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Cornell University

History of COE

COE Alumni at the ski lodge

"I would found an oasis of madness in a pompous academic institution that takes itself far too seriously."

David Morrissey Moriah, '72

In the mid-1970's, a dozen students and an instructor staged a sit-in in the Athletics and Physical Education office, demanding the use of a van that they had reserved. The students were enrolled in one of the first classes offered for Physical Education credit through a new student organization that ran wilderness trips with a small pile of gear and an even smaller budget.

In 1972, the New Student Orientation Committee created Wilderness Reflections (WR)—a wilderness-based pre-orientation program. Along with a few faculty members, the program relied heavily on student leaders rather than professional guides in order to further integrate new students into the Cornell community. That first August, Cornell fielded nine trips, including canoeing in Minnesota's Boundary Waters, backpacking in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains, and bicycling on Cape Cod.

The student instructors remain the soul of COE as it has expanded from these humble roots to be a robust program offering many one of a kind classes.