In the spirit of Oscars week, we—the [Notable] Class of ’74—can be proud of our support of the next generation of performing artists through our Christopher Reeve ’74 Scholarship. This Scholarship, which supports a student who is majoring in Performing and Media Arts, was established in 2006 in honor of our classmate. The plaque in the lobby of the Schwartz Center, Cornell’s performing arts venue, says it all:
Christopher Reeve ’74
Actor Superman Hero
Over the past 15 years the Reeve Scholarship has played a big part in the lives of a dozen or so extraordinary and very talented Cornellians. The current Reeve Scholar is Thea Goldman ’22. Thea writes:
This year has no doubt been a wild one. From being sent home early from my study abroad, then to catch COVID at the beginning of the pandemic, nothing about the year has been ordinary. However, thanks to the Reeve Scholarship I have been lucky to achieve some amount of normalcy in my Cornell education. Your financial support gave me the opportunity to study abroad, which despite its hasty and unexpected ending was rewarding and exciting. I studied in London and was able to travel throughout Europe. It was the best experience of my life and taught me so much about myself and the world.Without your support, it would have been impossible for me to continue my education. So, truly, thank you. Your support means so much to me.
If you would like to support the Reeve Scholarship and Cornellians like Thea, click HERE .
Now, the envelope, please…
PS: Brief Biography of Christopher Reeve
“Chris was extraordinary. He was endowed with a great many talents. He had a wonderful mind, wide ranging interests, a willingness to take risks. He was an athlete and scholar with a passion for acting, which began very early.” This is how Christopher Reeve’s mother remembered her son in 2006 newspaper article.
Chris started acting early indeed. By age nine he was already appearing in professional theater and by high school he had decided that theater was to be his life. But perhaps it was Cornell’s number one sport that caused him to become a Cornellian. Chris, who had been the starting hockey goalie for four years at Princeton Day School, showed up at Lynah Rink in the Fall of 1970 for freshman tryouts. As he recounted. “I got absolutely shelled, and I thought, ‘You know, I’m probably going to end up with no teeth’, so I retreated to the safety of the theater department. That was the end of my hockey career. In retrospect, I made the right choice. And I still have all of my teeth.”
The right choice certainly. While majoring in music theory and English, Chris was performing in various theatrical productions at Cornell. He then was accepted his senior year to the Juilliard School of Performing Arts where he honed his craft. Chris went on to act in and direct numerous feature films, television movies and plays and established himself as in an important creative force on the performing arts scene.
In 1995 Chris fractured his neck in an equestrian competition and his life took a dramatic turn. After a year-long recuperation he returned to acting, but most of his attention was focused on promoting issues related to paralysis, including spinal cord research and financial support for persons with disabling conditions. In 1999 he became the chairman of the Christopher Reeve Foundation that supports research to develop effective treatments and cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. In 2003 Chris was awarded the Lasker Award for Public Service in recognition of his “perceptive, sustained, and heroic advocacy for medical research in general, and people living with disabilities in particular”.
Chris died in 2004 at the age of 52. His legacies are many, and although Chris never wanted to be synonymous with the character in his breakout role, Superman, there is something in that film that helps us understand Chris. As he told Gene Siskel, “The key word for me on Superman is ‘inspiration’. He is a leader by inspiration. He sets an example.” Chris lived the part.