Cornell still serves the public purpose
The land-grant college of today is innovative.
Cornell University is one of the few land-grant universities not named for its state. The university, founded in 1865, was initially funded by an endowment of $400,000 from Ezra Cornell and by the proceeds from the sale of New York’s 989,920-acre share of federal land under the Morrill Act of 1862.
Cornell was a businessman who made his fortune on Western Union Telegraph Company stock and was newly elected to the New York state senate. Chairing the agriculture committee, he teamed up with Andrew White, a history professor who chaired the education committee.
From 1865 to 1868, the year the university opened, Ezra Cornell and Andrew White worked in tireless collaboration to build their university, according to a Wikipedia article. Ezra Cornell oversaw the construction of the first buildings, starting with Morrill Hall, and invested the federal land scrip in western lands that would eventually net millions of dollars for the university, Meanwhile, Andrew White, the first president of Cornell, began making plans for the administrative and educational policies of the university.
Today, Cornell is a leading land-grant university, with 20,000 students, located in the heart of the second-largest apple- and third-largest grape-producing state. Kathryn Boor, a professor in the Food Science Department, is also the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.
“When the Morrill Act was first passed in 1862, its goal was to set up institutions in each state that would provide an education to people in all social classes in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other professions that were practical at the time,” she said.
“The land-grant college of today is not stuck in the past—it is innovative. Its research is cutting-edge, and the application of such research benefits us all. The fundamental mission remains the same, however: to develop and deliver knowledge with a public purpose.”
In her view, the land-grant university serves the public interest and deserves public support. While farming must be financially viable for farmers, it must also provide safe, abundant, and affordable food without eroding the productive capacity for future generations.
“To approach the sweeping, transformational changes essential to achieving truly sustainable food and agricultural systems, we must reinvest in publicly funded research in agriculture and the life sciences, and reorient the national research portfolio to include consideration of sustainability issues,” she said. “Public support is essential as research underpinning agricultural sustainability is less likely to yield marketable inventions for private agribusiness than research that is predominantly focused on productivity and efficiency.”