No sooner had I posted the words of a former President of Brown University than a colleague at Cornell sent me news that Mathis Wackernagel is serving a term as a Rhodes Professor (as it is known in shorthand). This brought to mind two things: first, this book that was published as I was completing my doctoral dissertation and starting work in Costa Rica on a related topic (more on which, soon); second, the President of Cornell University during all of my seven years on campus. The book was to have a huge, lasting impact. The same is clearly true for President Rhodes, whose hand I had the honor to shake more than once. The confluence of events in 1996–this book’s publication and an unrelated group of grateful and generous Cornell alumni creating this Professorship that would later honor the book’s author–is pretty cool:
To commemorate their 40th reunion, the Class of 1956 initiated an endowment to create the Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of ’56 University Professorship in honor of Cornell’s ninth president (1977–1995). The purpose of the Rhodes Class of ’56 Professorship is to strengthen the undergraduate experience by bringing to the university individuals from every walk of life who represent excellence of achievement and to create opportunities for interaction with undergraduates. The endowment also makes it possible to create public events related to the professorship such as lectures, performances, films, art exhibits, or conferences. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professors are full members of the faculty while in residence. Appointments are awarded for a period of three years. During each year of their appointment, Rhodes Class of ’56 Professors visit the campus for a week to engage in a variety of activities including public lectures, ongoing courses, and collaborative research.