Inaugurating the Presidents
Andrew Dickson White, 1868
On Wednesday, October 7, 1868, a warm and bright autumn day, Cornell University celebrated its first Inauguration Day. The Arts Quad was little more than a cow pasture, with only one still-unfinished building (Morrill Hall). Several hundred distinguished guests, students, and citizens attended the ceremonies at the hall of the Cornell Library, which stood on the corner of Tioga and Seneca streets. At 10:00 a.m., President Andrew Dickson White, the Faculty, and the Trustees entered, as the audience arose and the band played “Hail to the Chief.” Because of the controversy over the new university’s nonsectarian foundation, Gov. Reuben E. Fenton did not attend the ceremonies, but was represented by Lt. Gov. Stewart L. Woodford, a strong supporter of the new institution.
Ezra Cornell delivered a brief address:
I hope we have laid the foundation of an institution which shall combine practical with liberal education, which shall fit the youth of our country for the professions, the farms, the mines, the manufactories, for the investigations of science and for mastering all the practical questions of life with success and honor. I believe that we have made the beginning of an institution which will prove highly beneficial to the poor young men and the poor young women of our country…. I trust we have laid the foundation of an university - an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.
Lt. Gov. Woodford administered the oath of office to Andrew Dickson White and presented him with the Charter, Seal and keys of the university. White delivered a lengthy address in which he asserted the formative ideals of the new university and declared its educational independence. Later that day, the crowd climbed up East Hill to the site of the university, where they gathered around a rough wooden structure from which hung a chime of nine bells presented by Miss Jennie McGraw of Ithaca.
The Ithaca Journal, October 11, 1868
Order of Exercises
Program for the Inauguration of Andrew Dickson White, October 7, 1868.