Yale’s youngsters grow up under Gothic arches

Marty Keil, 17, the son of Morse College Master Frank Keil, said he is still not used to sharing his house with the hundreds of Morsels who attend various Master’s Teas and receptions throughout the year.

“It’s really weird,” he said in an interview.

Morse College Dean Joel Silverman eats dinner with his son Noah in the Morse dining hall while surrounded by hundreds of dining undergraduates.
Pete Martin
Morse College Dean Joel Silverman eats dinner with his son Noah in the Morse dining hall while surrounded by hundreds of dining undergraduates.

Sometimes seen dashing through dining halls or playing tag in college courtyards, children of residential college masters and deans have a unique outlook on life at Yale. For many of these young inhabitants of residential college communities, the living arrangement can be a positive experience because of the various educational and cultural opportunities that it offers.

But some of the children and their parents said growing up in a small, collegiate community also has its pitfalls, including an unavoidable sacrifice of at least some privacy and quiet.

Jonathan Holloway, master of Calhoun College and father of Emerson, 7, and Ellison, 4, said one of his first considerations while deciding whether to accept the position of master was the effect the job could have on his children.

“I was really worried about whether or not my children would be safe in New Haven, but more specifically, I was concerned about all of the people coming and going from the gates,” he said.

Holloway, who moved his family into Calhoun in July 2005, said although he was initially worried that Ellison might “bolt for the gate” and run into the street when unsupervised, his fears were quickly put to rest. Soon after moving into the college, he said, he realized Calhoun students really “got it” — they understood the danger of small children playing near a busy street.

“There is at any given moment a handful of people who can recognize when a young child is going somewhere they shouldn’t be,” Holloway said. “I am confident that any student would stop my child or get my wife or my attention.”

Holloway recalled a moment a few weeks ago that he said perfectly captures the “wonderful experience of raising a family in this type of environment.” Holloway’s wife, Associate Master Aisling Colon, called him “in tears of laughter” after watching Ellison play a 30-minute game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” with the girls of Calhoun — or, as Ellison calls them, “the ladies.”

But living in the residential college is not all fun and games. Masters and their children agreed that one benefit of growing up at Yale is being a part of an intellectually stimulating and diverse community. Mila Rostain, 12, the daughter of Davenport College Master Richard Schottenfeld, said one of her favorite parts of being a member of the Yale community is sitting in on lectures with college students.

“Last week I went to an archaeology class,” she said. “It was pretty cool.”

Full access to college facilities is another perk of being a master’s child. Rostain said she is excited to be having her Bat Mitzvah party in the stately Davenport common room, where her brother, Joseph Schottenfeld, 17, had his Bar Mitzvah four years ago.

The college dining halls, with their Disneyland-like environment, are also popular with younger children. While the older children are accustomed to the unlimited cereal options and buffet-style service the dining halls offer, some masters said they have difficulty controlling the impulses of their younger sons and daughters in an environment with multiple sources of distraction.

Holloway said he has to remind his children to eat because they are very social and enjoy chatting with ’Hounies who are also sitting down to dinner. When his children do eat, they are often overwhelmed by the variety of choices the dining hall has to offer, he said. His son Emerson is “very proud” of a special salad he makes every night, he said.

“He goes to the salad bar and fills his plate with Pepperidge Farm goldfish, pretzels and crackers,” Holloway said. “This is his salad.”

But Rostain said she has also seen the disadvantages of living in a residential college. Rostain, whose room faces the college courtyard, said younger children are often getting ready for bed just as most college students are preparing for a weekend night out.

“When there are parties, it’s tough,” Rostain said. “I like some noise, but it can be tiresome when people are shouting and loud.”

Some Yalies expressed the opposite frustration — that they are sometimes asked to shut down their parties in order to accommodate children living in the college.

Teenaged children living in residential colleges said they appreciate having a first-hand experience of the college social scene. Marty Keil, a senior in high school, said he is currently applying to colleges — including Yale — which is “weird,” because he is already living on a college campus.

But he said he thinks he will have an edge on other students next year in adjusting to collegiate life after years of observing Yalies. Keil and Joseph Schottenfeld are both students at the nearby Hopkins School.

Keil said if he attends Yale next year, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Derek Keil ’03, who lived in Jonathan Edwards College.

“I would like some variety, and JE will have just been renovated,” said Keil, who has lived in Morse for six years.

Keil said he does not mind Morse’s architecture — which is the object of ridicule among many students — because he thinks the master’s house is one the most spacious on campus. But he said he remembers being surprised by the courtyard’s most prominent statue — a giant lipstick on top of a tank — when he first moved to Yale.

Many Elis said they enjoy seeing families live on campus. Lauren Russell ’09, a Davenport master’s aide, said working with the children provides a great escape from her hectic academic schedule. Russell said she enjoys joining the master’s family for dinner and driving Mila Schottenfeld to soccer practice.

“I really enjoy dealing with people who aren’t college students,” she said. “It’s like having a family away from home.”

Holloway said despite some of the pitfalls of raising a family in a residential college — including the lack of a barrier between work and home life — he thinks growing up in a residential college is advantageous for his children. He said he enjoys watching them ride their bikes or play games such as freeze tag with students in the Calhoun courtyard.

“They feel comfortable approaching students they know and talking to them,” Holloway said. “It’s like my children have hundreds of older brothers and sisters around.”

While getting used to family life in a residential college takes adjusting for many new masters and deans and their children, at least one member of the Yale community will not know what it feels like to live anywhere else.

Julie Harwood, the wife of Davenport Dean Craig Harwood, is in her third trimester of pregnancy with the family’s first child, who is due to join the Davenport community at the end of October. She said she is looking forward to raising a child in Davenport, even though she does not know what to expect.

“I can’t wait to find out,” she said.

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