Stories of the Cornell Spirit: Dyan Smith, honorary alumna

Sometimes it is hard to identify the specific person who is generous. Whom do we thank for the fact that so many faculty, students, and staff regularly say hello to each other when passing on the Ped Mall—something which undergirds the warmth and spirit of Cornell?

Or, how do we account for the overarching friendliness that pervades campus? There is no one to thank, and yet everyone is to be thanked. Honorary alumna Dyan Smith experienced first-hand that generosity. — Jonathan Brand

The generous, overarching warmth and spirit of campus

Dyan and John Smith
Honorary alumna Dyan and John Smith ’71.

In 1969, I was a student at the University of Iowa, putting myself through college. I had become engaged to John Smith ’71, a student at Cornell and my high school boyfriend. I was on a very strict budget—just $100 per month for food. I often ate Campbell’s tomato soup fordinner (it was only 12 cents a can back then).

When I visited John in Mount Vernon on the weekends, we would often go to The Commons for dinner—what a feast! There was so much food and it was so good. The students and staff knew that I was not a student but allowed me to dine there occasionally. We usually ate with John’s social group, the Milts, and all of their friends. We still maintain those friendships. As for conversations, I remember so much talk about the Vietnam War—but not everyone was against it—and their voices were heard.

I will always remember the warmth and generosity of all these people and the incredible sense of community. What a school! The lesson of blessed giving—the kindness that Cornell showed me, which cost very little but meant so much—is what I carry with me to this day. I wish I had been offered the privilege of being a student at Cornell College.


Other stories in this series:

Faculty generosity toward students: Freya R. Brier ’80

Staff generosity toward students: Jeff Zupancic ’91

Alumni helping alumni: Brandon Crawford ’12

Extending financial aid for those with the greatest need: Gilda Vinzulis Boyer ’84

Current staff, faculty, and students describe the Cornell Spirit

Adapted from a January 2018 presidential white paper