Uris Historical Tour: Class of 1957 Kinkeldey Room

 

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The Class of 1957 - Kinkeldey Room is one of several designated “quiet study” rooms in Uris Library that combines historical aesthetics with modern technology to provide an inspirational space for study and reflection. With its close proximity to the library’s print collections, its wireless access to Cornell’s digital resources, and its gorgeous views of Ithaca and Cayuga Lake, it is popular with today’s students.

The room was named, in part, for Cornell’s fourth University Librarian, Otto Kinkeldey.  A music professor and internationally known musicologist, he first came to Cornell in 1923 to head the university’s music department. After leaving to work briefly at the New York Public Library, he returned to Cornell with a dual appointment as the country’s first professor of musicology and as the head of Cornell’s Library. During his tenure as University Librarian two new libraries were founded at Cornell – the Industrial and Labor Relations Library in 1945 (now the Catherwood Library) and the Business School Library in 1946 (now the Johnson School of Management Library), and a much-needed nine-story stack tower was added to the southwest corner of this building.

The Kinkeldey Room is one of five spaces in the building named for Cornell librarians. When the University Library building was renovated and reopened as Uris Undergraduate Library in 1963, Stephen A. McCarthy, Cornell’s fifth University Librarian honored his four predecessors by naming reading rooms for them.  The Fiske Room, better known to students as the “Fish Bowl” is named for Cornell’s first librarian, Willard Fiske.  The Harris, Austen, and Kinkeldey Rooms are positioned one above the other at the west end of the building in space that was originally one of the library’s book stacks.  A fifth reading room was named for E. R. B. Willis, a classical scholar who served the Library for 33 years.

Thanks to the generosity of the Class of 1957, the room was renovated in 2007and given an historic look and feel. A dropped ceiling and old fluorescent lighting were removed to reveal the room’s original vaulted ceiling and three high windows on the western wall. The niches on the southern wall are casements for the windows that were there until the new stack tower was added to the building in 1937.  To the east is a newly restored window that provides a view of the Dean Room below.  The new chandeliers are a reminder that the building has always had electric lighting and was once filled with such magnificent fixtures. 

The art work in the room honors the university’s founding.  In addition to the beautiful Cornell landscape paintings by artist Bill Schmidt, a member of the Class of 1957, the room’s portraits each tell a compelling Cornell story.

On the left side of the east wall is a portrait of Eunice Cornell Taylor by Canadian artist, John Colin Forbes. Named for her great-grandmother, she is the granddaughter of the university’s founder, Ezra Cornell. He poignantly expressed his commitment to equal educational opportunities for all persons, women as well as men, in an 1867 letter to a four-year-old Eunice:

“I want to have girls educated in the University as well as boys, so that they may have the same opportunity to become wise and useful to society that the boys have. I want you to keep this letter until you grow up to be a woman and want to go to a good school where you can have a good opportunity to learn, so you can show it the President and Faculty of the University to let them know that it is the wish of your Grand Pa, that girls as well as boys should be educated at the Cornell University.”

To the right is a portrait of the late Stephen H. Weiss, a prominent member of the Class of 1957 who served on the Cornell Board of Trustees for 24 years (1973-1997) and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1997.  To commemorate his service to the University his classmates dedicated this portrait on 12 September 2010.  The portrait is a giclée on canvas copy of the original oil painting that hangs in the Board Room at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, which Steve Weiss helped to found and where he served as the first Chairman of The Board of Overseers.

On the western wall are portraits of two men who profoundly shaped Cornell’s early history. To the left is Eastman Johnson’s portrait of Justin Smith Morrill.  A member of the House of Representatives and later a U.S. senator from Vermont, he sponsored the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act, which established federal funding for higher education in every state of the country when it was signed into law in 1862. Cornell University is New York State’s land grant institution.  Its first building is named in Morrill’s honor, and Lincoln Hall, opened in 1889, is named for the President who signed the Morrill Act.

To the right is John Colin Forbes’s portrait of Henry Williams Sage, who was an Ithaca businessman, philanthropist, and the University’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  His many gifts to Cornell include funds for building Sage College, a separate dormitory for women that is now Sage Hall, Sage Chapel, and this building, the University Library.  His generous contributions also provided for the founding of the Susan Linn Sage School of Philosophy, named for his wife, the ongoing purchase of library books, and endowments for professorial chairs in ethics and philosophy.  The university also benefited greatly from his business acumen, as he counseled Ezra Cornell and the board of trustees on numerous business and financial matters.

Uris Library’s Class of 1957- Kinkeldey Room is a room with a view and a quiet place to reflect upon the university and some of the people important to its history. As you look at their portraits, keep in mind the words of Cornell’s first president and co-founder Andrew Dickson White that: “this library will be for generations, nay, for centuries, a source of inspiration to all who would bring the good thought of the past to bear in making the future better.”