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Fall 2009
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Outstanding Alumni Awards

Brian O'Hara EarleAfter teaching in Cornell’s Department of Communication for nearly forty years, Brian O’Hara Earle ’67, MPS ’71 retired in 2008. However, he is presently working part-time for the Department of Communication and Department of Applied Economics & Management. Earle served as advising coordinator for his department for nearly thirty years, and was the department career representative since the inception of the program. Even in retirement, Earle continues to advise and meet with prospective students and their families. Earle was director of LEAD New York from 1989 to 1993, and director of the CALS Career Exploration Program for the college from 2002 to 2006.

As a teacher, Earle developed many popular courses, and incorporated current events in each lecture, making course material relevant. Earle also invited many guest speakers, often alumni of his courses, to enliven discussion. COMM 301: Business & Professional Presentation has been a mainstay of the department since its inception in 1985. Likely one of the most popular electives for nearly twenty years, the course attracted students and their friends from all colleges. COMM 476: Communication Fellows (1998-2008) took seniors to New York City to study innovative corporate cultures, meet with communication industry leaders, learn about career options, and network with CALS alumni. In 1996, Earle developed ALS 101, Transitions and Success in ALS, a course for freshmen and transfers in CALS that focused on the transition to Cornell. Over the years, campus leaders credit Earle and ALS 101 with launching their success and encouraging them to stay involved. Even after retirement he continues to advise and in spring 2008, Earle returned to develop and teach a new course AEM 4940: Ethics in Business for the Department of Applied Economics and Management (AEM).

Earle has been a strong supporter of outreach programs beyond the classroom. He continues to travel and lecture on topics such as leadership, networking, effective communication, listening, business etiquette, mentoring, and presentation skills. Earle researched and authored “The First-Year Experience: A Guide to Best Practices at Cornell University” as part of his work on the development of North Campus and the ALS 101 course. This publication has been used by many colleges and universities to enhance their first year programs.

As an innovative teacher and compassionate advisor, Earle’s accomplishments are unparalleled. His legacy as an educator and advocate for students for nearly 40 years has resulted in generations of loyal alumni. Earle also served CALS and Cornell with the development of the American Indian Program, the North Campus community, and the Carol Tatkon Center. Earle worked on countless department, college, and university committees that helped shape policy and make Cornell a better place. Earle served as co-chair of the CALS Centennial Planning Committee from 2002 to 2005. His unique and entertaining “Dining Etiquette” presentation has become legendary at many upstate New York colleges.

Many alumni credit Earle as the sole reason they graduated from Cornell, thanks to his encouragement and personal interest in their success. Earle’s popular courses have inspired and educated thousands of students. No other faculty member has ever been the recipient of all four top teaching and advising honors in CALS: The Louis and Edith Edgerton Career Teaching Award (2004); The Kendall S. Carpenter Memorial Advising Prize (2003); Professor of Merit (1998); The Donald C. Burgett Distinguished Advisor Award (1997). He has also been selected by three Merrill Scholars as their most influential teacher. He also received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Teaching (1991). These awards, bestowed by both students and faculty, are a testament to the respect and admiration that Earle’s students and colleagues have for him.

Upon his retirement in 2008, The Cornell Daily Sun published a front-page article about his career--an unusual achievement since faculty retirements are rarely covered. Also unprecedented, was the Department of Communication sending a letter to all its alumni to announce Earle’s retirement and renaming its student activities fund as the Brian O. Earle/Kenneth J. Bissett Student Fund. It was Earle’s mentoring of Ken Bissett ’89 and comforting his parents after Ken’s tragic death in 1988 that resulted in a significant bequest to the College.


Outstanding Alumni Awards