Two Cornellians wearing red “Cornellians” cowboy hats pose on the Willard Straight Terrace during Reunion 2024

Reunion ’24 in Photos: Big Red Spirit Filled a Festive Weekend

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Alumni mixed, mingled, and celebrated their return—with activities ranging from concerts to Cornelliana Night (even a cook-off!)

By Joe Wilensky

More than 8,000 alumni and their guests returned to the Hill for Reunion 2024—flocking to events traditional and new, celebrating at the many gatherings, and reconnecting with friends and classmates.

The weather largely smiled on this year’s Reunion, with the only real showers showing up intermittently on Friday afternoon.

Cornellians traveled to Ithaca from as far away as Kenya, Australia, and Sri Lanka, representing 23 countries and 47 states (plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico).

Alumni sing during Cornelliana Night at Reunion 2024
Voices joined together in song during Cornelliana Night.

Total attendance represented a return to pre-pandemic numbers, and several records were broken.

The Class of 1989 welcomed 340 classmates for its 35th, beating the record set in 2009 by the Class of 1974—though that class set its own record for its 50th, with 391 classmates returning. And the Class of 1984 broke the all-time 40th Reunion attendance record, with 355.

The most senior alumni also had strong showings.

The Class of 1959 had 47 members for its 65th; the Class of 1954 had 22 for its 70th; and, for the 25th consecutive year, the University marked a 75th Reunion, with four alumni from the Class of 1949—Vera Johnston Farrell, Rosemary Sheil Malia, MA ’51, Norman Merz, and Marty Coler Risch—in attendance.

For the 25th consecutive year, the University marked a 75th Reunion, with four alumni from the Class of 1949 in attendance.

Reunion fundraising totaled more than $249.6 million.

Highlights of the weekend’s more than 450 events and programs included the annual Olin Lecture, which this year was a conversation between journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin ’99 and Samantha Sheppard, associate professor of cinema and media studies and chair of the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

(Sorkin, a former New York Times columnist, penned the 2010 bestseller Too Big to Fail and co-anchors CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” among other prominent work.)

A wide panoramic shot shows Andrew Ross Sorkin ’99 speaking at Bailey Hall as part of the Olin Lecture during Reunion 2024
Bailey Hall hosted the Olin Lecture, among other events.

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President Martha Pollack, who is retiring at the end of this month after seven years of service, delivered her final State of the University Address to a packed Bailey Hall.

“The work of the university—the work of Cornell—has an impact that reverberates across nations and generations," she said.

"It continues on in the lives of our alumni—generation after generation of Cornellians, who bring our Cornell ethos, and our Cornell values, out into the world with them.”

The work of the university—the work of Cornell—has an impact that reverberates across nations and generations.

President Martha Pollack

The weekend’s oldest attendees—members of the classes of ’49, ’54, and ’59—gathered with the youngest (the Class of 2019) for the annual “Passing it Forward” ceremony, welcoming the newest alumni returning for their first Reunion.

Alumni packed the Straight’s Memorial Room for a pre-tent-parties “Mix & Mingle” event that featured wine and beer tastings, a live DJ on the terrace, and free swag—including several hundred Cornellians-branded cowboy hats.

(Emblazoned with red sequins and blinking lights around the brim, the distinctive headgear was snapped up within the first 20 minutes.)

Cornelliana Night saw the traditional vibrant panoply of Big Red songs, spirit, and more—including the presentation of the William “Bill” Vanneman ’31 Outstanding Class Leader Award to longtime volunteer and Class of 1963 president Paula Trested Laholt ’63.

Back by popular demand as a now-regular Reunion offering was “Redstock”—a concert by alumni musicians and vocalists across genres, from jazz and rock to R&B and folk.

In addition to hosting the class-specific gatherings, 2024 was also a Reunion year for the Cornell Black Alumni Association, the Cornell Asian Alumni Association, the Cornell Latino Alumni Association, the Cornell Native Alumni Association, Cornell Pride, First Generation Alumni, and the Cornell Military Network.

The CBAA co-sponsored a celebration of life for James Turner, founding director of the Africana Studies and Research Center, who passed away in August 2022.

The CAAA hosted the Ivy Iron Chef Challenge, which saw four teams of alumni compete in a cooking competition featuring a mystery ingredient—which in this event was the canned meat product Spam—to prepare both an appetizer and entrée for judging.

Cornell Pride, the University’s LGBTQ+ alumni association, recognized four alums with its Siegel Awards, given to alumni who embody the values of service and LGBT advocacy in the spirit of Steven Siegel ’68, who led the group for more than 25 years.

Two participants in the Ivy Iron Chef Challenge held at Reunion, hosted by the Cornell Asian Alumni Association
Emily Liu ’84 and Stark Li ’19 won “best entrée” in the Ivy Iron Chef Challenge.

(While we haven’t yet heard about any proposals—which have been known to take place during Reunion—the Class of 1984 did hold a vow renewal and marriage celebration event.)

The weekend also featured many time-honored favorites: photos with Touchdown; canoeing on Beebe Lake; performances by the Big Red Band; the 5K run in the Botanic Gardens; the Fun in the Sun Family Festival on the Arts Quad; guided walks at the Lab of Ornithology; and tours of the libraries.

And, as always, there were tent parties on the Arts Quad—where those Cornellians hats helped the festivities truly get ... “lit”!

Top: Alums sporting some of our prime swag—light-up cowboy hats—on the Willard Straight Terrace during the Mix & Mingle event. All images in this story by Cornell University photographers Lindsay France, Noël Heaney, Jason Koski, and Ryan Young, and contributors Adam Murtland, Rachel Philipson, and Kaitlin Provost.

Published June 10, 2024


Did you come back to the Hill for Reunion ’24?

Comments

  1. Marcie S. Gitlin, Class of 1979

    Many thanks for another wonderful reunion! I so enjoyed reconnecting with fellow ’79ers and meeting members of other reuning classes, attending the always-meaningful Service of Remembrance, honing my artistic skills in the Mann Library butterfly-sticker-making workshop, and enjoying a late Saturday morning breakfast with a former professor and his wife. Being on campus always is a treat, and while the weather could have been more cooperative, the rain made for a truly genuine Ithaca visit. I’m looking forward to my 50th in 2029.

    Again, much appreciation for a great time: “Hail, all hail, Cornell!”

  2. Dan Youngtae Cheung, Class of 1979

    I would like to thank the four young men who applauded and encouraged me as I made the trek up Libe Slope on Saturday afternoon from Founders’ Hall to the part of the top of the slope between Morrill Hall and Uris Library. They told me that they were amazed that I did not falter on my climb, which is kind of even more amazing since I rowed the Reunion Row that morning (BMA!) and just left the Cornell Veterans reception on University Ave. I think the fellow whose hand I shook was named Jay, but my memory was pretty foggy after summitting Libe Slope and feeling the effects of numerous beverages.
    Thanks guys for your support and encouragement!

    Dan Youngtae Cheung ’79

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