New gifts build momentum for Ingenuity, athletics

Excitement on campus is building as generous gifts continue to fund the top priorities of Cornell’s Greater > Than campaign. Three gifts totaling $11.25 million will support the new Ingenuity curriculum. Adding momentum are four major gifts to the Athletics and Wellness Facilities Project, where construction is progressing toward a fall 2022 opening.

Jean Russell '65
Jean Russell ’65

Trustee Jean Russell ’65 has provided a $6.25 million endowment gift for the Ingenuity curriculum. In addition, longtime supporters Trustee John Smith ’71 and honorary alumna Dyan Smith are giving a $4 million endowment to support the new program. Ralph “Chris” Christoffersen ’59 and Barbara Christoffersen have committed $1 million, with $900,000 going toward startup costs and the balance toward endowment. Now in its second year, Ingenuity leverages One Course At A Time with first- and second-year seminars, an exploration of disciplines, and real-world experience over a student’s four years.

John Smith '71 & Honorary Alumna Dyan Smith
John Smith ’71 & Honorary Alumna Dyan Smith

Russell is the namesake for Russell Science Center and Russell Hall (a suite-style residential building), for which she provided leadership funding. She has also contributed recent major gifts to the Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project and Thomas Commons renovation, as well as operational and strategic plan support.

Ralph “Chris” Christoffersen ’59 and Barbara Christoffersen
Ralph “Chris” Christoffersen ’59 and Barbara hrChristoffersen

The Smiths have demonstrated their support in numerous ways, particularly with John’s longtime Board of Trustees leadership and major gifts to the recent science campaign, first-year residence halls, the Thomas Commons, the Garner President’s House, and the Rick Meredith Wrestling Complex.

This is the Christoffersens’ third major gift to Cornell, following a gift to the science campaign and the establishment of the Deskin Chair in Chemistry in honor of Professor Emeritus of Chemistry William Deskin, with whom Chris studied and conducted research as a student.

Four gifts toward the $19.5 million Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project are also bringing that project closer to reality. The contemporary health, wellness, and sport center has attracted new gifts of all sizes including four of note:

  • Trustee Scott Simmer ’73 and his wife, Peggy Schoen, have contributed $250,000. A soccer goalie at Cornell, Simmer said he has always felt competitive sports are an important part of college life.
  • Fred Burke ’70, who coached Rams women’s tennis for 28 years without a losing season, has given $200,000. Burke was inducted into the Cornell College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.
  • Trustee and honorary alumnus Peter Bryant and his wife, JoAnn Bryant, contributed $150,000. As a former vice president for enrollment, Bryant brought in record-breaking classes for Cornell. The couple are the parents of Cornell Alumni Board President Julie Bryant ’88.
  • Trustee John McGrane ’73 and Martha “Marty” Benson McGrane ’73 have increased their generosity to the college with a $100,000 gift to the project. John is a former Board of Trustees chair, both were class agents, and Marty has served on the Alumni Board.

The 1953 Field House time capsule was opened, revealing a large splinter from the old gym, an all-school photo, complete athletic records, then-current newspapers, and other documents. A new time capsule will be placed in the new lobby, with hopes that it will be there for another 70 years, thanks to the generosity of donors who are making the new facility possible.

ABOVE: Facilities Operations Manager Luke Fischer breaks open the Field House time capsule that was placed in the cornerstone in 1953.

Among the relics found in the time capsule was a large splinter taken from the 1910 Alumni Gymnasium, now McWethy Hall.
Among the relics found in the time capsule was a large splinter taken from the 1910 Alumni Gymnasium, now McWethy Hall.