F. R. Newman’s Transformative Gifts
With its stands of mature trees and sweeping vistas, it’s easy to assume that the 100-acre F. R. Newman Arboretum has always been part of Cornell and the Botanic Gardens. But longtime Ithacans and alumni who were students through the mid-1970s are likely to remember the area as a working farm and test gardens for the university’s “Ag School.” Named for our visionary major benefactor, the arboretum was built over a period of ten years from 1972 to 1982.
Floyd R. Newman, who was called “Flood” or “F. R.” by everyone who knew him, graduated from Cornell in 1912. A devoted alumnus, he was a university trustee and founding member of the Cornell University Council and the Cornell Plantations Sponsors group. In 1967, he gave $40,000 to fund a master plan to develop a formal arboretum with accessioned collections of trees and shrubs that would support horticultural teaching and research. The first phase was finished in 1973, and Newman Meadow was named in recognition of his support. It was another seven years before all of the necessary funds were raised and the Board of Trustees authorized completion of the project. Again, Newman was the lead donor, and at his 70th reunion in 1982, the F. R. Newman Arboretum was dedicated and officially named in his honor.
F. R. remained actively engaged at Cornell as an emeritus trustee and volunteer leader until his death in 1990, just weeks shy of his 100th birthday. In his estate he left a trust for the benefit his daughter, which later endowed the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director position for the Botanic Gardens. Among his other major gifts to Cornell were four endowed professorships, the Newman Laboratory for Nuclear Studies, Helen Newman Hall and an endowment for the Helen Newman Director of Women’s Athletics (both named in honor of his wife).