Prof. Leslie Cornell Passes Away at Age 68
February 20, 2009, Greencastle, Ind. — Leslie A. Cornell Jr., who taught at DePauw University as an adjunct professor of classical studies from 1978 to 1999, passed away Tuesday, February 17, at St. Vincent Seton Specialty Hospital in Indianapolis. He was 68.
Born October 4, 1940 in St. Louis, Les Cornell received his B.S. in biology from C.W. Post College of Long Island University in 1963. Upon graduation, he served as a researcher at the United States Department of Agriculture in Albany, California. In 1964, he and his wife Cynthia (whom he married the year before) moved to Claremont, California, where Les taught biology Leslie Cornell 2a.jpgand mathematics at The Webb School, a college preparatory boarding school. While there, after discovering paleontology in the Mojave Desert and the Grand Canyon, and the monuments of ancient Greece and Rome on his first European tour, he began post-graduate work in classical archaeology at Pomona College.
In 1968, he enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, receiving his M.A. in art history and archaeology in 1972 and his Ph.D. in 1980. In 1969-70, he was named an archaeological fellow at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.
In 1975, Cornell and his wife moved to Greencastle. In 1978 he began teaching classical archaeology and Latin at DePauw as an adjunct instructor. At that time, he introduced the first classical archaeology courses into the DePauw curriculum and later led the first Winter Term trips to Rome. His semester courses included Greek and Roman Archaeology, Near Eastern Archaeology, and Numismatics. He continued teaching as an adjunct professor of classical studies until 1999, when ill health forced him to retire.
Cornell's work as an archaeologist took him, accompanied by his wife, on many excavations in Israel from 1969 to 1986, where he supervised the uncovering of Hellenistic and Roman ruins at Tel Anafa in upper Galilee and Biblical ruins at Tel Gezer in central Israel. He continued his academic studies with National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminars at SUNY-Stonybrook in 1980, at Dartmouth College in 1985, and at the University of Chicago in 1988. He was published on the Hellenistic red-ware pottery uncovered at Tel Anafa.
In 1983, with the birth of his son, Ian, Les Cornell dedicated himself to his care and education, introducing him, too, to the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean, with trips to Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and Italy. Ian followed his father's lead in his love of ancient history, and is now finishing a degree at DePauw in history.
In 1994, Professor Cornell was diagnosed with a genetic degenerative neuromuscular disease, which compromised both his physical health and strength and his memory and intellectual sharpness. When this was discovered, he volunteered himself and family as subjects for a research study by DePauw geneticist, Chet Fornari. The study discovered that both Les's father and his son Ian had the muscular dystrophy gene. In 1999, his father and mother moved to Greencastle from California so that Les could help care for them in their last years and in his last years of strength. His mother passed away in Greencastle in 2001; his father in 2003.
His survivors include his wife, professor of English at DePauw since 1975 and the Jane Cooling Brady Professor of Early English Literature.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, April 4 at 4 p.m., in the DePauw University Nature Park's Reflection Center. Internment will be at Forest Hill Cemetery in Greencastle. Memorial contributions may be made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.