Cornelius Hawthorne is the late father of Pierce Hawthorne, and owner of Hawthorne Wipes. He was a hateful old man with racist and elitist tendencies most of which he unfortunately passed on to his son. He openly expressed his dissapointment with Pierce and treated him with contempt. He wore a specially created Ivory toupee in order to avoid wearing ones with hair culled from ethnic sources and uses a walking cane decorated with a rabbit head on top. He passed away from a heart attack at the age of 89. His first appearance as his younger self was in the Season Two episode "Celebrity Pharmacology." He later makes an official appearance in the Season Three episode "Advanced Gay" and later as a video game character in "Digital Estate Planning." He is portrayed by actor Larry Cedar.
Pierce's father was first mentioned by his mother in the Season One episode "Introduction to Statistics" when she mentioned over the speaker phone to Pierce that she thought she saw his ghost; Pierce would later explain that his mom liked to believe that he was dead. In the Season Two episode "Celebrity Pharmacology 212", Pierce watches an old commercial for Hawthorne Wipes. It features his father who contains bloopers where a young Pierce ruins a take. Cornelius yells at him telling Pierce he should have done better at the audition if he wanted a part in the commercial. He finally physically appears in the Season Three episode "Advanced Gay'. He learns of Pierce's plans to release a Hawthorne Wipes product specifically marketed towards homosexuals and puts a stop to it.
“"All due respect, sir, I have zero respect for you''”— Jeff
Having serious father issues of his own, Jeff intervenes on Pierce's behalf and proceeds with a launch party held at Greendale for the new product. Cornelius crashes the party, and his presence causes Pierce to announce to the attendees that Hawthorne Wipes no longer wants to do business with the gay community. Pierce then fakes a heart attack to avoid dealing with the angry party goers. Later, Jeff finds Pierce and his father in the student health center and confronts Cornelius about what just happened. Cornelius says Pierce did the right thing by doing exactly what he told him to do while standing up for Hawthorne values. Jeff launches into an angry tirade, berating Cornelius for being a horrible parent.
“"He's a Hawthorne. This is what they do. He's faking.''”— Jeff
He tells him that he and his values are something the world does not need anymore. Cornelius is shocked by Jeff's statement and collapses, apparently having a heart attack. Jeff is unconvinced, thinking it's yet another Hawthorne trick as nurses rush to his aid; it's subsequently revealed that he did have an actual heart attack and died. Pierce later reveals to Shirley in "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts" that Cornelius' death allowed the Hawthorne Wipes board of directors to get rid of Pierce as C.E.O. which they had been looking to do for some time. After believing that he and Shirley closed a deal with Greendale to open a sandwich shop, a drunk Pierce is seen at Cornelius' grave site boasting about his new enterprise.
“"Worst son ever!''”— Cornelius
Months later, Pierce asks the study group to accompany him to a reading of Cornelius' will at the behest of the executor of his father's estate, Gilbert Lawson. They discover Pierce's inheritance must be won by playing a video game, "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne". Inside the game, a virtual avatar of Cornelius explains the rules to the study group. The avatar encourages them all to fight each other for the inheritance. They all agree to help Pierce win his inheritance, but their efforts are hampered by Gilbert. He had joined the game and easily defeated the study group several times sending them back to the start. Gilbert eventually revealed to them that he is Cornelius Hawthorne's illegitimate son from an affair he had with Pierce's former nanny's hot cousin. He used his advanced knowledge of the game to beat the study group to the final stage where he encountered the avatar of Cornelius.
The program identified Gilbert and offered him the inheritance only if he signed a legal document that ensured he would never reveal his true relationship to Cornelius. Gilbert rejected the offer and the avatar attacked him. He was saved by the arrival of the study group and their new allies. The Cornelius avatar transformed into a giant to deal with them. The alliance managed to weaken him with powerful new weapons they had acquired but the avatar was still strong enough to eliminate most of them. Pierce then arrived at the scene riding on top of a large missile and engaged in a suicide run that destroyed the body of the avatar. With only the head remaining, the Cornelius avatar acknowledged he had been defeated. Pierce and the study group agree to forfeit the game and allow Gilbert to claim the reward feeling that he earned it for all the years he had to put up with the real Cornelius.