Letters Spring 2014

Thank you from Joplin

I wanted to say thank you to the group of students who traveled to Joplin, Mo., to help with cleanup after the tornado. I received the Cornell Report today, and I got a bit teary eyed while reading “Building houses and friendship.” My family lives in Joplin. Residents of Joplin are always glad to have people come support the rebuilding efforts, and I was very touched to see that Cornell students had taken an interest in our town.

Allison Berry ’01
Joplin, Mo.

‘Rev’ is Cornell treasure

I was thrilled to hear about the endowed History Scholar Award in honor of The Rev. Richard Thomas. Like many other Cornellians, the “Rev” had a positive impact on my life both in and out of the classroom. Our friendship continues to this day. Dick Thomas is a Cornell treasure and makes us all proud of our association with the college. His contributions to Cornell and the community are many. This endowment ensures his vision of scholarship continues for future generations of Cornellians.

Mark M. Powell ’71

Why reimagine liberal arts?

The articles on reimagining Cornell’s liberal arts tradition in the recent issue of the Report sound more like a campaign to raise funds for expansion than a new academic direction. Besides, it seems a bit arrogant to think that the liberal arts need to be “reimagined” at all. To judge from the achievements of graduates (regularly presented in every Report) and the respect shown by rating institutions, the liberal education offered by Cornell College has been and is first rate.
Furthermore, I read nothing in the articles that point to any specific “reimaginings.” I did read that Cornell would concentrate on critical thinking, close reading, and strong communication. But isn’t that what Cornell has always stressed?
If indeed the “reimagining” is simply a façade for an expansion program, I have a few qualms about that, too. Increasing the student body to 1,600-1,800 (25 to 33 percent) would require a good deal more building on an already crowded Hilltop. Where will those additional students live or find classroom space? Also, the 25 or more additional faculty (if faculty-student ratios are to be maintained at the current desirable ratio) and an expanded administration to support them will also need housing and amenities.
In any event, it would be well to provide an update to Cornell’s growth/expansion plans and invite input from all concerned—faculty, alumni, students, parents (I suspect an increase in the already high tuition would be necessary), townspeople, etc.
As for reimagining the liberal arts, perhaps that should be discussed separately and with a tad more thoughtfulness and humility.

Gene DeRoin ’49

[Editor’s note: For further information, see the summer 2011 Cornell Report cover story, “How big is big enough?” which covered the issues of growth, the central tenet of the college’s strategic plan, developed by faculty, staff, students, and alumni.]