House History

House History

Hans Bethe House was dedicated on October 10, 2007. At the inaugural House Dinner, Hans Bethe's Birthday was also celebrated (Bethe's birthday is actually July 6th, but it is celebrated in October when the House is full). The first House Professor was Porus Olpadwala, professor of City and Regional Planning in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning;he led with House Assistant Dean Thomas Noel. During their tenure, Bethe hosted a seminar gathering on the Harlem Renaissance. Visiting performers and lecturers included Anthony Barboza, Frederick Brown, Megan Bowman Brown, Jerome Cooper, Stanley Crouch, Blondell Cummings, Charlie Hade, James Jordan, Felipe Luciano, Malcom Mooney, Gregoire Muller, Sam Rivers, Jean Claude Samuel, and Henry Threadgill.

There was also a student competition to design a mobile to be installed in Jansen's Dining Room. The selected mobile Stellasynthesis was a design by: Jean You '11, Architecture, Sonny Xu '13, Architecture, Yeon Sik (Eric) Cho '12, Arts and Sciences.

In the fall of 2010, House Professor Scott MacDonald and House Assistant Dean Erica Ostermann came in as the second generation of house leadership. HP MacDonald began the Ansatz program; a weekly conversation hour following Wednesday's House Dinner, held in his apartment. Ansatz could be taken as a course or as a casual drop in to learn about a new topic. Ansatz conversations range from what to do with a biology degree to what St. Augustine meant to history. The spectrum of topics is intended to increase exposure to a breadth of ideas that cross academic disciplines.

In 2011, Bethe and Keeton Houses instituted Active Citizens, whereby the most engaged residents are invited to return to the House the following year. These returning residents continue to engage their neighbors and contribute to the strength of our residential community.

In the Fall of 2019, Andrew Hicks joined as the House Professor-Dean. He has continued the Ansatz Conversations as well as helped clarify our three collective goals:

1. to inspire our residents’ curiosity about intellectual pursuits, civic and community engagement, social ideals, cultural communities, life choices, etc.;
2. to offer them connections to communities, programs, centers, networks, resources, and opportunities in Bethe House, across the University, and throughout the Ithaca area; and
3. to help them build the confidence to become intellectually, culturally, and socially engaged members of the Cornell and Ithaca community.

In June 2020, Assistant Dean Perdita Das-Humphrey joined the team amidst COVID-19 re-opening and has continued to lead the operationalization of the vision and mission of the House.

Beyond our doors, we reach out to the greater Cornell community. Hans Bethe House is instrumental in bringing guests to campus. With a guest suite, we invite faculty from around the university to house their guests with us. This helps to enrich of the life of the house for the residents in Bethe House as they get a chance to dine with special visitors. Our guests include Mark Bittman, NY Times Columnist and Author; Spencer Wells, Rhodes Professor and Explorer in Residence for National Geographic; Carol Rattray '78, alumna and co-founder of; Mark Turner, Tenor Saxophonist; and Muriel Maffre, former principle dancer with the San Francisco Ballet.

Just outside of the guest suite on the 2nd floor is our student art gallery. This gallery rotates through artwork and photography by Bethe House residents. Past shows include photos from world travels, original paintings, and photos from the Ithaca area. Outside of the Jansen's Dining Room there is an original work, The Oracle, painted especially for Bethe House by Frederick J. Brown, begun while he visited the Hans Bethe House in 2008.

Bethe's leadership, vibrant residents, and passionate staff have fostered a residential community that is rich in opportunities for informal intellectual engagement.