In August of 1966, the Dean of the Graduate School, W. Donald Cooke, “reluctantly” agreed to the creation of a new graduate field in Medieval Studies. In his annual report to President James A. Perkins, Dean Cooke expressed his concerns as follows:

“The organization of the Graduate School into fields which are administratively independent of departments and colleges results in a tendency for a proliferation of such educational units. The reason for this tendency is that new fields can be established without consideration as to funding.

In the past academic year three new fields have been established. Two of them are in the area of Biological Sciences: genetics and Neurobiology. […] The other field is Medieval Studies, which represents a rather unique situation at Cornell in that we have an unusually large number of faculty with an interest in this area of study. My only feeling, and one with which the General Committee agreed, was that this was not the best way to encourage such studies at Cornell. The field will not be directly associated with any department and will have to depend on departments for space and support of their graduate students. Students in the program will probably be given a lower priority in competition with students more associated with such departments. It was suggested that the best course of action was to establish such programs within the present loose field structure and, at least theoretically, this would be possible. Within the Code of Legislation, a student could, for example, major in History or Philosophy and design a program which would allow him to concentrate in medieval Studies. The proponents of the new field argued that while such a course of action is theoretically possible, in actual practice it is not because of the rather rigorously defined programs of study in the Humanities Fields. Given the intensity with which the new Field was proposed, the General Committee reluctantly agreed to include Medieval Studies as a new Field in the Graduate School. It was felt that some of the most promising professors in the Humanities were backing the proposal very strongly and a rejection would cause extensive unhappiness.”

image: Petrarch. Canzoniere, Trionfi. Italy, final third of the 15th century.
[Cornell Library Rare Manuscript Collection.]