Ithaca, NY Dormitory Fire At Cornell University, April 1967

Outside Interior Damage


Ithaca -- Nine persons lost their lives in a flash fire at a Cornell University student dormitory in Cayuga Heights early this morning. At least 10 others suffered smoke inhalation.
The dead were:
MARTHA BECK, 18, of 325 Dewey St., Evanston, Ill., an art sophomore.
MEIMEI CHENG, 22, of 430 Mark Terrace, State College, Pa., a graduate student.
PETER COOCH, 19, of 120 Montrale Road, Weston, Mass., an art sophomore.
CAROL LYNN KURTZ, 22, of 113 Bellefield Drive, Butler, Pa., a graduate student.
ANNE McCORMIC, 21, of 1158 Norwalk Road, Philadelphia, Pa., a home economics senior.
JEFFREY WILLILAM SMITH, 17, of 10175 Sterling Blvd., Cupertino, Calif., an art sophomore.
JENNIE ZU-WEI SUN, 21, of 307 Richfield Road, Upper Darby, Pa., an art freshman.
JOHANNA CHRISTINA WALDEN, 21, of Helsinki, Finland, graduate student.
JOHN A. FINCH, 37, associate professor of English, from England.
Sgt. ARTHUR GRAHAM of the Cornell Security police said there was no fire in sight when he arrived, but people were hanging out the windows in an effort to escape the heavy smoke.
The fire broke out shortly after 4 a.m. in the two-story cinderblock Cornell Heights Residential CLub in the village adjoining Ithaca and the university. The flames presumably originated in the furnace room and heavy, black smoke filled the upper floors.
A sprinkler system was being installed in the building and would have been completed in two months.
Most survivors escaped from the burning building through the windows of their rooms.
Student Dean STANLE DAVIS was at the scene, surpervising the evacuation of survivors to temporary quarters and sending those needing treatment to the campus infirmary or Tompkins County Hospital.
The building housed 60 freshmen, a few women graduate students and three faculty advisers. The freshmen -- both boys and girls -- are members in a new six-year doctorate program started at Cornell this year.
Survivors told of being awakened by smoke or the screams of those trapped in the halls or on the stairs. The staircase led to a single main exit located in the center of the building at the first floor level.
DAVID MARSHALL of Tallahassee, Fla., who has a broken leg from a skiing accident, said he woke up when he heard a cry of "fire" and went out in the hall. It was filled with smoke. He escaped by following the person with the flashlight. The smoke was dense. He could see only a few feet.
The club provided dormitory accommodation in the basement as well as on the two upper floors.
LAURA E. LEVINE of Brooklyn, a graduate student, was reported in poor condition at the county hospital, suffering smoke inhalation.
DR. HENRY D. HUMPHREY and DAVID ABBOTT, both of whom were believed to have been fighting the fire, were in fair condition.
Three girls held at the infirmary were in good condition. They were MARY LOU SILKWORTH of Amityville, MARY ELLEN NELSON of Nevada, Iowa, and DIANE RENNELL of Binghamton.
Treated at the infirmary were four girls: SUSAN FROEHLEY of Vandalia, Ill., VIRGINIA WELS of Rochester, NANCY LAPELLE of Philadelphia, Pa., and MARGARET KASSOUNY of Lawsdowne, Pa.
Firemen said three bodies were found in the entrance lobby, one on the stairs between the first and second floors, one in a first floor room, and four in rooms on the second floor.
Firemen used ladders to rescue a number of students from second floor window liedges. Many first floor residents tore screens from their windows and leaped to safety.
Injured victims were taken to the hospitals by the Cornell safety patrol, both regular ambulance services in Tompkins County, and by nearby residents who turned out to help fight the fire.
The building is on Triphammer Road, just off the campus.
The special program in which the 60 freshmen are involved is an effort to assure a Ph.D. in six consecutive years from the time of enrollment at the university. Top students from high school classes were carefully screened for the program and offered courses different from those in any other department at Cornell.
Generally the acquisition of a doctorate is a random affair, often dragging over 10 years or more.
The university will conduct a memorial service at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Sage Chapel.
The building was air-conditioned. There were 24 rooms on the first floor, 27 on the second.
The building was referred to as "the club." It has been owned by the university for five years and is operated on a hotel basis.
An investigation of the fire has started.
DR. JAMES A. PERKINS, president of the university, took an immediate flight home from Paris, where he had been attending an educational conference.
"I am shocked beyond belief," PERKINS said. "This is a terrible tragedy. My sense of grief has been transmitted to the parents."
WALKER CISLER of Detroit, chairman of the university executive board, said the trustees were expected on the campus momentarily.

Syracuse Herald-Journal New York 1967-04-05