The Organization of Cornell Planners (OCP) was founded in the 1950s by students in the fast-growing Department of City and Regional Planning. Students recognized the limitations of the program’s offerings for budding professionals: the theoretical academic orientation of the faculty, Ithaca’s relative isolation from major urban areas, and rapid changes in the planning field with large-scale, post-war projects such as urban renewal, suburbanization, and the construction of the interstate highway system. The students (at the time, all young men) recognized the need for a student group to organize professional development functions and social events in the department.
To this end, OCP organized a spring conference which took place on March 21-22, 1958, inviting practicing professionals to Ithaca to discuss the urban renewal program. In the published proceedings of that conference, the members describe the organization:
The first annual spring conference of the Organization of Cornell Planners was a major step toward the fulfillment of the objectives of the organization: service to the planning profession, to graduate students and alumni of the Department of City and Regional Planning, and to interested friends of Cornell. This summary report of the Conference is itself another important part of our program to achieve these goals.
It was the intention of the founders that the organization would function in several ways. The unification of the graduate planning students academically and socially has been the primary purpose of the regular meetings. In addition the promotion of faculty-student relations, the provision of a flexible supplement to the more formal aspects of our training, and the stimulation of discussion of the planning function among students are important objectives. Social get-togethers such as the spring picnic, and the reception for new students, and speakers such as Buckminster Fuller, Peter Self, Allan Holmberg, Hideo Sasaki, Kermit Parsons, Thomas Mackesey, Coleman Woodbury and others, have provided a well-rounded program.
An impressive program, indeed!
The group saw the conference as a critical part of their mission: “We were asked, ‘How did you get such outstanding men to come?’ and we were at a loss for an answer. Perhaps by providing such an opportunity as this Conference to the leaders of our profession, the O.C.P. [sic] has begun to render the type of service for which it was designed.”