The alumni love behind a candy surprise

Cheerful words and happy comments could be heard around Cornell’s Mail and Service Center as first-year students checked their mailboxes during Block 2.

Bags of candy with bright yellow period table-themed cards“Oh cool, candy!” was commonly overheard by staff as students found the surprise behind their small, metal mailbox doors.

Each one of Cornell’s 404 first-year students received a personal note and a bag of candy from two of Cornell’s biggest fans, Ann Loewe Turner ’94 and John Turner ’94. 

“It was exciting to give something to somebody who wasn’t expecting it,” said Ann.

She first thought up the idea over the summer and shared it with President Jonathan Brand who supported her along the way.

“When Ann has an idea, it happens,” said Brand. “She organized everything from start to finish and thought through every detail–from writing a personalized message to each student to finding a fellow alumna to help deliver all of the gifts to Cornell so the candy wouldn’t melt. And, the attention to detail was incredible; the cards were beautiful. It’s these kinds of stories that make me so proud to be part of this Cornell family. Her kind, thoughtful, and personal gesture made a big difference for our students.”

Candy bags on a table with period table-themed cards
Ann Loewe Turner ’94 and John Turner ’94

Ann says this initiative came about as she was thinking about her own kids and their experiences over the past 18 months with the pandemic. One of her three children is the same age as the students in Cornell’s incoming first-year class. 

“As they are navigating this new journey of their life, in college, I hope they know that they are not alone,” Ann said. “I think with the pandemic, there have been so many unknowns in the last 18 months. I wanted them to have something tangible, not digital, to let them know that they have this amazing other group of people out there if they get into a bungle or feel overwhelmed. There are people out there cheering for them.”

This other group she talks about is Cornell’s alumni family. 

“We are going to let you in on a little secret, as a Cornell College student, you are now part of a rare exclusive community,” read the note with each candy care package. “Not only do you have the incredible network of on-campus friends, professors, coaches, administration, and staff, YOU also have us–alumni.”

The letter ends with a personalized message to each student welcoming them and thanking them for choosing Cornell. It was all neatly packed in a decorative bag with motivational periodic table-themed cards.  Each candy care package came with a personalized note from the Turners

“This was such a nice surprise for me and fellow first-year students, and it was just once again another welcome home from Cornell,” said Gracie Rowell, who received the sweet surprise. “It is so nice to see how much past students still love and support this school and I hope to be as active as our alumni once I am one too.” 

The happiness from these 400 care packages didn’t stop at the mailboxes either, it spread out on social media. Renee Bowman, mother of first-year student Addie Bowman, commented on a picture about the surprise. 

“As the mother of a first-year student, I want to thank you so much for your generosity and thoughtfulness,” Bowman commented to Ann on Cornell’s Facebook page. “Our daughter has had a great experience so far. We are grateful for everyone who has helped her with the transition to college life at Cornell!”

Bags of brightly colored candy on the tableIt’s a college life that the Turners know well. Ann and John met at Cornell two weeks into their first block. They married in 1996, two years after they graduated. Now John is a Trustee for Cornell College and Ann does everything she can to support Cornell’s students, hoping each one achieves all of their dreams.

“We are so excited to see that there’s another generation that is enthusiastic about this small liberal arts school that can make such a great difference in peoples’ lives,” Ann said. “Cornell competes with these Big Ten schools and massively large schools where students don’t get that one-on-one attention, they are a data point, and I would never want kids who are in a smaller setting to think they’re just a number. They really are important.”

For this mom of three, she wanted to bring smiles to the faces of Cornell’s newest family members after a tough pandemic senior year at high school. And her letter perhaps says it best:

“You belong at Cornell. Know that you are not alone. You are part of our community. We are grateful you are here.”