What’s the Most Iconic Cornell Tradition? Cast Your Vote!

Is it hearing the Chimes? Cheering the Big Red in Lynah? Taking Intro to Wines? Corey’s March Madness poll will decide!

Editor’s note: The bracket is currently in its final round, and the poll at the bottom of this post is closed. Here’s the ballot for the final, running until 8 a.m. EDT on Monday, April 22!

By Corey Ryan Earle ’07

With NCAA basketball March Madness in full swing this week, alumni around the country have locked in their brackets with predictions for the championship in April.

The Big Red didn’t make it to the Big Dance this year, but many of us have fond memories of their remarkable Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2010. (However, the team did earn its first-ever spot in the National Invitational Tournament.)

And … we once again have our own, Cornell-themed March Madness!

An illustration of Corey Earle with the text "Storytime with Corey" and a badge that says "March Madness"!

Last year, more than 12,000 votes were cast in a series of polls to crown the best fictional Cornellian in a bracket of 64 competitors.

(For those who missed the results, voters pitted Jacob Jankowski from Water for Elephants against Tom Wambsgans from “Succession” in the tournament finale.)

This year, we’re voting on the most iconic Cornell tradition!

From Dragon Day to Slope Day, a Chimes concert to an a cappella concert, there are many unique Cornell experiences that every undergraduate should try.

Lists of quintessential Big Red activities abound—but what’s the most “Cornell-y” of them? The crack team at Cornellians has compiled 32 traditions, loosely seeded into a tournament bracket.

Lists of quintessential Big Red activities abound—but what’s the most ‘Cornell-y’ of them?

Our basic criteria: they should be nearly universal for Cornell students; cross-generational; specific to the University (not just to college life in general); and, of course, not prohibited or illegal (sorry, Lynah Rink fish-throwers).

Over the next five weeks, you can help determine the most iconic Cornell tradition by voting weekly in a series of matchups until we reach the championship final on April 15.

The first 16 pairs are below, and you can download the full bracket here:

Corey’s March Madness Bracket 2024

Voting runs from now until 8 a.m. EDT on Monday, March 25.

Look for the results—and the next round of match-ups—that afternoon!

Corey's March Madness: Cornell Traditions, Round 1

An expert on Big Red lore, Corey Ryan Earle ’07 teaches “The First American University,” a wildly popular spring semester course on Cornell history.

Published March 18, 2024


  1. Josh Abelson, Class of 1987

    Great idea; what fun

  2. Eric Beane

    What a great list of quintessential Cornell experiences.

  3. Pam Anderson, Class of 1988

    This is very creative. Look forward to seeing results

  4. Paul DuBowy, Class of 1975

    How could you not include tray sliding? It wasn’t illegal when I was on the Hill.

    • Philip Smith, Class of 1977

      Agree. Unforgivable

    • Corey, it is always great to see your involvement and presentation of engaging events and fun communications like this. We had a few classes together and I always thought well of you, then and now.

    • Randall Nixon, Class of 1978

      This won’t make anyone else’s list, but Cornell used to host the Indoor Ivy League Championships every year — called the Heptagonals, or Heps — because Barton Hall was the only League venue large enough to host it. I loved running indoor track there because it was the only time that we had a capacity home crowd. My fondest memories are of hearing the roar of the crowd cheering me and my teammates, and knowing that my fraternity brothers and my professors were there for support. It was no accident that we won four Ivy League championships during my years. Go Big Red!

      • Larry LaBonte, Class of 1958

        Seeing cadets on campus was interesting. How many cadet caps were swiped by host Cornell students was never recorded.

    • Melissa Yorks, Class of 1975

      I agree! It was also legal to drink alcohol when I was there with the drinking age being 18. Remember the Green Dragon in the architecture building?

      • Clifford Ribner, Class of 1973

        Of course. The 18-year-old drinking age was one of the reasons I picked Cornell over Penn

  5. Marielle Jan de Beur, Class of 1988

    Lots of great memories!

  6. Karen Coombe, Class of 1986

    What fun-brought back some great memories!!!

  7. Doug Veit, Class of 1967

    Listening to the chimes is my most Cornellian experience. But I never climbed McGraw Tower at any time.

  8. Roger B. Jacobs, Class of 1973

    So many now that fifty years have gone by. Still remember my first day. Walked into sperry hall and met my roommate. Friends thru all the years. He lives nearby. First person I ever met that went to Bronx science. Had lots of them. Since I wasn’t from the city wasn’t really something I was that familiar with.
    Also the kids who didn’t know how to drive. That was something. I assumed everyone knew how to drive. Lots of the city kids had no idea. Hard for me to understand. Still is now. All kids in nj or suburbs learn how to drive in school at a minimum. Kids at fancy prep schools usually have very nice cars. I learned that when my kids were in high school. Most had nicer cars than mine. When I went home after first semester my folks had a car waiting for me which went up to Ithaca. First ride up caught a big snow storm on route 79 and had a big spin out and up into a snow bank. Fortunately guy in the house had chains and pulled us out. Only time that happened during all of my cornell years. That was freshman year spring semester. Used to park at the fraternity on thurston avenue. It’s now the admissions building.

    • John F Gruen, Class of 1966

      You said “Bronx science” as if that was a coinage that everyone knew. In reality was a narrowly known but deep, deep name for one of the best high schools in the country – Bronx High School of Science. Bronx Science has nine Nobel Prize winners, more than any other HS school. I didn’t go there but living just north in HS in Westchester County and south in NYC for 40 years you get to know ‘the terrain.’

    • Randall Nixon, Class of 1978

      Go Sperry!

    • Carol Anne

      I learned to drive on my dad’s tractor

    • Nora ‘67

      Yikes. We spent so much time driving in snow, on route 79, and all around Ithaca. Scary to think of now, yet such fond memories.

    • Clifford Ribner, Class of 1973

      Greetings, Roger. I hope all is well. I never had a car at Cornell until my senior year

  9. Shelley Winkler, Class of 1976

    Not illegal? Did you just eliminate the early 70’s? 🤣

  10. Linda Hunt, Class of 1979

    I had the most trouble with #5. Both are ultimate experiences.

  11. Suzan Knettles Senovich, Class of 1993

    This brought back so many great memories!

    • Ann McLachlan Bourke, Class of 1984

      Makes me feel like I’m 20 again 😁

  12. Peter Smith, Class of 1966

    Such fun recalling specifics: walking to & from crew practice on the Inlet; Peter, Paul & Mary in Barton; jogging from upper ag campus to arts quad for next class; watching someone noisily leave Chem final in 45 minutes!; being grateful for curfew so I could exit a bad date; getting a haircut at Willard Strait for $2 every 2 weeks prior to ROTC; watching from crew practice as the setting sun reflected off windows of Libe Tower!

  13. Carol Anne

    My favorite was swimming to Ithaca Halls under Carl Sagan’s house. Apparently they are very strict about enforcing the laws against it these days.

  14. Nora Brower, Class of 1967

    Hearing the Sherwoods serenading in the Dickson Courtyard.

  15. Ted Rauch, Class of 1961

    Evening walks in the snow from 2 Forest Park Lane ( Psi U) down Stewart to Jim’s Place to meet friends for a libation ( or 2 )

  16. Dave Sheffield, Class of 1955

    Always fun to look WAY BACK in time.

  17. Larry Krablin, Class of 1969

    Quibble – a number of these things didn’t exist / weren’t possible “in our day”

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