5 Most Famous Cornell Alumni

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They were and are pioneers in their fields. They’ve helped us to understand science and the law, have written timeless classics and explored the cosmos. One was even Superman. As divergent as these five individuals are, though, they all share a common bond–they are proud Cornell graduates and an important part of Cornell history.

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  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Ginsburg was the second woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. She graduated from Cornell in 1954 after majoring in government and graduating at the top of her class. During her time as an undergraduate, Ginsburg was in the sorority Alpha Epsilon Pi and also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society. Shortly after graduation, Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School, then later transferred to complete her education at Columbia Law School. Following a distinguished career as a lawyer and scholar, Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993.

2. Bill Nye

Better known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, the famous television educator graduated from Cornell in 1977 with a degree in mechanical engineering. During his time as a student, Nye took an astronomy class taught by the famed Carl Sagan and continues to return to Cornell as a guest lecturer on beginning astronomy and human ecology. He also returned to television in 2017 in the Netflix series Bill Nye Saves The World.

3. E.B. White

The acclaimed author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, as well as the co-author of the writers’ bible The Elements of Style, E.B. White graduated from Cornell in 1921. In his student years, he co-edited the Cornell Daily Sun and was a member of the Quill and Dagger Society among others. Like all male students with the last name of White, he was nicknamed Andy in honor of Cornell co-founder Andrew Dickson White.

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4. Mae Jemison

She received her medical degree from Cornell in 1981, but Dr. Mae Jemison’s main claim to fame is being the second female and first African-American to go into space. She made her historic trip aboard the shuttle Endeavour in 1992, carrying a picture of another female African-American aviation pioneer, Bessie Coleman. An avid dancer, Jemison took classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater while studying at Cornell.

5. Christopher Reeve

Yes, Superman went to Cornell! The actor and activist stated that he chose to attend Cornell due to its proximity to Manhattan, despite the fact that he had been accepted at colleges much geographically closer to the city. He was very active in Cornell’s theater department in his time there, appearing in productions of Waiting for Godot, The Winter’s Tale and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. His acting career flourished to the point that he was allowed to finish his senior year at Cornell while studying at the Julliard School, graduating in 1974.

7 Things to Know About the History of Cornell University

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Cornell University is ranked as the 11th best university in the entire world, and for a good reason! With thriving international ties and a strong vision to provide a place for students to study whatever their heart desires, Cornell has made an impressive history for itself. Here are seven things you should know about the remarkable, innovative history that Cornell!

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1. Cornell is a university of firsts.

The first academic programs in American history, musicology, and American literature were at Cornell, and the first graduates in journalism and veterinary science were Cornell students. All of this is in line with the Cornell mission statement, to be a place where students can find instruction in any study.

2. The Cornell student body was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

From cultural issues to protesting the Vietnam War, the students at Cornell opposed actively on campus. The protests and the occupations on campus became so intense that the university president of the time resigned. As a result, the university governance had to be entirely restructured.

3. Approximately one-fifth of Cornell’s students on the Ithaca campus are from countries other than the United States.

The majority of these students are in doctorate and professional programs, taking advantage of the thriving research culture at Cornell University. At the higher academic levels, the international students outnumber the students of minority backgrounds. This, of course, does not take into account all the international students on their other campuses, including the campus in Qatar.

4. Chicken nuggets were invented by an alumni of Cornell University.

Bob Baker, a former Cornell undergrad, developed chicken nuggets while he was earning his Master’s at Penn State. His innovation, however, was not well received until he returned to Cornell University as a member of the faculty. From there, the invention came to be known as Cornell Chicken until McDonald’s patented its own version some twenty years later.

5. Cornell’s organization and administration has been the model for several other universities.

Stanford University, the University of Sydney, and the University of Birmingham have all modeled their universities’ organization after Cornell because of its early success. In fact, the University of Birmingham chose the Cornell model after the advice of Andrew Carnegie, who at the time was a Cornell Trustee.

6. Another Cornell alumni, Lenny Lipton, helped to pen the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” while living in Ithaca.

Lipton wrote a poem during his first year at Cornell, which his former housemate, Peter Yarrow, used as inspiration for the lyrics of the song. The song was finally given life by Yarrow’s musical group, Peter, Paul, and Mary.

7. While Cornell has a thousand registered student organizations, its oldest is the Glee Club.

The Glee Club features sixty men, performing in concert all across the world. It has also been featured on a variety of television programs. Despite becoming unpopular for a time in the 1970s, the Cornell Glee Club has rebounded and become one of the most renowned male choruses in the world.