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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions


Cornell's Adult University celebrates fifty years

School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions, January 17, 2018

In the mid-'60s, Cornell trustee Les Severinghaus '21 told Cornell President James Perkins that the time had come for alumni "to be led not by the hand, but by the mind."

These words inspired Curtis S. Reis and Ernie Stern, both class of 1956, to propose a continuing education program for Cornell alumni that would feature "a unique blend of intellectual challenge, cultural stimulation, and family recreation in a friendly and familiar setting." Their efforts culminated in 1968 with two summer programs for adults and children, featuring seminars for adults led by Professors James McConkey, Allan Feldt, John Freccero, and L. Pearce Williams.

For the next fifty summers, Cornell's Adult University (CAU) has provided a wide range of education vacations on the Cornell campus, as well as (beginning in 1973) off-campus study tours to destinations around the country and around the globe.

This summer, from July 8 to August 4, CAU will celebrate its fiftieth year with twenty-eight on-campus programs for adults—including one named "1968," about the politically and socially seismic year in which CAU was founded.

Studying with legendary Cornell faculty and staff, participants can learn about astronomical discoveries that shook our universe (with astronomy professor Martha Haynes), get an insider's view of the rare and unusual artifacts in Cornell's collections (with rare book and manuscript curator Katherine Reagan), discover what their genes reveal about them (with geneticist Chip Aquadro), and explore the complexity of the American political tradition (with Isaac Kramnick and Jason Frank). They can also improve their golf or tennis game, challenge themselves on climbing walls and ziplines, or learn to make wine in Stocking Hall's beautiful new facility.

Classes meet most days until 3:30 p.m., so there's plenty of time to explore Ithaca's "gorgeous gorges," visit the Cornell Botanic Gardens, Lab of Ornithology, or Johnson Museum of Art, or play a round on Cornell's Robert Trent Jones golf course. In the evenings, participants relax at free lectures, concerts, and guided walks, sip espresso at outdoor caf├ęs, view the planets at Fuertes Observatory, and enjoy conversations with fellow CAUers over wine and beer in the Adult Lounge. Says David Jungman, JD '74, "CAU is the best of college life: interesting lectures and discussions, no exams or papers, and a cocktail party every night!"

Kids and grandkids are welcome, too, in programs for youth ages three to fifteen. Families can enjoy breakfast together and then separate for the day's activities, coming back together again to share their experiences over dinner. Optional evening recreational and educational activities are also available for kids, allowing lots of flexibility for CAU families.

To browse programs and to register, see on-campus programs/adult courses on the CAU website ( If you have questions or need assistance, please call the office at 607.255.6260, or e-mail