Cornell University spent much of 2015 celebrating its 150th year, in a campaign that seems exemplary: high on the history aspect, allowing the marketing effect to quietly speak for itself. Cornell has carved out what seems like a permanent place on its website to display the campaign instead of sweeping it away — an error sometimes made by businesses overeager to “move on” from their corporate history the day after the anniversary ends.
A kick-off Charter Day weekend, detailed timelines (perhaps a bit too complex), an on-campus history exhibit preserved online (“150 Ways to Say Cornell”), regional celebrations worldwide, collections of personal stories and videos that add up to on-the-go oral histories, contests for undergrads, a history book of appropriate academic depth by two professors, archival images (see below), bios of founder Ezra Cornell, and of course a hashtag, #cornell150 . . . the celebrations went on, apparently to great effect. No doubt dozens if not hundreds of Cornell communicators were involved in the planning. Hats off to you all.
I’m not a Cornell grad, alas; I learned of the anniversary when I happened to pick up a friend’s alumni magazine. All in all, an engaging job of preserving history and extending the brand. The next time I see the big red Cornell bus en route from Ithaca to New York City, I’ll honk my horn in praise.