In 1978, Christopher Reeve was catapulted to Hollywood stardom when he was selected to play the titular superhero in the 1978 blockbuster: "Superman: The Movie." Reeve, who started acting when he was eight years old, appeared in three Superman sequels, winning over audiences around the globe. Throughout his legendary career, he appeared in 17 films, dozens of made-for-TV movies, and more than 150 plays. However, Reeve’s life changed drastically in 1995 when he was thrown off his horse during an equestrian competition. After being paralyzed from the neck down, Reeve founded the ‘Christopher Reeve Foundation’ and focused on lobbying for issues related to spinal cord injuries and human embryonic research. As an actor-turned-activist, Reeve even testified before a Senate subcommittee in favor of federal funding for stem cell research.
Things were much different for Reeve when he entered Cornell University in 1970. As a freshman, he was already a seasoned professional actor who continued taking acting jobs while in school. This meant that while some of his classmates were mingling at boozy frat parties on the weekend, Reeve was flying to Europe for a two- or three-day shoot. Meanwhile, Reeve also performed in various theatrical productions at Cornell, staring as Pozzo in "Waiting for Godot” Hamlet in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," and Polixenes in "The Winter’s Tale” among other plays. But instead of completing his senior year in Ithaca, Reeve opted to attend the Julliard School of Performing Arts, where he was one of two students to be accepted into the program — the other student being Robin Williams. Nonetheless, arrangements were made, and in 1974, Reeve received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in music theory and Bachelor of Arts in English from Cornell University.
Over the years, Reeve occasionally made it back to his Ivy League roots. In 1993, for instance, he returned to Ithaca to spend a day with students and faculty. The visit came on the heels of Reeve's newest film release, "Remains of the Day," which dominated most of that day’s discussion between the actor and his audience. Two years later, just before his equestrian accident, Reeve was the speaker at a Tower Club meeting in New York City, an alumni organization whose members give gifts annually to Cornell. His speech was given in honor of former Cornell University President Frank Rhodes’ last year as president.
In 2006, the Cornell community gathered on campus to celebrate Reeve, honoring his life and memory with a day of events that included screenings of his films and the formal announcement of an endowed scholarship in Reeve's memory. "When Reeve came to Ithaca for a screening of 'The Remains of the Day' in 1993," recalled David Feldshuh, the Artistic Director of Cornell's Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, "he said he hoped to return to Cornell, to teach a class or perhaps act in a play. Chris unfortunately did not have a chance to return to Cornell, until today." To wit, the Christopher Reeve 1974 Scholarship Fund provides financial support to undergraduates majoring in theater, film, music, and English. More than that, the endowment provides a reminder to all members of the Cornell family that real-life superheroes do exist.