Cornell History Through the Eyes of The Sun

Over 150 years ago, the governor of New York State signed Cornell University’s charter, establishing the university that its founder, Ezra Cornell, would later describe as “an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

While The Sun was not established until 15 years after the University, the publication has continuously followed the University and kept Cornellians informed for over 130 years.

Here, we showcase some of The Sun’s front pages that cover some of defining moments of the University’s history.

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‘Without any apology for our appearance’ | The Sun’s inaugural issue was published on Sept. 16, 1880, fifteen years after Cornell’s charter is signed and 18 years after the signing of the Morrill Land-Grant Act, which allowed states to establish a university with the purpose of benefiting the state.


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“Cornell’s Stand In Face of War to Be Revealed” | The day after the Pearl Harbor attacks on Dec. 7, 1941, the front page of The Sun [above] featured various Associated Press wires regarding World War II and the attacks. Cornell President Edmund Ezra Day issued a statement the following day, telling Cornellians to stay “at their jobs” until more definitive information regarding the country’s role in the war was provided. Throughout the war, Cornell was greatly disrupted — men were called to enlist in 1943, and The Sun became a weekly known as “The Cornell Bulletin.”


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‘Precautions Lacking’ | In April 1967, a fire at the Cornell Heights Residential Club — which is now the Ecology House on North Campus — killed eight Ph.D. students and a professor. The following day, The Sun published a story on its front page [left] about the lack of fire safety precautions in University residences. To this day, the cause of the fire is unknown, although following the event, Cornell invested in fire safety measures across campus.


Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 8.49.50 PMCornell’s capitulation | Forty-five years ago, approximately 100 black students took over Willard Straight Hall and ejected Cornell employees and visiting family members from the building. The following day, April 20, 1969, students emerged from the Straight with rifles. Marking the end of a decade full of racial tensions, Cornell was divided. Tensions ultimately culminated with the resignation of its president and the future establishment of shared governance on campus. Right is The Sun’s extra edition announcing the takeover.


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The land grant university of the future | In December 2011, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Cornell won the city’s Applied Sciences competition, which granted the University the right to build a new technology campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. Cornell is thought to have won the bid after Stanford University, Cornell’s rival throughout the competition, dropped out and billionaire Chuck Feeney ’56 donated $350 million to the University for the campus. The Sun reported on the announcement during Cornell’s winter break and published the news online, with the print version [right] making its debut at the start of the spring semester. The campus opened on Roosevelt Island in fall 2017 and the full buildout is to be completed by 2037.

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