Ezra Cornell (January 11, 1807 – December 9, 1874) was an American businessman and, with Andrew Dickson White, was the founder of Cornell University.
He was born in Westchester County, New York, the son of a potter, Elijah Cornell, and was raised near DeRuyter, New York. He was a first cousin, five times removed of Benjamin Franklin on his maternal grandmother's side. He was also a cousin of Paul Cornell, the founder of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Having traveled extensively as a carpenter in New York State, Ezra, upon first setting eyes on Cayuga Lake and Ithaca, decided Ithaca would be his future home.
After settling in at Ithaca, Ezra quickly went to work proving himself as a carpenter. Colonel Beebe took notice of the industrious young man and made him the manager of his mill at Fall Creek.