photo illustration of Floyd Overton Sr., Class of 1884

Floyd Senior, about a year after graduation. (Illustration by Cornell University from a provided photo)

Meet the Overtons—A Big Red Family for Six Generations

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Continuing a tradition stretching back to the 1880s, its latest Cornellian member graduates with the Class of ’22

By Joe Wilensky

Along with his classmates, Taylor Overton ’22 will march at Commencement this weekend, entering the ranks of Big Red alumni.

He’ll also join his brother, Jonathan Overton ’19, in a much smaller club: a Cornellian family six generations strong. Their diplomas are the most recent in a chain that stretches back 138 years to their great-great-great grandfather, Floyd Overton Sr., Class of 1884.

Katrina, Jonathan, Dick, Taylor, and Tom Overton wear red Cornell shirts to celebrate Taylor being accepted into the Class of 2022
Three generations celebrate Taylor's acceptance into the Class of 2022. From left: Katrina, Jonathan, Dick, Taylor, and Tom. (Photo provided)

According to University Archivist Evan Earle ’02, MS ’14, the Overtons may be the only six-generation Cornell family—or, at least, one of very few. It’s hard to know, he explains, because such tracking is spotty and mostly self-reported.

“I haven’t heard of another,” he admits, “though I wouldn’t be surprised if one is out there.”

The Overtons—an agricultural family from northern New York—weren’t even fully aware of their extensive Big Red lineage themselves, until it became clear during some recent genealogical research.

“We knew we had plenty of family members that have gone to Cornell,” says Jon and Taylor’s dad, Tom Overton ’91, “but I don’t think it was in our mindset that there was that much of a string.”

graphic showing Cornellians in the Overton family tree
The family tree boasts 14 alumni—so far. (Illustration by Cornell University)

The first Cornellian: Floyd Senior

The Overton who started it all was born near Watertown, NY, in 1859 and endured a tragic youth: his mother passed away when he was just 12, and three younger siblings died of scarlet fever three years later.

“Here’s a kid who lost a lot,” says Katrina Peck Overton ’91, Tom’s wife and the de facto family historian. “He was the third son on a family farm, yet he was taking college prep courses in high school—and did well enough to get a scholarship to Cornell.”

Second generation: Floyd’s sons

The brothers studied on the Hill at the same time: Floyd Overton Jr. earned a DVM in 1910, while Kent Overton was a special student in CALS who attended from 1909–10. After graduation, both returned to work at Overton Farms, the family’s agricultural operation in Adams, NY.

Third generation: a Cornellian couple

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Marie Loomis Overton and Richard M. Overton, both Class of ’43, in front of Balch Hall in 1941
Big Red love: Marie and Richard. (Photo provided)

Kent’s son, Richard M. Overton ’43, majored in agricultural engineering—putting himself through college by selling strawberries from the family farm. He and his wife, Marie Loomis Overton ’43, met on the Hill.

(Her brother, Clifton Loomis ’37, PhD ’53, was also an alum.)

Marie and Richard were brought together by a shared passion for horses: she was on the equestrian team, he was in the cavalry through Army ROTC. A family photo captures them on the Balch Hall steps in spring 1941—both wearing riding boots, and beaming with happiness.

Fourth generation: their son

Like his dad, Richard K. Overton ’66, BS ’70—known as Dick—financed his education with the fruits of his labor on the family farm. (Or, rather, vegetables: he sold sweet corn by the roadside.) He returned to the farm briefly, but segued into a career in agri-finance, working for John Hancock in Boston.

Fifth generation: five Cornellian cousins

Dick’s two children—Tom and his brother, Hotelie Kurt Overton ’94—followed the family footsteps to Cornell. So did Dick’s nephew and niece, Matthew Greene ’00 and Andrea Greene Lassen ’06.

(Matthew now teaches agriculture in a town near the Canadian border; Andrea lives in Oklahoma and works for an energy company.)

Katrina and Tom Overton, both Class of 1991, met at Cornell and married in 1994
Katrina and Tom tied the knot in 1994. (Photo provided)

Like Richard and Marie, Tom and Katrina—both animal science majors in CALS—met on the Hill and married soon after graduation.

Tom, a Cornell faculty member for nearly a quarter century, is currently chair of animal science; Katrina is assistant director for graduate student affairs in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Generation six: young alums

Tom and Jon Overton during the academic procession at Commencement 2019
Tom (left) and Jon at Commencement ’19. (Photo provided)

The clan’s newest grad—Taylor, who majored in computer science and was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha—has landed a remote job in cybersecurity, as a cloud engineer for a Dallas company.

Jon was a mechanical and aerospace engineering major and served in Air Force ROTC. Since graduation, he has been working for an Ithaca-based firm, making COVID testing equipment; in June, he heads to officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

“The ‘legacy’ really didn’t hit me until I was here as a student,” Jon says, pondering his family’s Cornellian tradition.

“I was walking around campus one day, and I realized: my dad walked on the same spot—and so did my grandfather.”

Top image: Floyd Senior, about a year after graduation. (Illustration by Cornell University from a provided photo)

Published: May 27, 2022


Comments

  1. Robert Allen Rothermel, Class of 1967

    What a great story. Tradition does matter.

    • Richard A Church, Class of 1964

      Yes, a great story! And knowing Tom and Katrina, and being part of the team who admitted them to Cornell, and also witnessing Katrina’s leadership in the CALS Ambassadors, it’s even more special! Congratulations on the growing legacy.

      Richard Church ’64

  2. Bruce H Clements, Class of 1978

    was Katrina Peck Overton ’91 from Schuylerville New York?

    I am 3rd generation Cornellian. My 2 children are class of
    2011 and 2015. Shabby 4th generation graduates compared to the overtons!

  3. Jim Overton, Class of 1996

    Excellent
    -Jim Overton ’96

  4. Annee Ashton, MSW, MPH, Class of 1993

    And then there’s this to consider –
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/15/legacy-colleges-universities-black-brown/
    Not passing judgment, as I don’t know the admissions specifics for this family, but just putting forward another perspective.

    According to this article, Cornell is one of 4 schools where legacy students outnumbered Black students in freshman classes –
    https://www.boston.com/news/politics/2022/02/13/ending-legacy-admissions-harvard-yale-brown/#:~:text=The%20University%20of%20Notre%20Dame,the%20University%20of%20Southern%20California.

  5. Brad, Class of 2022

    That Taylor Kid seems like a stand up guy.

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