Maya Lin nominated for Corporation seat

The Alumni Nominating Committee has selected Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 — the esteemed architect of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, D.C.; the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala.; and the Women’s Table at Yale — as the second and final candidate on the ballot for the Yale Corporation.

Lin will face the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93, who gained a spot on the ballot through alumni petitions, in an election that has developed far differently than any previous Corporation election.

“I love Yale and believe I can contribute to the University’s future,” Lin said in a statement.

Lin’s nomination comes after Lee, the pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church on Dixwell Avenue, has already embarked on an extensive campaign that includes alumni mailings and a speaking circuit.

Lee was taken aback yesterday when he first learned of his opponent before he gave a Master’s Tea in Jonathan Edwards College.

“No, you’re kidding me,” said Lee, laughing. “Is that the one who designed the Women’s Table? That’s mind-blowing.”

But Lee, who said Lin’s nomination was humbling, said his opposition did not come as a surprise, given the caliber of Yale alumni.

The previous two Corporation ballots have contained three alumni nominations, but Lee will face only Lin.

Association of Yale Alumni Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel said the number of candidates fluctuates with each election.

“I don’t think the committee has shown a particular pattern except that final slates of four or five are less common than final slates of two or three,” Brenzel said in an e-mail.

Lee said he was surprised the ballot would have only two names.

Since he began his active campaign last fall, Lee’s union ties have sparked criticism of his candidacy — he received $30,000 in funding from the Federation of Hospital and University Employees for his first mailing, and in January, AYA issued a statement to 850 alumni stating that Lee’s candidacy was not endorsed by either AYA or Yale.

Lee said in an interview last week that he no longer receives union funds.

Lee’s newfound popularity led many to speculate on his eventual opponent in the election. Yale President Richard Levin said Lin satisfies every criteria of the Alumni Nominating Committee.

“The committee every year looks for candidates of exceptional distinction who have made notable contributions through their life’s work, community service, or service to Yale or some combination of those things,” Levin said. “I have great respect for her as an artist and architect, and I know her to be an enthusiastic and devoted alumnus.”

Lin said she was excited about the opportunity to be a candidate.

“I would consider it an honor and privilege to serve the University as a member of the Yale Corporation,” Lin said. “It would be thrilling to come home to Yale and help with the unfolding design of our alma mater.”

Design is nothing new to Lin. When Robert A.M. Stern, the dean of the Yale School of Architecture, introduced her DeVane Lecture in December, he said no graduate of the School of Architecture had made such a profound contribution to the architecture of this era. If elected to the Corporation, Lin would be the first Asian-American woman and the first graduate of the School of Architecture to serve.

Lin, a native of Athens, Ohio, and the daughter of Chinese immigrants, rose to national fame during her senior year at Yale when she won the competition for the design of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

Levin, who was just an associate professor when Lin’s design was chosen, called Lin one of the most distinguished Yale graduates of the past quarter century. He said he remembers everyone being amazed, including Lin herself, when she won.

Art history professor Vincent Scully said he had vivid memories of the surrounding events.

“What was especially impressive was the way she defended it. She was only 20 years old and stood up to those critics in Washington who were really vicious,” Scully said. “She stood up to them hearing after hearing. That’s why I think she would do well on the Corporation. That bodes well for her courage and being able to defend a position.”

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