Tompkins County Public Library

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cornell Off Campus: The Impact of Cornellians on Tompkins County 1865 - 2015 Opens April 22

Just as the Tompkins County Public Library celebrated its founding in 1864 by Ezra Cornell last year, it wished to honor Cornell’s much larger gift to the community with an exhibit in 2015 to commemorate the university’s sesquicentennial.  While the inspiration for this exhibit was the signing of Cornell University’s Charter by Governor Reuben Fenton on April 27, 1865, the exhibit isn’t about the university or what has taken place on campus since that date. Instead, it is an attempt to illustrate the impact the institution has had on Tompkins County as demonstrated by its most significant local contribution, its people.

Fifteen people associated with Cornell were selected by curator Julee Johnson to represent its past and present, one for each decade of its existence; fifteen Cornellians – students, alumni, faculty, and staff members – who have had an undeniable impact on this community.

A special opening reception takes place on Friday, May 1 from 5 – 8 PM in conjunction with Gallery Opening Night. Join curator Cornell Alumna Julee Johnson at 6:15 PM in the Avenue of the Friends for a tour of the exhibit and to learn about the range and variety of impacts these 15 Cornellians have made on Tompkins County from 1865 to 2015.

1865-1875: Ezra Cornell, co-founder and benefactor of Cornell University, who also founded the Tompkins County Public Library in 1864
1875-1885: William H. Miller designed over 70 buildings in Tompkins County, on and off campus
1885-1895: Mary Isabelle (Belle) Sherman, beloved science teacher at Ithaca High School for over 30 years
1895-1905: Martha Van Rensselaer taught extension courses to New York farm wives, and later joined forces with Flora Rose to found the College of Home Economics at Cornell University
1905-1915: Everett Fleet Morse, inventor with numerous patents and co-founder with brother Frank of Morse Chain Company, once the largest employer in Tompkins County
1915-1925: Robert H. Treman, businessman and philanthropist who donated Enfield Glen and Buttermilk Falls to the New York State Parks system
1925-1935: Howard E. Babcock was one of the founders and first general manager of the cooperative Grange League Federation (GLF), which stabilized prices and guaranteed markets for farmer-members in Tompkins County and statewide
1935-1945: Romeyn Berry for the Ithaca Journal, his column “State and Tioga” appeared weekly for 28 years
1945-1955: Laura Bryant, revered music teacher with a 44-year career in the Ithaca School system and author of several music books for children
1955-1965: Katherine Van Winkle Palmer was one of the founding incorporators of the Paleontological Research Institution and director of PRI during its move to West Hill and establishment of its on-site museum
1965-1975: Assemblywoman Constance Cook represented Tompkins County and co-sponsored the landmark abortion rights law in 1970
1975-1985: Beverly Martin, teacher and later principal at Central Elementary School and Ithaca City School District’s first Director of Affirmative Action
1985-1995: Ilma Levine with Debbie Levin taught after-school science classes at Central Elementary School and founded the Sciencenter
1995-2005: Stuart Stein was a member and chair of the Tompkins County Legislature and advocate for arts funding, cooperative energy purchasing, and heritage tourism
2005-2015: Svante Myrick was a member of the Ithaca Common Council and now Mayor, the youngest and first African American to hold this office 

This exhibit was made possible by the Office of Community Relations, Cornell University and the Tompkins County Public Library.