Of Special Interest
Cornell's Rock Parks
When Cornell's Department of Geological Sciences (now a part of Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) moved in 1971 from McGraw Hall to Kimball Hall, several large rocks displayed in the spacious halls of McGraw Hall for their aesthetic beauty, as well as for class instruction, had to be relocated. Placing the rocks outdoors where they would appear in a more natural setting and where passers-by could readily examine them became a popular idea. Meyer (Mike) Bender '29, a long-time benefactor of the department, became interested in such a project. He and his wife, Gertrude, provided the funds to build Rock Park East in honor of Mr. Bender's mother.
Rock Park East received considerable attention, not only from geology students, but also from others who were attracted by the unusual display for a variety of reasons, ranging from scientific to aesthetic.
Responding to this high level of interest, Mike and Gertrude Bender generously offered to sponsor a second rock park to be placed west of the first display. Rock Park West required collecting additional large rocks. It is no small task to find and acquire multi-ton rock samples from sites throughout New York State and surrounding areas, and transport them to Ithaca. Fortunately, Ted Snedden '78 took over this task in the summer of 1977. Through his energy and initiative, and through the cooperation of quarrying and construction companies and various personnel at Cornell and elsewhere, Rock Park West was completed by the fall of 1978. In fact, during that period a number of new specimens were added to Rock Park East as well.
Rock Park West honors Mr. Bender's father.
In 1984, when the Department again moved, this time to Snee Hall, (a building constructed specifically for the Department), it was decided that Rock Park East and Rock Park West would remain as they were and that a new rock park would be constructed for Snee Hall. Again, Gertrude and Meyer Bender '29, provided the funds to build the park in honor of Mrs. Bender's mother and father. To help make this park possible, Professor William Bassett, Allan Gibbs, and Jim Hibbard selected the specimens. In a one week, 1,700 mile trip, Tom Trencansky, Joe Weaver, and Steve Uzmann collected the twelve tons of rocks. The dedication of the Snee Hall Rock Park took place on June 1, 1986.
The fourth rock park is found on the grounds of the Jewish Living Center within the west campus residential units which is a few hundred yards west of Snee Hall. This park was dedicated in memory of Meyer Bender 29'. It was given by his wife Gertrude, his children Stephen Bender '58, and Alice Bender Klausner and families.
Founded in 1932, the Paleontological Research Institution has outstanding programs in research, collections, publications, and public education. The Institution cares for a collection of nearly three million specimens (one of the 10 largest in the U.S.), and publishes Bulletins of American Paleontology, the oldest paleontological journal in the Western Hemisphere, begun in 1895. PRI is a national leader in the development of informal (i.e., outside the classroom) Earth science education resources for educators and the general public.
PRI’s Museum of the Earth was established in 2003 to provide the general public with a unique opportunity to explore our world through a mix of natural history displays, interactive science features, and art exhibitions. The museum’s 8,000-square-foot permanent exhibition takes visitors on a journey through 4.5 billion years of history, from the Earth’s origin to the present day. Through hands-on, visual exhibitions and outreach, the Museum of the Earth encourages critical thinking about life on Earth in the past and today, and how our species is affecting the natural world.
In 2013, the Cayuga Nature Center became PRI's newest public venue for education. The Nature Center cultivates an awareness, appreciation, and responsibility for the natural world through outdoor and environmental education. The goal is to transform the Nature Center into a premier educational center for teaching and learning about the impact of climate change on the fauna and flora of Tompkins County.
PRI and its two public venues for education, the Museum of the Earth and the Cayuga Nature Center, are separate from, but formally affiliated with Cornell University, and interact closely with numerous University departments in research, teaching, and public outreach.