Event honors two dedicated Cornellians

July 9, 2008

A party honoring a pair of great Cornellians was held this spring.

Earl Flansburgh ’53, B.Arch. ’54 served as a Cornell University trustee for 15 years, designed the Cornell Store and the Builder’s Wall, and, with his wife Polly Flansburgh, continues to give generously of time and money to support Cornell. In May, the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) honored the Flansburghs for all they have done for the university.

About 85 friends gathered at the Flansburgh’s home in Lincoln, Mass., welcomed by W. Stanley Taft, interim dean of AAP. Guests included Porus D. Olpadwala, dean of AAP from 1999 to 2004, David C. Knapp, Cornell provost from 1974 to 1978, and President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes.

In his talk at the event, Rhodes recalled that Mr. Flansburgh was actually part of a trustee group that interviewed him for the Cornell presidency. “In a lapsed moment, he gave me the job,” Rhodes deadpanned. Mr. Flansburgh was one of the first architects to serve as trustee, Rhodes said, and “his expertise and counsel were simply invaluable.”

“I would like to give special thanks to Polly as well,” Rhodes said, “for her dedication as an alumna in her own right and for her support over the years of the many ways Earl has devoted time and energy to Cornell. The Flansburghs have more Cornell connections than almost any family I can think of. Both their fathers were Cornell professors, and Mrs. Flansburgh’s great-grandfather, Dr. Tarbell, was a member of Cornell’s first graduating class in 1869. Earl and Polly’s son Schuyler, along with a cousin, are the first-ever fifth-generation Cornellians.

“However,” Rhodes continued, “[all those Cornell associations] could never guarantee in anyone the kind of dedication that Earl and Polly have shown to Cornell. That kind of loyalty and generosity must come from deep inside a person’s true nature.”

David Sheffield ’55, B.Arch. ’60, M.R.P. ’61, followed Rhodes’s speech with some trepidation, joking that speaking after Rhodes was terrifying. But, he said, “friendship trumps terror; I’d do anything for Earl.” 

In 1963, Mr. Flansburgh founded his own firm, Earl R. Flansburgh and Associates, and, said Sheffield, “soon, everybody knew his name.” Sheffield added, “[Earl is] a great friend, a great architect, a great husband, a great father, a great Cornellian, and a great guy.”

Classmate, class president, and long-time friend Clarence Fauntleroy ’54 recalled the many travels he and his wife Barbara ’55, enjoyed with the Flansburghs. “Earl demonstrated fearless driving skills in the Parisian traffic maze as well as commanding knowledge of the chateau architecture,” he said. He also spoke of their shared love of Cornell football, joking that, “Each fall, we have traveled to Harvard or Brown or Yale or Ithaca to lend our support and our advice to the coaching staff.”

By Judith Pratt

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