Yale President Richard Levin announced Thursday that alumni elected Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 to the Yale Corporation over the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 by a wide margin, ending the most controversial and contentious Corporation election in University history.
Lin received 41,575 votes, over 83 percent of the total turnout, while Lee received 16.7 percent of the vote. Forty-four percent of the eligible alumni cast ballots, a participation rate far higher than that of any recent Corporation election.
“It is a great honor to have been elected to the Yale Corporation. Yale has given me so much and I am glad to have the opportunity to be able to give back to my alma mater,” Lin said in a statement. She added that she has not spoken to the press throughout the process because she did not want to appear to be “campaigning” for the seat.
Lee, who in the previous nine months conducted by far the largest campaign in Corporation history, said he was doing well and that he thought Lin would be a valuable trustee.
“I think Maya Lin is a great asset to the board,” Lee said. “I always thought she should be and again it was never about the person but about the partnership.”
He also said that he was not dismissing the possibility of running again this fall.
“I am in dialogue with the same people when we met in the beginning to talk about it to see if that is an option,” Lee said. “We will know in a couple weeks.”
Lee stressed his commitment to Yale-New Haven relations and emphasized the importance of a stronger town-gown “partnership” throughout his campaign, the initial part of which was funded by Yale’s labor unions. His efforts eventually took him to speaking engagements in New York and Philadelphia and earned him the endorsement of politicians like Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano.
Following Lee’s initial mailings and campaign actions, a group of alumni led by former University Secretary Henry Chauncey ’57 and Frances Beinecke ’71 spent over $80,000 on mailings urging Yale alumni to vote against Lee. The Association of Yale Alumni also spent over $60,000 on several controversial mailings its board of governors said were intended to educate alumni about Lee’s candidacy.
At the least, the high profile of this year’s election resulted in remarkable voter participation. Of the 111,833 ballots Yale sent to all alumni who earned degrees at least five years ago, a record 49,899 came back marked with a vote for the Corporation – a turnout more than two and a half times the norm during the past 20 years.
The final vote tally was released by the Mellon Corporation, which the University retained as an independent third party to count ballots, to University Secretary Linda Lorimer and two observers Wednesday.
Levin said he looks forward to working with Lin, who will meet with the Corporation, the University’s highest policy-making body, for the first time this fall.
“She, I think, brings a lot to the group in terms of her background as an artist and commitment to the University,” Levin said.
Levin said he spoke with Lee twice today and that he has invited Lee to become involved in Yale’s community relations effort. Lee said Levin “reached out” and invited him to a regular breakfast Levin has with local clergy.
“I plan to attend,” Lee said, adding that during the press conference Levin came to him and they shook hands and embraced.
“We have to agree to disagree. That’s the definition of partnership,” Lee said.