"I have always been in favour of combining labour and study."
—Ezra Cornell, 1846
When the University's first students arrived in 1865, they found little on the grassy hill between Cascadilla and Fall Creek gorges that would hint at the world-class institution that was to come.
"You are here to build a University," said president Andrew Dickson White to that first class of Cornellians.
Indeed, White and Cornell felt that labor was an essential element to complete an otherwise purely academic program.
And build they did—literally. In exchange for their labor, the University forgave part of the cost of their education.
The Cornell Tradition, an alumni-endowed program that recognizes and rewards outstanding undergraduates, is a contemporary expression of the founder's vision. The program awards approximately 500 fellowships each year to students who demonstrate significant work experience, campus and/or community service, and academic achievement. Through The Cornell Tradition, students make meaningful contributions to campus life that will enhance their own education and those of generations to come. At the same time, these students reduce their level of indebtedness incurred in obtaining a Cornell degree. True to the founder's ideals, the Tradition supports the development of fellows into well-rounded, productive members of society who will serve as the role models and leaders of tomorrow.
**The Cornell Tradition is generously supported by the Frank H. T. Rhodes Fund, established by The Atlantic Philanthropies in honor of President Emeritus Rhodes’s formative role in the program’s conception and founding.