Cornell’s Twelve Presidents
Edmund Ezra Day, President, 1937-1949
Edmund Ezra Day became president of Cornell University in 1937. During his presidency, academic programs were modified and expanded. A Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a Department of Slavic Language and Literature were created. Area studies were initiated in 1943 with a course in Contemporary Russian Civilization.
World War II was the central event of Day’s presidency. The university mobilized. The Army a-12 and Navy v-12 programs began in 1943. The College of Engineering created the Engineering, Science, and Management War Training Program for the war industry, training some 30,000 persons, and a one-year program for the industrial training of women. The Medical College sponsored the Army’s Hospital No. 9 on Biak Island, off the coast of New Guinea.
After the war, the campus developed rapidly. Cornell’s Laboratory of Nuclear Studies quickly developed into one of the world’s leading centers of research in experimental particle physics. A new School of Business and Public Administration began operation in September 1946. The University acquired the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, a research lab in Buffalo. In 1948, the State University of New York was formally established. Cornell’s state colleges were defined as state-supported but not state-operated. The New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations opened on November 1, 1945. There was a record enrollment in 1947-48. It was necessary to create temporary housing and temporary wooden buildings for classrooms. Day’s achievements included administrative reform, the success of the Greater Cornell Fund, and the creation of entirely new schools. During his tenure, enrollment rose from 6,341 to 10,034, and Cornell’s physical facilities grew apace.
Edmund Ezra Day was born in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1883. He received a B.S. and an M.A. from Dartmouth College, and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. From 1910 to 1923 he served as professor of economics and chairman of the department at Harvard. During World War I he served as statistician for the U.S. Shipping Board and the War Industries Board. In 1923 he went to the University of Michigan, where he served as professor of economics, organizer and first dean of the School of Business Administration, and Dean of the University. He became director for the social sciences, 1928-1937, for the Rockefeller Foundation, and director of general education for the General Education Board, 1930-1937. In 1937 he was inaugurated as the fifth president of Cornell University, a position he held until 1949, when he resigned because of ill health. He was appointed to the post of Chancellor, giving his energies to the major overall aspects of University development, to the higher levels of fund raising, and to the cultivation of the University’s relations with the State. He also continued to serve as the chief executive officer of the Medical College. Edmund Ezra Day died in 1951.
Edmund Ezra Day
Edmund Ezra Day, ca. 1942.
The 1949 Cornell University Faculty
Cornell University faculty members pose on the steps of Bailey Hall in 1949.
State School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Governor Thomas E. Dewey officially dedicated the State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell on November 12, 1945.
Russian language class, 1943.
Marie Tolstoy, tutor in intensive Russian courses, with Joyce Edelstein (freshman), Olga Gallik (junior), and Mary Rettger (graduate). Russian language class, 1943.
“So Cornell’s Going Bolshevist!”
We put guns and grenades into the hands of young soldiers without any fear that they will use them against their homes, for we know that they will use them to gain the ends upon which their nation is agreed. It is part of the respect we owe to our youth to deny it no knowledge that will enable it to bear, as it will bear resolutely and willingly, and in the enduring tradition of freedom, the weight of the world that is descending upon its shoulders.
Article by Edmund E. Day in Saturday Review, March 4, 1944.
E. E. Day on Cornell in World War II
E. E. Day on Cornell in World War II
The forces which today are reordering human affairs pose everywhere, for every individual person, the same questions: What are the things in life which are worth struggling for-if necessary, fighting for? What are the things in life which we propose to give up last as we are compelled to make greater and greater sacrifices? Cornellians must face the question of where Cornell stands in the scale of values imposed by the war. Not only can the University give immediate and effective war service on many fronts, but the purposes and ideals which reside in its life and work have values deeply rooted in the very meaning of our lives. Those values must not be abandoned or impaired.
E. E. Day, Cornell in World War II
The School of Business and Public Administration
Memo from Paul M. O’Leary, November 8, 1944.
New York Times, January 25, 1943
President Day's Commencement address of 1943 was delivered early to accommodate students who had enlisted. Day spoke eloquently of the need for maintaining the ideals of a liberal arts education in the face of war.