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By Elaine D. Engst


State Capitol in Albany, signed the bill that constitutes the charter of Cornell University. The ideals of the founders, Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, were remarkable in their day and constituted a radical educational experiment. They have continued to inspire Cornell's distinctive evolution. In the small rural community of Ithaca, New York, can be seen the realization of the first truly American university. The founders themselves were extraordinary men. Ezra Cornell, a birthright Quaker and self-educated and self-made man, was the son of a farmer and potter. His belief in education fits with William Penn’s ideal of “liberal ” but “useful ” learning. His interest in practical and scientific subjects corresponded with Friends ’ emphasis on the natural sciences and mathematics. His commitment to coeducation reflected enlightened Quaker views on education for girls. While Cornell University has always been a non-sectarian university, it seems clear that Ezra Cornell’s Quaker background and upbringing had a profound influence on the founding and development of the university.

Year: 2015
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