Yale Corporation candidate the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 can now add the City Council of Philadelphia to his growing list of supporters.
The council passed a resolution Thursday endorsing Lee’s candidacy for Yale’s highest governing body, joining several prominent political backers of the local minister, who is vying with famed architect Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 for an alumni fellow seat.
The endorsement coincided with Lee’s campaign visit to Philadelphia where he visited city hall and Central Baptist Church in nearby Wayne, Pa. Alumni for a Better Yale, an activist alumni group that promotes social responsibility, sponsored the visits.
Steven Masters ’81, a staff attorney for the Philadelphia City Council and a member of the alumni group, said he brought Lee’s candidacy to the attention of the council. He said council President Anna Verna is on the board of governors of Bennett College in North Carolina and was interested in Lee’s candidacy.
“She’s the one who was quite interested in the campaign that Rev. Lee has been engaged in and also the campaign against him by members of the Corporation and the administration,” Masters said.
Lee did not return repeated phone calls.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. have also endorsed Lee’s candidacy.
Henry “Sam” Chauncey ’57, an organizer of the pro-Lin group Alumni for Responsible Trusteeship, said the Philadelphia endorsement is a mystery to him.
“I guess I think it is absurd,” Chauncey said. “It gets back to the same question — government has no place in higher education.”
Chauncey said the campaign is becoming “stranger and stranger” as the May 26 deadline for voting approaches.
“It may indicate that Lee’s supporters are beginning to panic,” Chauncey said. “If you try to get the City Council of Philadelphia to endorse him, you and I both know that is not going to get him any voters.”
The resolution was two pages long and applauded “the historic effort of Reverend Doctor W. David Lee.”
“Whereas, as a child growing up in a housing project — W. David Lee had a dream of attending Yale,” the resolution reads. The document continues to tell the story of the death of Lee’s cousin while Lee was a student at the Divinity School, a tale frequently employed by Lee to explain his desire to help improve town-gown relations.
“Resolved, by the council of the city of Philadelphia, that this council extends our recognition and applause to this courageous civil rights leader in his historic quest for a seat at the table of one of the nation’s most prominent institutions of higher education,” the resolution concludes.
Masters said the resolution was relevant to Philadelphia because “the historic nature of his campaign is something that is of interest across the country.” He said Philadelphia also has a large Ivy League institution located in a city suffering from urban problems.
Three New Haven aldermen also proposed that the city’s Board of Aldermen endorse Lee.
Ward One Alderman Ben Healey ’04 and aldermen Edward Mattison LAW ’68 and Nathan Joyner called on the board to endorse Lee in a March 13 letter to board President Jorge Perez.
Healey said the endorsement will likely be addressed again this week.
Antonio Alcala ’83, one of the 115,000 eligible voters, said the election seems to be controversial on both sides. He said Lee’s endorsements would not influence his vote.
“They have no effect on my opinion,” Alcala said. “I’ll vote for Maya Lin.”