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12 A Cornellian Like No Other

He may be the only one.
In the world.

Aaron Phelps has a bachelor's and a master's degree from Cornell University, though this is not what makes him special. Aaron has another degree from Cornell for which he paid no tuition, received no scholarships, and for which he logged no all-nighters.

Aaron’s third degree from Cornell is actually his first: a diploma from Cornell High School, home of the Chiefs.

Aaron Phelps BS ’99 and M Engr ’99 is the only graduate of Cornell High and Cornell U whom I've been able to identify.

In June, on my way out of Cornell, Wisconsin, I stopped by the corner of North 7th Street and Squire Drive. The guys at Turk’s Bar and the White Pages shared the address. In the driveway was a young man washing his black 1970 Chevy Nova. “No, Aaron’s my big brother,” offered Eric (17). He gave me Aaron’s cell (in Iowa) and I called him on my way back to Madison.

Aaron graduated in 1995 from Cornell High.
He was 4th in his class –– of 32.
Good in math and science – hence agricultural engineering.
He's with John Deere living in Denver, IA.

But the Ivy League was not the usual path for these graduating seniors. UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison, technical colleges and work were more popular choices. Aaron’s parents encouraged him to aim high and a four-year degree was a goal. So was Division I athletics.

Aaron Phelps '99 circa 1995
Three times Aaron placed in the Wisconsin State Wrestling Tournament. His senior year (34-1) he won the state title in the 171 pound class.  It was his wrestling prowess that got the attention of Cornell Coach Robert Koll who invited Aaron to the two-week summer camp in Ithaca before his high school senior year. Aaron was hooked.

But Aaron's Cornell story starts a long time ago – almost a 100 years ago with his paternal grandparents who lived in the pineries in the early 1900s about the time Brunet Falls, Wisconsin became Cornell, Wisconsin.

Aaron’s parents, Jerry and Michelle Phelps, grew up in Cornell, Wisconsin and together attended Cornell High. Aaron (33) is the oldest of four boys (Brandon, 28, Catlon, 24, Eric).

Nearby acreage on which the Phelps hunt has been in the family for over a quarter century. A title search of this property begins with the United States Government. Then Ezra Cornell. Eventually Phelps.

And, yes, it is true. A few second growth trees from this land (Cornell's original land grant) were felled to pay for a portion Aaron's tuition (or books, rent, food...). First sold to build a university; a century later, sold again to send a student there.

So it’s time to talk with the parents.


Kelly Gass said...

Hi. What an interesting story. I'm a graduate of Cornell High School class of 1972. I knew Aaron's folks Jerry and Michelle but not very well as I was a couple years ahead of them in High School. I believe Aaron's grandfather was one of my scout leaders. His grandpa worked at the ranger station in Cornell and was a really nice guy. I've lived out of state for about 30 years now and have lost track of folks. I was looking at the latest issue of the Cornell Sentinel newspaper today and Aaron's name was mentioned in the "Couriers of the Past" column from 20 years ago. It mentioned his gold metal in state wrestling and that he has been recruited by Cornell University but remains undecided. My question was "did he accept admission and go on to graduate from Cornell University." So I did a google search and found your blog. Great story, keep up the good work...Kelly Gass

Ty Anderson said...

Yes Kelly Gass Aaron's Grandfather is also my Grandfather, My mother Is Jerry's sister and indeed did work at ranger station as "Smokey The Bear" Jerry and Michelle, my ant and uncle are still living in Cornell. I do not wrestle like the rest of my family members however I know I have very big shoes to fill.