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Senator Ezra Cornell offered his farm in Ithaca, New York as a site and $500,000 of his personal fortune as an initial endowment. Fellow senator and experienced educator Andrew Dickson White agreed to be the first president.
During the next three years, White oversaw the construction of the initial two buildings and traveled about the country, attracting students and faculty.
The university was inaugurated on October 7, 1868, and 412 men were enrolled the next day. Two years later, Cornell admitted its first women students, making it the first coeducational Ivy League school. Scientists Louis Agassiz and James Crafts were among the faculty members.
In September 2006, David Skorton formally became Cornell's 12th and current president
On April 19, 1969, more than eighty members of Cornell's Afro-American Society took over the student union building, Willard Straight Hall. The takeover was precipitated by increasing racial tension at the university in the 1960s; earlier incidents included a reprimand of three black students for a December 1968 incident and a cross burning in front of the black women's cooperative. On April 20, 1969, the crisis ended, with Cornell ceding to the society's demands, including the creation of a black studies program.
The students emerged making a black power salute with guns in hand. (The guns had been brought into the hall after the initial takeover.) James A. Perkins, president of Cornell during the events, would resign soon after.
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