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Oxford Warden's visit strengthens ties between Merton, Cornell

Sir Martin outside the A.D. White House.

The last time Sir Martin Taylor visited Cornell, in 1981, he was a rising star in the world of mathematics, here to deliver a lecture at the invitation of Stephen Chase, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics.  When he arrived on a rainy April day this year, his mission was different: to strengthen the partnership between Cornell and the University of Oxford.

As Warden of 750 year-old Merton College, Sir Martin came to Cornell to discuss how to foster greater collaboration between Merton and Cornell. In his conversations with a Cornell delegation led by Christopher Way, Director of the Cornell Institute for European Studies and Associate Professor of Government, Sir Martin addressed how to better promote faculty research partnerships between the two institutions, and how students from both universities could benefit from greater contact with the other’s faculty and students.

The mechanism for deepening the ties between Oxford and Cornell is the Brettschneider Exchange Fund, which is designed to promote scholarly interchange between Cornell and Oxford. The Brettschneider Fund was realized through a generous gift by Cornell alumnus Michael Borkan, ILR ’79, in honor of his grandparents, Abraham and Henrietta Brettschneider. The Fund’s Ithaca home is the Cornell Institute for European Studies (CIES), while at Oxford the fund is housed at Merton and Nuffield Colleges.

“My meetings with faculty from history, philosophy, and mathematics were all extremely positive and there was a great deal of commonality between their suggestions,” said Sir Martin. “It is now my job to convey their enthusiasm to my colleagues here at Merton. Above all, though, my meeting with those who will oversee the exchanges at the Cornell end, Professor Way and Jason Hecht [Associate Director of CIES] will, I believe, prove to be of immense value.”

Professor Way expressed a similar sentiment from the Cornell side of the Brettschneider Exchange. “You just can’t forge these kinds of ties via email, and we are thrilled that Sir Martin took the time to invest personally in making these connections. We uncovered numerous promising avenues for research and teaching partnerships between Merton and Cornell that we look forward to pursuing.”

Sir Martin’s visit included meetings with Derk Pereboom, Susan Linn Sage Professor and Stanford H. Taylor ’50 Chair of Philosophy; Barry Strauss, Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies and Chair of the Department of History; Ravi Ramakrishna, Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Department of Mathematics; and David Lee, International Professor in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and Provost’s Fellow for Internationalization.

Beyond his Brettschneider-related meetings, Sir Martin also found the time for some math while on campus. He gave a talk to the faculty and graduate students from the Department of Mathematics entitled “Adelic Riemann Roch theorems and the group SK_1”, and attended a Chelluri Lecture by Professor Andrea Bertozzi of UCLA on the “Mathematics of Crime” with Professor Ramakrishna.

Before heading back to Oxford, Sir Martin and Lady Taylor had the opportunity to walk the campus and commented on how Cornell has changed since their last visit.

“Sharon and I were amazed at the expansion of the campus since our last visit 35 years ago. Many of the buildings impressed us, particularly Klarman Hall and its exciting space for performances. Visiting faculty and students from Merton would hugely enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside and campus.”