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Cornell University Names Flora Rose House

Cornell University has been making great progress in the development of a house system for one section of its large campus, and the Cornell Sun reports today that the last of these “West Campus” houses is to be named Flora Rose House after an influential Cornell faculty member from the mid-twentieth century.

Last West Campus House Named for Flora Rose

Seven years and $225 million after construction began, every brick of the West Campus Housing Initiative is in its place. One of the final steps took place on Friday with the announcement that the last house—formally House 5—will be named in honor of Flora Rose, a nutrition professor and founder of the College of Human Ecology.

In a ceremony on Friday, Edna Dugan, assistant vice president for student and academic affairs and a Becker House fellow, announced the decision to name the house after Rose.

“We have investigated many, many deceased faculty’s biographies,” Dugan stated in a press release. “So it is so fitting that House Five should become Flora Rose House … to recognize her legendary status in Cornell history.”

Rose’s long and storied relationship with Cornell began in 1905 when she wrote a letter to members of Cornell and Stanford University urging them to become part of her reform movement by adopting a home economics program. Cornell decided to hire Rose to teach nutrition with the hope that she would begin the program for which she had so ardently advocated.

Along with Martha Van Rensselaer, Rose eventually started the home economics department in 1908, which then became the School of Home Economics in 1919, and then the New York State School of Home Economics in 1925. Rose died in 1959, but 10 years later, the school was given its present name—the College of Human Ecology.

Rose and Van Rensselaer served as the first deans of the College, a partnership that then-Cornell President Jacob Schurman called the “only successful double-headed administration in the world,” according to the University. The two women also lived together, and even though Van Rensselaer died in 1932, Rose continued to lead the College until 1940. Now, both women have buildings in their name (the Human Ecology building is named for Van Rensselaer).

“As a Human Ecology student, I’m proud to see the recognition of the contributions Rose made to our campus,” said Lindsey Bober ’09, a resident advisor for Rose House. “She represents someone who saw a shortcoming in higher education and worked diligently to establish a visionary program with the support of Cornell.”

Though Rose House is completed—and students are currently living there—it will not join the house system until next year. This means that Rose House does not conform to the special meal plan that house system students have to purchase. Also, there will be no programs, dean or graduate advisors. According to Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, the reason is because the University still needs to select a professor-in-residence. A search committee is set to announce its choice this fall.

However, many are ecstatic that construction is finally done.

Prof. Isaac Kramnick, government, and a vice provost when the idea for the West Campus Housing Initiative was developed, has been a proponent of the system since 1999, when former President Hunter Rawlings announced the idea.

“It’s breathtakingly moving—moving even to tears—to see an abstract vision come to life,” stated Kramnick. “To see an idea embodied in steel, wood, concrete, glass, trees and grass. To see what was once a visionary ideal, a vision of students and faculty sharing the intellectual and social potential of college and residential life—to see that vision realized in actual spaces that are beautiful and even majestic,” he told the University.

Murphy, who has also been involved with the project since its inception, agreed with Kramnick.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “It’s an enormous accomplishment and one that will have a very significant impact on students for generations to come.”

Paul Ryerson ’09, a resident advisor in Rose House, was equally excited by the completion of the house system.

“Rose House is still under Residential Programs and will not technically be under the ‘House System’ until next year,” Ryerson said. “However, based on the way the other houses have functioned, I’m optimistic that Rose House will have a great community identity in the coming years.”

According to Murphy, Cornell’s next housing project will be geared toward graduate housing, an area in which some feel the University is severely lacking. Cornell will soon create a housing master plan to address future residential needs.

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