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A Cornellian to the letter

  Dee Ann Rexroat '82  

Charles Milhauser conducted his 363rd historic campus tour April 12 during Golden Alumni Weekend.

Charles Milhauser achieved an ideal blend of New York assertiveness, Midwest friendliness, and attention to detail as Cornell’s registrar from 1970 to 1993. A native New Yorker, he adapted well to Iowa upon arriving at Cornell in 1964 to teach classics. At the request of then-President Stumpf, he became registrar six years later.

In his new job Charles frequently fielded requests for historical information, becoming so fascinated by Cornell history that he started filing the information on index cards. Over the years he built a personal archive of thousands of cards. Along with his ongoing research in the college archives, the cards became the basis of his now-famous historic campus tours, his popular Cornelliana column (now in its eighth year) in the Cornell Report, and the college’s first illustrated history, Cornell College: 150 Years from A to Z. His former colleagues were not at all surprised when Charles finished the book early, allowing him to unveil it last month during Golden Alumni Weekend, more than four months before the sesquicentennial’s official kickoff.

To order Charles Milhauser’s illustrated history of Cornell, write to bookstore@cornellcollege.edu.

Full of stories and photographs never before printed, Cornell College: 150 Years from A to Z is a readable history of the people, the events, the architecture, and the accomplishments of the college. He documents links with major historical figures, from Abraham Lincoln to Orson Welles, and Cornell’s role in American history, culture, and education. As with his Cornelliana column, his wittiness is apparent. In the “Cows” entry, for instance, he begins: “From 1853 to 1891, cows grazed freely over the Hilltop and provisioned the dining rooms. Persons walking across the campus, no matter how lofty their thoughts, kept their eyes on the ground because the Seminary cows left bovine souvenirs for the unwary.”

Charles retired to southern Florida in 1993. His visits to campus now are major social occasions and friends have learned to schedule their time with him before he arrives in Mount Vernon. During a recent visit he was forced to turn down President Les and Katrina Garner’s dinner invitation. He was already booked solid.

“My 30 years at Cornell were unequivocally happy and rewarding both professionally and personally,” Charles told us during his visit last month. “My book is my way of saying thank you for all that Cornell has given me.”

More than one-third of the print-run of the book sold after a single pre-publication mailing, evidence of Charles’ stature among alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the college. Charles Milhauser has taught us a great deal about our college and our collective history. His book is a great gift.

 
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