Happy Birthday, Chevy! About that Cow…?

This has been a big week for Cornelius Crane Chase (aka Chevy) ex-’66. He celebrates his 66th birthday today. Also, Chevy appeared earlier in the week on The Today Show and told host Meredith Vieira that he had been expelled from Haverford for having a cow in his room (and perhaps some feminine visitors as well, though the presence of women guests was hardly unknown at the Haverford of that era).


Since Chevy’s TV comments, the College has been inundated with inquiries from the press and alumni asking for specifics and/or verification about the bovine incursion.
Indeed, campus folklore continues to credit Chevy with leading a cow up to the higher reaches of Barclay. Since, as everyone seems to know, cows can’t walk downstairs, this visit obviously posed a dilemma for students and administration.

The story these days never goes any further than the cow’s arrival.  No one seems to want to think about what happened to the cow. though an e-bay website notes that “the administration was forced to kill the cow, dismember it, and remove it in pieces from Barclay.” However, the website also comments archly that “This particular story bears similarities to legends told at other colleges and universities.”
Chevy must have had a thing for cows. There are also rumors  that Chevy was expelled from the Dalton School, a prestigious New York City incubator for the precocious and the potentially-prosperous, for….we’re not making this up….leading a cow upstairs in the school building. The UES Journal (that’s UES as in Upper East Side) reports the story but also casts doubt on it, noting that Chevy was at Dalton only through 8th grade (at that point, the school was for girls only beyond 8th grade). That publication speculates that the cow incident did happen at Haverford, but reports a version that had the cow being airlifted to safety–and the Bico News once mentioned yet another version in which a crane was used to remove it.
This corner will remain agnostic on the Chevy and the cow episode.  We were on campus during Chevy’s eventful year at Haverford (1962-63), experienced no visual or olfactory evidence of a cow, and heard lots about Chevy but nothing concerning quadrupeds. It certainly could have happened.
The presence of farm animals in Haverford dorms is amply documented. No less a personage than Isaac Sharpless, Haverford dean and president between 1884 and 1918, writes of chickens appearing in dorms and students borrowing the “College horse.”
Henry Joel Cadbury ’03 (as in 1903), who later accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, used to chuckle over an incident in 1903 when some of the residents of a “small donkey pasture on Railroad Avenue” were escorted to the third floor of Barclay.  Maybe Chevy was just re-creating an old Haverford tradition!
Folklore is notorious for attributing many feats performed over a certain chronological period to one charismatic or heroic figure. Is Chevy’s alleged cowscapade an example of this tendency? Did he really block off Lancaster Avenue and divert traffic through the campus? What about the alleged fake public suicide on Parents’ Day? Did they happen and, if so, was Chevy involved? Probably no one, including Chevy, can now say for sure.
We’re glad the cow story still circulates. If it didn’t happen, it should have. Happy Birthday, Chevy; you live on at Haverford and have inspired generations of students–but maybe it’s a good thing that no cows now graze within many miles of the campus!
Greg Kannerstein ’63