A Fond Farewell to Dear Uncle Ezra

13 11 2012

It’s bittersweet. After 26 years of operation and over 20,000 responses, Dear Uncle Ezra, the “Dear Abby” of the Big Red, has gone on indefinite sabbatical. DUE was useful to this blog for its grab-bag of historical info, cited in these entries many times over the past few years. When first launched in the fall of 1986, DUE could be accessed from one of the two dozen computer sites, or few personal computers on campus.  Now in 2012, and thinking of blogs like this one and of internet culture, I suppose answers to many writers’ questions are just easier to find through google these days. But sometimes, it’s nice to just have someone hear you out, an impartial ear.

I wrote to Dear Uncle Ezra as a freshman. I don’t think the question will surprise most of the readers here.  A quick back-story on this, but my first few months at Cornell were a very trying time for me, since it was my first real experience away from home. And I guess that experience carries over somewhat to my current situation, as I moved to a new region for the first job in my post-grad school meteorology career. Having to build a new social network. Learning the ropes of my job. Not the easiest things in the world, when it seems tempting to settle into something else “easier” or closer to “home”.

From September 5, 2006:

Dear Uncle Ezra,
For years,
I’ve wanted to be a meteorologist, and I came to Cornell to study for that career. However, over the past year or so, I have had an equal if not greater interest in studying to be a history teacher at another university (it has a more focused program than Cornell’s, though I mean nothing against the school). I know that if I transfer, a lot of people will be dissappointed that I’m throwing away an “Ivy League education”. I feel confused and somewhat frustrated at being unable to make a decision, and I have to make it within the school year*. Could you weigh-in on the issue?

Dear Career-confused,

Glad to hear that you haven’t waited til the last minute and have the year to think this one through.  Choosing a career can be a very difficult process, but remember that it is a process and not just one single decision.

Fifty years ago, people in the United States got into the mind set that you chose a career (or even a company) and stayed there until retirement.  This is no longer true, as there is a lot of flexibility to combine interests into a “perfect” job, or to change positions or careers along the way as your expertise and needs change.  I myself, Ezra Cornell, was a carpenter, potter, farmer, public works engineer, communications entrepreneur, and then founder of this university.  But back to you.

In order for your direction to be the right one for you, you will need to continue engaging in the process of exploring your options.  One way to do that is to do research on what the two careers will be like.  Interview people in those positions to learn more about them.  Make an appointment with Cornell Career Services, 103 Barnes Hall, 5-5221.  They provide a wide range of services to help students reach decisions on majors and careers.  They could also help you find an internship or lead you through their career- information library, which might lead to greater clarity.

It might also help to talk to those people who think it would be a mistake to change schools: hear their thoughts and let them know your needs, goals and dreams.

Remember that it is your life and you must make the decision that is right for you after you weigh all of the information that you gather.

If you need a great sounding board along the way, feel free to contact EARS for free, confidential  and immediate counseling by phone or walk-in, 5-EARS or 211 Willard Straight Hall.


So I stayed the path in my career, doing my BS, my MS, and now at my first job (with what may be job number two coming up at a research facility a five hour flight away). My life is in flux, and it’s intimidating. Sometimes its good to have someone to sound off to. And for me personally, that’s what Dear Uncle Ezra was.



One response

22 01 2013

RIP to DUE, indeed. Now that it’s the college application season, nostalgia really kicked in recently. As an alumni ambassador, I was eager to tell applicants about “Dear Uncle Ezra.” Imagine my dismay when I found that it was on indefinite hiatus!

I agree with your final statement about Uncle Ezra. He was a great sounding board. More so than a trained counselor by phone or in person–there’s less pressure to speak on the spot or look someone in the eye when you’re asking crazy or personal things.

I remember asking questions about ridiculous situations (where to donate six bags of canned food, how to add a streetlamp in front of Mudd hall)…Uncle Ezra gave hilarious, helpful responses each time. In that sense, both parties are free to drop the pretense of professionalism and simply joke around with the mask of anonymity.

Anyways, that got prompted me into a Google search–and here I am. What an adorable blog. I will definitely follow you and your tidbits of fun facts about Cornell. It’ll give me something to smile about when I’m missing the Hill.

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