Far above Cayuga’s waters … revisiting Cornell University

Cornell University, USMany, many years ago, I spent a very happy four years at this beautiful university campus in Ithaca, (upstate) New York, studying political science and history.

Even if I adored my time at Cornell, its location in western New York’s Finger Lakes region makes it a little off the beaten track for my infrequent trips back to the US.

So now that (gasp!) my older son is beginning to look at colleges, it was a great opportunity for me to get back to view ‘my noble alma mater’.  I can’t seem to help myself from lifting lines from the school hymn…

This past summer, a college tour of western New York also allowed me a visit to my old stomping grounds in picturesque Ithaca, New York. Although I hadn’t been back in – ahem – decades, it was still as beautiful as I’d remembered it.

Cornell University, USI’d forgotten just how stunning New York’s Finger Lakes region is. There are wonderful state parks, dramatic gorges, waterfalls, and rolling hills.

This past summer was a bit rainy, and the weather somewhat grey when we were on the Cornell campus. Although, as I recall, that’s par for the course in Ithaca.

We had a great walk around the Arts Quad and down steep Libe slope, where I had my freshman dorm – the imposing Baker Tower.

Cornell UniversityI lived on the fifth floor – a killer to climb all those stairs, but the views over Cayuga Lake from our dorm rooms were breathtaking. Between climbing up and down five flights of stairs to reach my dorm room and battling Libe Slope – in rain, wind and (plenty of) snow- to get to campus, at least the Freshman 15 was never an issue.

My kids loved going across the Suspension Bridge to North Campus, where there were lots of new buildings. North Campus now houses all the freshmen. Back in my day, first year students were mixed between north and west campus.

Personally, I always liked this mixing of freshmen and upperclassmen, but I suppose the idea of grouping them is also nice, and an easier way for the first year students to bond.

Over the years, there has certainly been a lot of building on campus – maybe a bit too much for my taste – but it’s still as picturesque as ever.

Cornell University

Cornell’s Suspension Bridge

We walked the whole length of campus. Oddly, it was the first time I explored the whole Agriculture quad and Vet school. Guess I had enough exercise bounding up and town the tower and battling the slope each day.

My younger son is a track and field fanatic, and he fell in love with Cornell as soon as he saw Barton Hall’s newly renovated indoor track. Then again, what’s not to love? The outdoor track was also new. I remember it being around the football field.

I’m glad that college visits gave me the needed excuse to get back to Cornell. Even if it was a brief visit, it was great to be back at my alma mater. I admit to my bias, but it has to be the most beautiful campus ever.

Cornell University

Who needs the gym when you’re living on the top floor of Baker Tower?

Cornell University

What’s not to love? Barton Hall’s cool new indoor track. Go Big Red!

Cornell University




  1. wordfoolery on October 16, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Can’t believe he’s looking at colleges already, wow. I revisted my alma mater this year too (my youngster was taking some youth classes there) and had much the same reaction – mixture of nostalgia and “where did all these new buildings come from?”.

  2. kimberlysullivan on October 18, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Haha. Too true, Grace. I suppose it seems as if it were just yesterday we were there, whereas (at least in my case), it was decades ago and things have moved on. Glad to hear it’s the same in Ireland, however, and I’m not the only one!! : )

  3. claireaperez on December 13, 2018 at 5:13 am

    I work for the Cornell History Department….nice post…I think I am going to check out this inviting track for these winter months.

    • kimberlysullivan on December 13, 2018 at 8:54 pm

      Oh, wow. Great place to work. I studied in your faculty about a gazillion years ago and still have really fond memories. Back then, Barton Hall wasn’t as impressive as it is today and, yes, with Ithaca winters it seems the perfect place to train once the snow sets in. My son certainly fell in love with it. Greetings to beautiful Cornell from (warmer) Rome!

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