Corey and Evan Earle in front of Uris Library.

Corey (left) and Evan Earle outside Uris Library. (Photo by Jason Koski / Cornell University)

History Brothers: A Chat with Evan Earle ’02, MS ’14, and Corey Earle ’07

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By Beth Saulnier

As the Earle brothers like to put it, Evan “does the stuff” and Corey “does the story.”

Evan Earle ’02, MS ’14, is the University Archivist—responsible for collecting and preserving materials pertaining to Cornell’s history, and making them accessible to researchers and the public.

His younger brother, Corey Earle ’07, is the University’s longtime (if unofficial) historian: as a visiting lecturer in American studies, he teaches AMST 2001: The First American University—affectionately known as “Storytime with Corey”—a wildly popular one-credit course on Cornell lore.

Brian, Evan, and Corey Earle at a hockey game
Corey (center) and Evan (right) with dad Brian, sporting Big Red colors at Lynah. (Photo provided)

Corey also frequently speaks to alumni groups and serves as a resource to innumerable administrators and departments—in addition to his full-time job as a principal gifts associate in Alumni Affairs and Development.

Members of a large, multigenerational Cornellian clan, Evan and Corey grew up in the Ithaca area as faculty kids; their dad, Brian Earle ’67, BS ’68, MPS ’71, taught communication in CALS for nearly four decades before retiring in 2008.

(Their great-uncle, Paul Hoff, MS ’40, was the first to attend, followed by their grandfather, CALS professor Wendell Earle, PhD ’50, and all five of his children.)

Evan and Corey Earle as children
Evan (left) and Corey in 1987. (Photo provided)

From early childhood, the Earle brothers were surrounded by history: their family home, a former parsonage in West Dryden, dates from 1832.

This summer, the brothers are teaming up to teach their first joint course, titled “Cornell, Collections & Conflict.” Offered through Cornell’s Adult University and based in Kroch Library, the weeklong class will examine the institution’s history through the lens of its archival holdings, with a focus on notable eras from the Civil War to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early May, Cornellians got Evan and Corey together for a chat in Kroch—the subterranean space that’s home to the University Archives—to reflect on their roles as “brothers in Big Red history.”

What are your earliest Cornell memories?

Corey: I remember going to my dad's office in the old Roberts Hall before it was torn down, playing on a chalkboard as he was getting ready to move out.

Evan: He would bring us to his classes—it wasn't frequent, but enough that it stands out as a memory, seeing him lecture and interact with students. But my strongest affiliation with campus in my youth was hockey games. My parents brought me as an infant and I had season tickets from my grandparents when I was 10. I thought all Cornell students were hockey fans.

Corey Earle at a lectern
Corey teaching AMST 2001, his class on Cornell history. Now a Big Red institution on par with the Hotel school's Intro to Wines, it draws more than 400 students each spring—filling its lecture hall to capacity and generating a long waiting list. (Photo provided)

Corey: Hockey players were my babysitters, because several would live with our grandparents each year, before the NCAA cut down on that practice.

Evan: We had all these “older brothers” who were players. I’d bring them to school for show-and-tell; they’d bring all their equipment, sign autographs, and talk about being on the team. One way that I built ties to Cornell was through these hockey players being so loving with us as little kids.

We had all these 'older brothers' who were hockey players. I’d bring them to school for show-and-tell.

Evan Earle

Do you have a favorite piece of Cornelliana, either something in the Archives or that you own?

Corey: I have the Andy Bernard diploma that hung on the wall in “The Office.” They auctioned off the props after the show ended, and Evan purchased it for me as a birthday present—and when Ed Helms gave the Convocation address, I had him sign it. When I give the lecture in my class on “Cornell and pop culture,” I bring it in and students pose with it.

Evan: Having the charter that established the University in the Archives is amazing. We also have the seminal letters of Ezra Cornell—the one where “any person, any study” is first used; and the one about an African-American student, saying “send him”; and the one to his granddaughter about wanting women to be educated here. I also like that we have the very first diploma that the University ever gave—from the first class, and the first person alphabetically.

Corey: I wonder if any other universities have their first diploma? I imagine that's rare.

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Evan: Yes, it's very special. But actually, the thing I usually say is my favorite item is the socks that Ezra Cornell wore on his wedding day. His mother saved them, and they went up on the Space Shuttle Columbia [carried by astronaut G. David Low ’80].

What do you admire most about your alma mater?

Corey and Brian Earle in commencement robes
Evan (right) and Brian Earle on Evan's graduation day in 2002. (Photo provided)

Evan: The breadth—of the fields of study, the faculty, the students. Other than all being here and connected to the University, we’re not homogenous. This is a place where you can have a conversation with someone who has a completely different background from you, and do so comfortably. And to some degree, I think that extends to the Ithaca community as a whole.

Corey and Brian Earle at Corey's graduation
Corey (left) and his dad at 2007 Commencement; he later earned a master's from Columbia. (Photo provided)

Corey: Another element is the opportunities that students have for personal growth—for learning in different fields, for exposure to different perspectives and backgrounds. We also have a history that we can be proud of: Cornell is set apart in the fact that it was founded on principles of access and inclusion.

If you could time travel to the 1800s and ask Ezra one question, what would it be?

Evan: I’d pick his brain further, to hear in his own words: what did “any person, any study” mean to him? We have his writings about it, and I think we can say that he truly believed in that message. But to hear him explain what he meant by that vision—I’d love to learn that from him.

Corey: In the context of higher education today, it'd be interesting to see how the interpretation of “any person” has evolved over the years; how similar is it today to what he meant? I don't think many people realize how progressive this farmer in the 1860s was. He was thinking about things that people weren't having conversations about until decades later—the whole idea of access and inclusion in higher education. Back then it was mainly for wealthy, white, Protestant men. Ezra Cornell was really ahead of his time.

On a similar note: if you could have coffee with any Cornellian from history, whom would you choose?

Corey: [Founding president] Andrew Dickson White was around for so long—he saw a third of Cornell's history—so he would have a great perspective. But I don't think he was a lot of fun to hang out with; he was a very serious guy. On the other hand, he was an ambassador and entertained people from all over, so he was probably pretty good at sitting down for coffee or tea and telling stories.

Gould Colman, Evan Earle, and Elaine Engst in the Cornell Archives
Evan—whose formal title is the Dr. Peter J. Thaler Cornell University Archivist—in Kroch Library with his predecessors: Gould Colman ’51, PhD ’62 (left), and Elaine Engst, MA ’72 (right). (Photo provided)

Evan: He was here from the beginning. Hearing what he thought of the University toward the end of his life, in the middle of World War I—Was it going the right direction? What would he like to see it accomplish in the future?—would be fascinating.

We have a history that we can be proud of: Cornell is set apart in the fact that it was founded on principles of access and inclusion.

Corey Earle

Evan, as the University Archivist, what do you think of Corey’s class on Cornell history?

Evan: Well, to have an opinion, I needed to see it firsthand—so when I was a grad student, I took it for credit. And I really enjoyed it. But what also makes me happy about his course is the number of people he's impacting—not only getting them to understand important aspects of Cornell history that make us such a unique institution, but building community and the togetherness of the shared experience of what it means to be a Cornell student.

Finally, how do you think Ezra would feel about the institution he founded, if he could see it today?

Corey: He was into the cutting edge of things; the telegraph, this great new invention—he wanted to explore it and invest in it. He believed in technology improving our lives and the future. So I think he'd be excited to see how that is continuing to play out.

Evan and Corey Earle and their parents
The Earles—(from left) Evan, Brian, Jody, and Corey—at an event marking Cornell's sesquicentennial. (Photo provided)

Evan: I think he’d be pleased at how much innovation is taking place here—not necessarily focused on engineering or technology, but being at the forefront of your field, regardless of subject.

Corey: And he'd be astonished at the growth of the University, and its diversity. He kept a little diary of where students came from; he was really proud of the fact that Cornell drew students from all over the world. So looking at the student body today—I think that would be fun for him.

Top image: Corey (left) and Evan Earle outside Uris Library. (Photo by Jason Koski / Cornell University)

Published May 13, 2022


Comments

  1. Jane Mack

    These ‘History Brothers’ are golden nuggets of insight and allegiance.
    They have built an epic brand for Cornell which inspires alumni pride and support.

  2. Harold Seifried

    Super family and a total honor to know them. Makes our Cornell family proud. 7 degrees in all from Cornell and Brian was our daughter’s mentor. Great article

  3. Warren Kurtzman, Class of 1987

    This is an excellent piece. I’m fortunate to know Corey personally and Brian was the professor who had the biggest impact on me as a student, so this was a great opportunity to get to know Evan a little bit as well. The Earle family is a tremendous asset to the Cornell community!

  4. James g Miller, Class of 1969

    It’s a treat to know them and to grow “mature” over the decades with Mom and Dad. I especially appreciate Evan’s enthusiastic willingness to squeeze in a Kroch Library presentation for my SUNY Cortland freshmen History/Social Studies majors each Fall. God bless them.

  5. Terry McKeegan Davis, Class of 1968

    Such a wonderful, wonderful family !
    Brian and Jody are Ithaca High School Band classmates of ours and close friends. Evan and Corey are our Lansing neighbors. They all are an incredible asset to the Cornell community. So proud and grateful to know them all personally.
    This article is fabulous.

  6. Joe "Sully" Sullivan

    Great story about a great Cornell family! The Earle’s are an honored segment of Cornell history! I am proud to call them my friends.

  7. Margaret Gallo

    We’re so fortunate to have Evan and Corey!

  8. Ginny Lisano

    I had the pleasure of taking Corey’s class and it was a wonderful experience. The article was great, what a wonderful family!! Good luck to the Earle family as they continue celebrating wonderful Cornell. Thank you, Ginny Lisano

  9. Bill Sloma, Class of 1975

    Excellent article! I thouroughly enjoy Corey’s lectures.

  10. Marlene Kwee, Class of 2001

    Our whole family started watching Corey’s classes virtually during the pandemic two years ago, and we haven’t stopped! Corey covered so many things that I never knew about Cornell, and it has only made the love and appreciation for my wonderful alma mater grow.

  11. Pete Shier, Class of 1978

    I think I was one of those hockey players who were part of their show and tell at school and I remember it like it was yesterday. Lived with Wendell and Fran for 2 years while at Cornell. Unbelievable family and made my time at CU so wonderful.

  12. James E. Strub, Class of 1952

    As a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1948, I began to focus on becoming a City Planner. A civil engineer in Kansas City directed me to Cornell’s MS program in City Planning, which required a bachelors in Architecture. I applied for admission, was accepted and unexpectedly offered a half-tuition scholarship.
    Ithaca and Cornell were a whole new world for me. For example, I had never heard the expression “prep school” — didn’t have them in the Midwest. Hadn’t realized that Cornell was an “A&M” college, so ROTC was mandatory for all freshman males. Ended up in the very beginning of Cornell Air Force ROTC (Fall 1949), was commissioned in 1952, became a registered architect in Florida, then served 30 years in the Air Force, which included becoming a pioneer in the Space Defense business here in NORAD and earning a PhD in Aerospace Engineering at UT Austin (1972).
    Lived much of my life here in Colorado Springs where I fell in love with God and mountains much higher than Connecticut Hill.
    Our son Jordan is also a Cornellian (EE ’81).
    Bottom line: the last 70 years of my life have been shaped strongly by Ezra Cornell’s wisdom in getting his new University to be the “A&M college” for New York state.
    Thank you, Ezra.

  13. Phil Murphy, Class of 1975

    Wendall was my advisor and a great friend. He was an awesome person. I have fond memories of spending time with Brian in Chicago. What a great family story

  14. Bob Berube, Class of 1966

    Professor Wendell Earle was my academic advisor for all four years. One of my first memories was being invited to his home during freshman orientation for a dinner with his advisees, most of whom were hockey or basketball players. He was a wonderful man and a father figure for me during my Cornell years.

  15. Marcia Wities Orange, Class of 1971

    As a former Comm Arts major, I remember Brian Earle as my TA in the old Roberts Hall. And I sure loved those classes.

    Now over the past few years, I have been enthralled with Corey’s many Zoom sessions for alums. What a great asset to Cornell in giving us alums such a broad history of our alma mater.

    Curious why Corey is still “only” a visiting lecturer with another full time job. With such a great influence on the Cornell community, this man deserves a promotion!

  16. James F. Davis, Class of 1967

    Having Wendell Earle as my advisor and recommending me for my first job, Brian as a classmate, and having met Corey thorough my daughter, it has been a pleasure to have met such fine quality people. And Corey, I have not forgotten that I will leave you the name of the student who put the Great Pumpkin on the McGraw Tower tip – in my will, if not before. I sent you an email a couple years ago that I thought gave you enough hints to figure it out.

    • Joseph Hendrick, Class of 1974

      Wendell Earle was my advisor also. He was a great influence on my career, as was Gene German.

  17. Itai Dinour, Class of 2001

    Cornell is so lucky to have these brothers going way above and beyond their jobs to support the university in so many ways.

    Thank you Earle family.

  18. Stephen Hand, Class of 1965

    As a fellow Ithacan, it has been my good fortune to be a friend and fellow hockey fan with this outstanding family for many years. It’s people like the Earles who help make Cornell the wonderful place that it is.

  19. Vicki Simons, Class of 1973

    I now live in Georgetown, TX and I can honestly say that Corey’s online AMST 2001 class helped me get through the pandemic. It has also made me feel closer to Cornell and I look forward to attending my 50th class reunion in 2023. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to meet Corey in person when I am there.
    What an amazing Cornell family!

  20. Arthur Pesner, Class of 1985

    A great Cornell family. Had an Earle as a prof, another as my academic advisor. Then my son took Corey’s class.

  21. Bill Alberta, Class of 1977

    It is my great privilege to know the Earle family very well. They are such remarkable people. Their long-standing impact on Cornell continues to be wonderful. Great article!

  22. GENIE Deutsch, Class of 1953

    One person mentioned wanting to meet Andrew Dickson White. He wrote an autobiography which is, or at least, was available on Kindle form. I read it many years ago and really enjoyed it. At that time it was available for free. He wrote about this relationship with Ezra Cornell in the NY State legislature.

  23. Stephen Tauber, Class of 1952

    The two Earles gave a fascinating presentation, more than two hours long, ranging over much of Cornell’s history, at a session organized for the Class of 1952 at the 2022 Reunion.

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