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In March 1868, A. D. White, honored in the statue above, traveled abroad in search of faculty. In England, he found Goldwin Smith, recently resigned Regius Professor of History at Oxford.

Smith enthusiastically accepted White's invitation, but he had his misgivings. "There seem to be a great number of waterfalls, which I abhor," he wrote to a friend. "My soul is heavy within me when I think of the Yankee bread."

In the end, Smith developed a strong affection for the university, to which he gave his historical library. "When I am cremated," he wrote as an old man, "I shall be obliged to the wind if it will waft a grain or two of the ashes to the campus at Cornell."