The Alma Mater

4 06 2010

According to the greatness that is wikipedia, Alma Mater is Latin for “nourishing mother” — appropriate to its modern reference of being the institute of education where one receives their degree. I and perhaps 5,000 others joined the ranks (numbering 245,000 or so) of individuals who can call Cornell their alma mater. But it’s still strange to think that I’m an alumnus now.

So the experience of one class is different from another. If showcasing some of Cornell’s historical figures has proven anything, it’s that times change, as do the experiences change with time. Stuck in the Fast Lane delivered the message that although we are all Cornellians, no one has the same experience. If this blog has proven something, if anything, it merely emphasizes the point that Elie makes; although experiences vary, we all contribute some small amount to the long and finely woven Big Red tapestry.

A student in 1903 was subject to a typhoid epidemic that sickened over ten percent of the city and killed 29 Cornell students (about 1.5% of the school population — comparable to about 300 or so students today; and although directly caused by polluted water, some have indirectly linked the illness to Typhoid Mary Mellon). In contrast, a student in 1969 wondered if the campus would devolve into anarchy and violence, the tension culminating with the infamous Willard Straight Takeover in April of that year. A student this past year will probably remember the sheer number of tragedies that befell the Cornell community, especially the campus suicides. Perhaps on a lighter note, they’ll also remember it as the year the basketball team went to the Sweet Sixteen.

Point is, they’re all vastly different events, but they all still make up a part of Cornell history. As alumni, we’ve all lived through at least some part of that history as students, and hopefully many more years ahead as alumni.

Ca. 1990. Note the street traffic on the lower right, where Ho Plaza is today.

I have nothing that needs to be said about my experiences as a student. I made use of my four years. I felt like I contributed to Cornell’s history, not by writing about it, but my living it, breathing it, being a part of this institution and contributing in some small but personally meaningful way. That’s the most I could ever want.

Although my time at Cornell is over, this blog is not. It will operate in a reduced capacity, certainly. But history is still being made, new buildings are still being erected and new plans being conjured and proposed and maybe even approved and undertaken. History’s flaw and beauty is in its perpetuity. Life at Cornell isn’t ending because I graduated — it goes on for as long as Ezra’s and Andy’s institution remains Far Above Cayuga’s Waters.

That alone will provide me with the inspiration and the motivation to write for some time yet.



2 responses

6 06 2010

Congrats Brian. I have a feeling your memories of Cornell (and Ithaca) will fall more toward the good times as life continues for you. Glad to see you will keep the blog going. It’s been a wealth of info.

Good luck with your future.


12 08 2010

I found an herbarium specimen at the National Arboretum collected from “Tower Road and West Avenue” back around the turn of the (19th to 20th) century. Took me a bit to realize that meant Tower Road once went down the Slope.

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