A black and white tuxedo cat on a couch

A Cat Named Ezra (and Willard the Turtle, and a Car Called Carl …)

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We asked you to tell us about the pets—and kids—you’ve dubbed in honor of Big Red people and places. Boy, did you deliver!

By Lindsay Lennon

When we put out the call for Cornellians to submit their own Big Red “namesakes,” we knew there would be at least a few Ezras in the mix. What we didn’t see coming: that said Ezras would run the gamut from kids to dogs, and from fowl to feline.

The latter category, in fact, includes one “opinionated rescue cat”—as described by his owners, Maureen McCafferty Stanton ’96, MPA ’97, and Matt Stanton ’96, MEng ’97 (and seen, in all his majestic handsomeness, in the photo above).

The dozens of entries we received—while leaning heavily toward honoring the University’s founder—covered people and places from around campus, plus some prominent alumni.

Ezras, Ezras, everywhere!

Take, for instance, a 3-year-old Bichon Frisé named after famed infectious disease researcher Anthony Fauci, MD ’66, who led the government’s response to the COVID pandemic.

“We considered naming him ‘Ezra,’” says the Charlamb family—which includes Cornellians Jayne (Rubenstein) ’91; Larry ’84; Max ’22, MEng ’23; and Abbey ’25. “But given he was a ‘pandemic puppy,’ and given our highest regard for Dr. Fauci, we thought the name ‘Fauci’ was perfect!”

We also received some more obscure references—like Narby the cat.

Alyssa Phelps Lannoo ’17 and Peter Lannoo ’17 named him for Narby Krimsnatch, a legendary “faux Cornellian” whose identity is a prank that has persisted for more than half a century.

“We loved the name because it was unique and true to his character,” says Alyssa. “He reminds us of all the good times we had adventuring around campus.”

David Harding ’72, PhD ’83, a physics major on the Hill, notes that his allergies—as well as his wife’s—preclude his family from having mammals or birds as pets.

Years ago, they acquired a betta fish—and Harding named him Hans.

It’s in honor of Hans Bethe (pronounced “beta”), the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and Manhattan Project member who taught and conducted research at Cornell for seven decades.

A turtle in a glass tank
Willard the turtle.

And then there’s Willard the turtle—dubbed, of course, in honor of Willard Straight Hall, the beating heart of Cornell student life.

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In 2023, Willard celebrates 27 years with the family of Seth Kibel ’96 and Sandy Alexander ’96.

“We’re only half-joking when we say that Willard is probably going to outlive us all,” they note. “Someday, the only ones left will be Keith Richards and our turtle.”

A black sedan parked on a residential street
“Cosmic Carl.”

Some alums have even given Cornellian monikers to objects.

For example, when Tim Lynch ’90 bought a new car, its official color was listed as “cosmic gray”; he and wife Lisa Hazard ’91 named it in memory of astronomy professor Carl Sagan, legendary host of TV’s “Cosmos.”

“Now,” Lynch says, “if I can just manage to drive it for billions of miles …”

Beyond pets and vehicles, a number of you went all in—bestowing Cornellian names on your offspring.

These include Jennifer Leeds ’91 and Robert Hess ’91 who, after meeting on the Hill, named their son for the Arts Quad’s Tjaden Hall.

A side-by-side shot of a young boy in front of Olive Tjaden Hall at Cornell and a shot of the same boy as an adult in front of the building.
Little and big: Tjaden Hess ’20 outside ... Tjaden Hall!

Not only did the couple regularly visit campus and snap photos of young Tjaden in front of the building throughout his childhood, he ultimately matriculated on the Hill himself.

Tjaden Hess ’20 graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences—earning a double major in math and computer science, in close proximity to his namesake hall.

And now, feast your eyes on a ...

Big Red menagerie!

Top: Ezra, beloved feline of Maureen McCafferty Stanton ’96, MPA ’97, and Matt Stanton ’96, MEng ’97. All images provided.

Published May 31, 2023

Do you have your own Big Red namesake?


  1. Sam Dean, Class of 2012

    A few years after I graduated, I surprise mailed a Furby that I had named “Ruloff” to a house full of friends. After their initial reaction of “Why would you send us a Furby??”, they started trading off hiding Ruloff in strange places around the house – like dangling from a shoelace off the showerhead or face-up in someone’s underwear drawer – to surprise people. Whoever found him had to hide him next.

    To my knowledge, he never lived up to his namesake, but he did scare the bejeesus out of me on a Homecoming visit when I went to replenish the toilet paper in one of the bathrooms, and did not expect him to be there.

  2. Trina Young Barton, Class of 1998

    I’ve had two Women’s Swimming & Diving teammates name pets “Teagle” after Teagle Hall.

  3. Sheila Mapes, Class of 1978

    My husband (Leigh English, Ag. ’76) and I (Sheila Mapes, Hum. Ec. ’78) named our camper van “Big Red” — because we met at Cornell and because the van is big and red!

  4. Saskia D'Aguilar, Class of 1987

    We have a gorgeous rescue cat named Ezra. He’s a peacemaker in our menagerie of cats and dogs. Saskia Schutte D’Aguilar ’87, Dionisio D’Aguilar ’86 & MBA ’87, Alexander D’Aguilar ’17, Oliver ’21.

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