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7.24.2010

9 Go Big Reds

Growing up in Madison (a soccer kick from the University of Wisconsin campus) in the 1960s, my wardrobe included the obligatory Red and White. When it came time to pick a college my first rule was, "No fashion makeover."

Stanford University (PMS–Pantone Matching System 201), University of Wisconsin (200) and I could walk home to do laundry, Harvard (202), and Cornell University (187). Cornell won (they said yes).


As readers become familiar with Cornell's singular rewards of the speculative (and, in the 1800s, locally reviled) investment in the Wisconsin hinterlands, they may conclude that Big Red-East might owe Big Red–West big time. After all, 500,000 acres is a chunk of land with a billion in board feet of lumber, maybe enough to build a house for every Cornell alumnus in the world.

Upon closer analysis however, Cornell appears to have paid its timber debt in spades. For the State of Wisconsin and its University have benefited greatly from the human, academic and intellectual output of Cornell.

The Cornell connection goes back to the University of Wisconsin's earliest days. As we explore the Cornell-nurtured talent and industry that migrated to the Badger State in the subsequent 150 years, there is a chance that Wisconsin broken even on the land grant deal.

In recent (and current) times

From 1982 until 2004, Katherine Lyall BA '63, PhD '69 served UW with distinction and aplomb, compiling a record of accomplishment that will stand, like northern pines, the test of time. From 1994 until 2004 she served as president of the UW System.

Current dignitaries include:
Biddy Martin, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin
Edwin Lightfoot (BChE 47, PhD), UW emeritus professor and recipient of the National Medal of Science (wife Lila '48 interviewed me in 1974 for Cornell admissions!)
Molly John, (PhD ’88), dean of UW Agricultural & Life Sciences
Carlos E. Santiago (PhD’82), chancellor of UW-Milwaukee.

Let's not neglect the reciprocal connections (just a start):
Newly appointed Cornell Ag School Dean: Kathryn Boor, BS Cornell, MS Wisconsin
Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History, Walter LaFeber, PhD Wisconsin
Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Michael Walter, PhD Wisconsin
Chair, Developmental Sociology, David Brown, MS and PhD Wisconsin
Government, Ronald Herring, PhD Wisconsin

Turn back the clock

Adams, Charles Kendall 1835 – 1902
“No one ever attains success by simply doing what is required of him.”
Born in Derby, Vermont, Adams had an elementary school education until he was 21. He worked his way through the University of Michigan, where he studied with Andrew Dickson White. He taught history at the University of Michigan until his appointment in 1885 as president of Cornell. Adams resigned as Cornell president in 1892. He subsequently became president of the University of Wisconsin until his death in 1902.

Babcock, Stephen M 1843 – 1931
Known for the milk test that bears his name, Stephen Babcock was an agricultural chemist whose work stimulated the growth of the dairy industry and paved the way for discoveries in nutrition and vitamins. Babcock graduated from Tufts University in 1866. From 1872 to 1875 he studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and then chemistry at Cornell. He received his doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Gottingen, Germany, in 1879.

While Babcock's main interest was in the chemical analysis of milk, the importance of the dairy industry in Wisconsin led him to begin testing the butterfat content of milk. The Babcock test, a device he perfected in 1890, measured the fat content of milk which not only determined milk quality but also made it possible to fix standards for milk inspection and to set fair milk prices according to quality. The test helped to discourage farmers from watering or skimming their milk.

Duggar, Benjamin Minge
PhD 1898 (1872 – 1956)
Professor, botanist, author, discoverer of aureomycin. He graduated from Cornell (Ph.D., 1898). In 1927 he came to the Wisconsin as professor of plant physiology and economic botany. He was the author of Fungus Diseases of Plants (1909), the first English text on plant pathology. Among the practical outgrowths of his pioneering studies were the commercial production of mushrooms, a means of combating root rot in cotton, and a method for deactivating the virus responsible for mosaic diseases in tobacco.

Fairchild, Thomas E. 1912–2007
Received A.B. in 1934 from Cornell University; in 1938, LL.B. from University of Wisconsin Law School. Elected state Attorney General in 1948. Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate 1950 and 1952. Chairman of the 1963, co-chairman of the 1960 Governor's Commissions on Constitutional Revision. Elected to Supreme Court April 3 1956, to succeed Chief Justice Edward T. Fairchild.

Henry, William Arnon 1850–1932
First dean of the Univ. of Wis, College of Agriculture. Cornell Univ. (B.Ag., 1880). In 1880 he came to the UW as professor of botany and agriculture, and as manager of the university farm. When the College of Agriculture was organized in 1891, Henry was made dean. Known as the "father of scientific agriculture," he worked effectively to secure the support of the state government, the university regents, and Wisconsin farmers in developing an agricultural college within the university.

Reuss, Henry S. 1912–2002
5th Congressional District. Born Milwaukee, February 22, 1912. B.A. Cornell Univ. 1933; LL.B. Harvard Univ. 1936. Former practicing attorney, college lecturer, magazine writer. Veteran of World War II; served in Army 1943-45, Counsel to Wis. Secy. of State in 1953 Supreme Court reapportionment case. Elected to U.S. House of Representatives since 1954.

And of course four generations of the S.C. Johnson (Wax) family of Racine, WI.

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