Cornell at a crossroads
"We drink deeply from wells we did not dig, we luxuriate in the fruit from trees that we did not plant, and we eat bountifully of harvest from soil that we did not cultivate. Now we must prove worthy of these sacrifices by prior generations demonstrating our own commitment to the generations to come so that the great story of America, our collective sacrifice and our collective struggle for our common ideals, may continue and flourish."
These are words spoken by Cory Booker, the brilliant young mayor of Newark, N.J., and they are equally true of Cornell. We are all the beneficiaries of the work done by previous generations of Cornellians who enabled us to have a great education. And, in so many ways, the education we received as a result of the fruits of their efforts necessitate that we provide the same opportunity to future generations of Cornellians.
A great education does not happen by itself, and it does not happen without facilities and people. If it did, we'd all be attending online universities. A great education requires enthusiastic and engaged faculty, first-class classrooms, labs and housing, talented students with whom to collaborate to attain the truth, and a dynamic environment where learning for the next centuries can take place.
Cornell is blessed with an excess of opportunities from which to choose how it will move forward. The scope on the Ithaca campus alone spans many academic disciplines, the only limitation being the lack of sufficient funds to pay for everything we'd like to do. That reality points to the importance of the "Cornell Now" campaign's goal, which is to make the priorities enunciated in the "Cornell University at its Sesquicentennial" Strategic Plan a reality. Specifically we want to:
- assure a great faculty of the future;
- advance growth areas for world leadership;
- maintain a culture of teaching excellence;
- catalyze connections across the colleges;
- strengthen our core competencies;
- reflect global diversity; and
- improve lives and find solutions.
To do this, we have looked at what Cornell does best, and we have developed overarching themes for our drive to 2015. We are primed to make transformative contributions because we understand the global implications of managing one planet, the convergence of care in maintaining health and preventing disease, the need for a sustainable future and the benefits of a return to the fundamentals of knowledge and ethics.
Cornell is an institution that is constantly changing and renewing itself to meet the needs of current and future generations. As we approach our 150th birthday, we are enhancing our campuses in Ithaca, New York City and Doha, Qatar, to ensure they are cutting-edge centers for education and research. We have a presence around the country and the globe, including Washington, Beijing, Tanzania, Haiti, Rome, Jakarta, Paris and many other countries. And Cornell is in every county in New York state. We involve ourselves widely to meet the needs not only of our students but also the people of our state, country and the world.
It is not coincidental that the goals of the Cornell Now 2015 Capital Campaign dovetail with the needs of the university as we strive not just to remain relevant, but to accelerate the pace of growth of our influence in improving our world. The capital, scholarship and faculty renewal needs enunciated in the campaign are all necessary to keep Cornell vibrant, alive and relevant – not for us, its alumni, but for the current and future generations of Cornellians.
In the years to come, it will be the current students' obligation to move Cornell forward to its bicentennial.
Today, that obligation is ours.
Andrew Tisch '71 is co-chair of "Cornell Now," a member of the Cornell University Board of Trustees and co-chair of Loews Corp.