Jim (and, briefly, I) drove the world's oldest "working" Saab for about 20 hours through blizzards and darkness at a rate that might seem as frustratingly slow as Ezra Cornell's round trips to Wisconsin 110 years earlier.
The best part of the trip was – and remains – coming over the hill on Route 13 leading into Ithaca when, for the first time and for only a brief moment, you're tempted with a distant view of the city and the Cornell campus still several miles away. If Cornell is alma mater then it is also alma domus.
I am returning to campus for some more research on the land grant, a meeting or two, and the alumni board meeting of Sigma Phi (Jim's and now my fraternity), a society I was introduced to for the first time at the end of that January drive in '76.
The Kroch Library elevator descends a few floors (somewhat less colorfully than the phone booth in Get Smart) where I meet Elaine Engst, the University's affable archivist, to discuss the land grant and the Ezra Cornell collections. My goal: bring highlights of the bicentennial (of Ezra's birth) exhibit to Cornell, Wisconsin's public schools and to the city's visitors center.
Also Ezra Magazine wants a photo for a print and web article it's publishing in a few weeks about my Wisconsin explorations: a shot in front of Ezra Cornell's statue on the Arts Quad. I arrive early for the Monday 9 AM shoot (jealous of the coffee-ed, iPod-ed and backpack-ed future alumni crossing the Quad on their way to enlightenment) and spend a few private moments with Ezra, in silent communication with the tall green sculpture; he listens politely.
"In case you were wondering," I offer, "your great great great grandson says hello."
|Ezra Cornell '70|
He has a handful of humorous stories that come with being named after a famous man. As an undergraduate, the university was easier to navigate using his "EC" moniker. His hilarious tale about his admission's application to the university is a classic (it involves a grandmother, a long drive from New Jersey, the dean of admissions, a Saturday phone call to the university's president, and retrieving an application from the wastebasket).
Most importantly, Ezra expressed his interest in joining me for a trip next spring to Cornell, WI for a rendezvous with teachers, students, and history.