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BTI celebrates 40 years at Cornell

April 24 marked the 40th anniversary of the dedication ceremony for BTI’s current facilities on Cornell’s Ithaca campus. BTI’s researchers and staff celebrated the milestone. Above, BTI faculty members Fay-Wei Li and Carmen Catalá enjoy perusing mementos from the 1979 dedication ceremony of BTI’s building on the Cornell campus during the anniversary celebration April 24. Photo provided

The Boyce Thompson Institute of Corvallis, Oregon? It almost happened.

April 24 marked the 40th anniversary of the dedication ceremony for BTI’s current facilities on Cornell’s Ithaca campus. BTI’s researchers and staff celebrated the milestone with cake and a display of memorabilia, with remarks highlighting New York state’s role in the move to its present location from Yonkers, New York.

Indeed, without the actions of then-Lt. Gov. Malcom Wilson and then-Ithaca area Assemblywoman Constance Cook ’41, J.D. ’43 – who would eventually become Cornell’s first female vice-president – BTI likely would have landed at Oregon State University.

Prior to BTI’s founding in 1924, some of William Boyce Thompson’s advisers recommended that the plant science research institute be associated with a university. Instead, he built the institute in Yonkers, directly across the street from his mansion. Within a few decades, however, many BTI researchers pushed for a move to a university, citing a desire for more collaborative studies with other institutions.

A bidding war, of sorts, between Cornell and Oregon State wound up in Cornell’s favor. BTI and Cornell executed their Agreement of Affiliation on May 28, 1974; the institute was up and running in the new location by October 1978. The dedication occurred a few months later.

BTI has produced several major scientific advances in vaccines, plant disease resistance, immunology and other areas.

Read more about BTI’s history on its website.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.