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10.08.2010

21 Correction Dr Skorton: "Two Cornells"

In his 2010 Reunion State of the University address President David Skorton refers to "One Cornell."

"Celebrating our shared past on this beautiful hill, in our own special time and place, and affirming our collective identity as Cornellians; sharing our pride in the past of this special university, celebrating its present excellence, and looking forward with resolve and optimism toward its future and toward our sesquicentennial. We are "One Cornell." Then. Now. Always. Cornell."

I found another Cornell.
Not really found, but dusted off.

Sam Johnson '50
I remember a story from the late Sam Johnson '50, Chairman of SC Johnson, about the 70th anniversary of the Wisconsin company's first international subsidiary in England. His remarks to the foreign employees fell upon a quiet but polite audience. The foreign employees felt more like neglected children than part of the Johnson family. Racine. Headquarters. The heart of the company. A million miles away.

Sam tells of how much this troubled him. He truly cared.

The British company had had a couple of tough years. There was going to be no profit sharing in the UK that year. Employee morale was down. Sam wanted to provide a lift – to let the British employees know that they wouldn’t be abandoned – that they were part of the worldwide Johnson family. What better way to do that than to invite the entire British team (from “general manager to the tea lady,” as one British newspaper put it) to visit Racine, a place they heard about every day but few had ever visited.

All the British employees flew to the US for a few days in Racine and then a holiday in New York City. On Broadway. At the company's expense.

I think of this tale as I reflect on our remote Cornell family in Cornell, Wisconsin. They do not feel abandoned. On the contrary, they are curious – and excited about the chance to share a bit of the university's offerings, resources, and spirit. Their focus seems to be on their children – teaching present and future generations about the legacy – their legacy – with a great man and a great university.

They're excited that there really is a guy named Ezra Cornell '70 (great great great grandson) who is interested in visiting from Ithaca.

It's been 100 days since embarking on this research, conversations and contemplation. I am certain that Cornell's land grant mission can be aptly served by extending the university's reach and impact into the northern Wisconsin woods. The source of our land grant endowment.

And I know the faculty, students, alumni and university would benefit as much as our sister community in the Midwest. Think remote "town-gown."

Their modest but proud public library.
Their beloved, but rundown local movie house.
The visitors center and an Ezra Cornell exhibit.
The last standing pulp woodstacker.
Lectures, workshops, mentoring, guidance, friendship,...

Road trip anyone?

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