Syracuse University Magazine


Orange Legacy

A Special Place for the Daniels Family

By Bruce Cort Daniels

My father, Draper Daniels, followed his father’s footsteps to the Hill, graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism in 1934. He went on to become one of the most successful executives in the advertising industry. Celebrated as the “Father of the Marlboro Man,” he was instrumental in producing iconic ads featuring Starkist’s “Charlie Tuna,” “Elsie the Borden Cow,” “The Jolly Green Giant,” and Kellogg’s “Tony the Tiger.” Author of Giants, Pigmies and Other Advertising People, Draper “Dan” Daniels may well have served as the template for the “Don Draper” character in the highly successful Mad Men television series about a Madison Avenue advertising agency during the 1960s. Also involved in politics, Draper Daniels was national export expansion coordinator, appointed by President John F. Kennedy.

At SU, my dad found outlets for his creativity and writing skills, serving as editor-in-chief of The Daily Orange and its counterpart humor magazine, the Orange Peel. My grandfather, John Albert Daniels, could not have known when he left his parents’ farm in Morris, New York, to begin his college career at Syracuse that he was embarking on an educational journey that would span three generations. The first in his family to attend college, John graduated with a degree in engineering in 1911 and went on to captain the schooner Equator for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, mapping the country’s Inland Waterway. Celebrated author Robert Louis Stevenson had traveled the South Seas on the Equator and wrote a book about the voyage.

My grandfather married his high school sweetheart, Fanny Draper, from the adjacent farm. Their son, Draper, married his college sweetheart, Louise Parker Lux Cort, who graduated from SU with a joint degree in journalism and management in 1933. As a little girl she was acquainted with the famous bird artist, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and frontier showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. In 1965, Cort, as my mother was known, joined Martin Luther King’s famous civil rights march in Montgomery, Alabama, and was proudly incarcerated for her efforts.

Draper and Cort raised four children, and I was the one who continued the Daniels’ family tradition of studying at Syracuse University. I graduated from SU with a degree in Latin American studies in 1964. I decided to attend SU because of my family’s close ties with the University and because it offered an opportunity to attend the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala for a semester at the start of the infamous 30 years war. I was there in 1963 during the presidential elections that resulted in a coup d’etat. My college years were part of the turbulent ’60s, which saw the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. One night at the Hotel Syracuse in my senior year, I informed my parents of my decision to marry Suzanne, my high school sweetheart. Now my wife of 48 years, Suzanne worked for the SU philosophy department at that time. I vividly remember hearing candidate Lyndon Johnson speak from a tailgate at Syracuse’s Hancock Airport. I later met President Johnson in the White House along with 50 Latin American mayors when he announced the establishment of a center for Latin American studies at the University of Texas. And when President Johnson spoke at the dedication of the Newhouse School, my mother and father were among the invited guests.

 After college, I became a charter member of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington, D.C. My career weaved in and out of public and private service, ending in California, where I served as HUD Indian program manager, director of housing and community development for Riverside County, and city manager of Coachella. I was also general manager of an economic development corporation and local soccer complexes. My longtime interest in soccer led me to serve as a referee at the youth, high school, and NCAA levels. 

Although my grandmother, Fanny Draper Daniels, earned a degree from Oneonta Normal (now Oneonta State), she understood the important role Syracuse University played in our family’s remarkable achievements, and for many years she lovingly displayed three generations of SU diplomas on her mantle as a fitting tribute to the Daniels family’s proud Orange legacy.


Bruce Cort Daniels ’64 is retired and lives in Running Springs, California. He follows the SU crew and soccer teams and among his Orange memorabilia he counts a century-old pennant that belonged to his grandfather.


Move-in Day 1960: Draper and Cort Daniels (at right) on the steps of Watson Hall. 

Daniels_2.jpgCort Daniels helps her son, Bruce, move into Watson to begin his first year at SU.