Newest recipient of NU’s oldest scholarship fund thankful

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Emilie O’Connor is awarded the Edward J. Cornish Scholarship.

Edward J. Cornish means a lot to Emilie O’Connor, even though she’s never met him and never will.

Because of him, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln sophomore food science major has the opportunity to further her education and not worry as much about money.

Emilie, who’s from Omaha, is one of this year’s recipients of the Edward J. Cornish Scholarship. The Cornish Fund, founded in 1937, is the oldest fund at the foundation still awarding money to students.

The $2,000 scholarship Emilie received helps her focus on her studies. She has a 4.0 GPA. The scholarship helps her save money for medical school. She wants to become an endocrinologist in Omaha or Lincoln someday – “so I can give back to the community that has supported me.”

She wants to use her knowledge of food to better the medical field someday.

“The Cornish Scholarship gives me a sense of history knowing that 75 years worth of students have been in the same position as me,” she says. “Hopefully there will be many more years of students continuing the tradition.”

She didn’t know a lot about him. So here are some facts about his life:

Mr. Cornish was president of the National Lead Company from 1916 to 1933, later becoming its board chairman. The scholarship in his name began with a certificate for 600 shares of the company’s common stock he sent to the University of Nebraska Foundation in June of 1937. The shares were worth about $20,000. He also sent a cash donation of $2,500.

He had been breeding Jersey cattle – some of the highest producing herds in the country and the world at the time, in terms of butter fat. He also donated some of those cattle to the university.

From his June 16, 1937, letter to the foundation:

The primary object of this donation is to help the Animal Husbandry Department to develop the twenty head of pure-bred Jersey cattle purchased in the name of the University of Nebraska, which have doubtless been received by you before this letter reaches you.

Cornish was from Omaha.

He’d been a prominent lawyer before moving to New York and becoming president of the National Lead Company. His second wife, Selina, was also from Omaha. They died within two weeks of each other in May of 1938.

Their summer mansion and barn in the Hudson Valley – where he raised his amazing cattle – lies in ruins. A fire in the ’50s gutted it, leaving only the stone walls. It’s now part of the Hudson Highlands State Park and a popular stop for hikers.

But the Cornish scholarship remains.

Also from his letter:

I do not wish to place any conditions or limitations upon this gift that would interfere, now or in the future, with the use of this fund according to your own judgment.

Emilie O’Connor would thank Edward J. Cornish, if she could.

“I would want him to know that I am working very hard in school and am putting his scholarship to good use.”

Seventy-five years ago – on June 3, 1936 – the University of Nebraska Foundation was born. This year, we at the foundation mark this diamond anniversary by looking back at the many milestones and by looking forward to many more years of connecting the dreams and passions of donors like Edward J. Cornish to the mission of the university.

Student support is one of the highest priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you would like to support students, too, please give online or call the foundation at 800-432-3216.

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