; for two, the students weren’t particularly fond of him either. When he did resign, it was under strong persuasion from old Henry Sage, who had developed quite an interest in Jacob Schurman. On the bright side, Adams would accept the presidency at the University of Wisconsin, where a dorm was named after him[3].

Result: LOSS (for Cornell anyway)

3. Jacob Gould Schurman (1892-1920)

Jacob Schurman saw Cornell through the Gilded Age and a period of rapid growth, and during his presidency Cornell was for a short time the second largest college in the country (Bishop 352). However, the building that was named for him, Schurman Hall of the Vet School, was built in 1957 [4]. Jacob Schurman died in 1942 [1]. I guess this one is technically a win, but it’s not like Schurman lived to enjoy the recognition.

Result: WIN (postmortem)

 4. Livingston Farrand (1921-1937)

Our fourth president, while described as a very likable man in A History of Cornell (451), never had any building named after him. The Farrand Garden near A.D. White house is as close as one gets; even then, although it is formally dedicated to Mr. Farrand, his wife was a very avid gardener, so it might be seen as more of  homage to her [5]. 

Result: LOSS (but tell your wife Cornell says thanks)

5. Edmund Ezra Day (1937-1949)

A fairly obvious win on this one. Day Hall, the Cornell administrative building, was named for Edmund Ezra Day, right around the time he decided to retire due to ill health. Not bad, considering this time perios saw very little permanent construction. Up until his death in 1951, Day served as chancellor of Cornell, a largely ceremonial position [6].

Result: WIN

6. Deane Waldo Malott (1951-1963)

Deane Malott oversaw another construction boom on campus. Malott Hall is named in his honor, perhaps because the main person who financed its construction, William Carpenter 1910, already had a building named after him, so they opted to name the building for the retiring president [7]. Even better, Deane Malott had a building named after him on the University of Kansas campus (where he was president before coming to Cornell [8]), so he deserves a double win.  

Result: WIN

7. James Perkins (1963-1969)

For the record, James Perkins was not a bad guy. He just happened to resign in disgrace after the public relations disaster that was the Willard Straight Takeover [9]. Frankly, he was going up sh*t creek when he realized it was too much for him to handle.

Result: LOSS

8. Dale Corson (1969-1977)

Dale R. Corson, who made his nut working in the field of physics [10], dutifully served out close to a decade at Cornell, before resigning the presidency position, sitting in as chancellor for a couple of years before the trustees gave him title of president emeritus. Corson Hall, just off the ag quad, was named in his honor when it was completed in 1981 [11].

Result: WIN

9. Frank H.T. Rhodes (1977-1995)

Frank Rhodes, a 6’7” Englishman, served 18 years as president of Cornell university. Right as his retirement was approaching, the trustees voted to rename the Engineering and Theory Center building Frank Rhodes Hall in his honor (the building was completed in 1990 [13]).

Result: WIN

10. Hunter Rawlings III (1995-2003)

Hunter Rawlings overtook several large capital campaigns for the university’s endowment, and oversaw construction of much of North Campus [14]. The North Campus effort earned him his name on the large semicircular field between Helen Newman and CKB/Mews. Still, it’s not a building.

Result: LOSS (but only on technicality)

11. Jeffrey Lehman (2003-2005)

Well, serving only two years, and then resigning after citing irreconcilable differences with the trustees isn’t going to help your cause [15]. However, while the trustees may never allow a building to be named after him, the $1,000,000 of hush money they paid out to him in 2006 provides a little consolation.

 Result: LOSS (but enjoy the consolation prize)

So, our final tally indicates 6-5. If Skorton rides it out a few more years, maybe we’ll be hearing about the dedication of Skorton Hall someday in the alumni news.



















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