Former Provost Alison Richard may be going to Cambridge, but members of the Yale Corporation have ensured that she will remain in New Haven, at least in name.
Corporation members will endow a professorship in honor of Richard, who stepped down Jan. 1 to become vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Richard served as provost for nearly nine years and was the Franklin Muzzy Crosby Professor of the Human Environment. Within a few months, a professor’s title will bear Richard’s name, Yale President Richard Levin said. Corporation members have not yet decided which department will receive the professorship.
Past and present members of the Corporation contributed $2.5 million to endow the professorship, Levin said.
Levin said professors usually endow their own chairs, but the Corporation decided that naming a professorship after Richard seemed like a fitting tribute for the former professor and provost.
“Alison Richard was an extraordinary citizen of this University for 30 years and a distinguished provost for almost nine,” Levin said. “It seemed appropriate to acknowledge her contribution with a special recognition.”
Corporation Member Janet Yellen GRD ’71 said endowing a professorship is a meaningful and appropriate way to thank Richard.
“The Corporation and the University are really indebted to Alison Richard for the contributions she has made,” Yellen said. “She’s been a distinguished provost and the trustees wanted to find a way to recognize her extensive service and contributions to the University.”
Richard, who will assume the helm at Cambridge Oct. 1, is in Madagascar where she conducts research on lemurs. She was not available for comment.
History professor emeritus Gaddis Smith, a scholar of Yale history, said it is unusual to endow a professorship after a provost, though there are some chairs named after former presidents.
“Most of the time, the position of provost is the most thankless one in the university,” Smith said.
Smith said the provost is often thought of as one who often says “no” to programs and renovations because of budget constraints. But Richard, who has been noted for balancing Yale’s budget while supporting many programs, managed to gain widespread popularity, Smith said.
“It’s a well-deserved tribute,” he said.
Richard’s name is not the only thing that will remain at the University. Levin said a portrait of Richard will be commissioned to hang in the new provost’s office at 1 Hillhouse Ave.
Levin announced the endowed chair and portrait at a gala reception for Richard last month. Smith said faculty members received the news enthusiastically and would have given it a standing ovation had they not already been standing.