Ten men have had the distinction of being full-time President of Yale since 1878. Over the past 130 years, each has faced the challenges of governing the University in a changing world.
Reverend Noah Porter, 1871-1886
While many important changes occurred under Porter’s watch, such as the development of football and the completion of the Peabody Museum, some would say that the most important event at Yale during his tenure was the founding of the Yale Daily News in 1878.
Reverend Timothy Dwight, 1886-1899
Called the “Father of the University,” Dwight and his grandfather with the same name — who served as president from 1795 to 1817 — are both the namesakes of Timothy Dwight College. Yale became a university under his tenure in 1887.
Arthur Twining Hadley, 1899-1921
During Hadley’s presidency, the University formally defined the administrative roles of the president, corporation and faculty. The faculty in particular retained significantly more responsibility than their counterparts at certain other schools in Cambridge and New Jersey.
James Rowland Angell, 1921-1937
Yalies who haven’t moved off campus can thank Angell for providing their current housing. During his tenure, the residential colleges were opened. The nursing and drama schools were also established.
Charles Seymour, 1937-1950
As students enlisted in the military to fight in World War II, Seymour brought steady leadership to see the University through that tumultuous era. After students returned from the war, Yale had a record graduating class: 1,653 in 1950.
Alfred Whitney Griswold, 1950-1963
Griswold — a proponent of a liberal-arts education — brought his vision of a modern campus to Yale by hiring top architects to help expand the school. Popular among students, the somtimes-reactionary president died of cancer while in office.
Kingman Brewster Jr., 1963-1977
Under Brewster’s leadership, admissions to Yale College changed drastically. Women were admitted in 1969, and students of various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds were recruited. Brewster stirred controversy for his criticism of the Vietnam War and for his statement that he was unsure a black revolutionary could get a fair trial in the United States during the New Haven murder trial of Black Panthers co-founder Bobby Seale.
A. Bartlett Giamatti 1978-1986
A lover of all things Yale and all things baseball, Giamatti was himself beloved by the undergraduates at Yale. The former master of Ezra Stiles College, Giamatti said of the University, “Yale must never lose this sense of itself, nor should it ever allow our society to lose its view of Yale as one of the repositories of national memory and a national sense of hope.” Giamatti left the presidency in 1986, and in 1989 he became the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Benno C. Schmidt Jr., 1986-1992
Among many things, Yale students can thank Schmidt for the Ethics, Politics & Economics major, as well as the more than $1 billion he raised for the University. After meeting significant opposition to his proposal to cut the size of the faculty by 11 percent, he abruptly resigned the presidency at a meeting with the Yale Corporation on the morning of Commencement in 1992.
Richard C. Levin, 1993-
Yale reached a level of unprecedented prosperity under Levin. His priorities of investing heavily in the sciences, shoring up the University’s financial resources and improving town-gown relations have strengthened Yale’s position. Although Levin is sometimes criticized for shying away from controversy, his additional focuses on globalization and environmental consciousness have improved Yale’s international stature.
—Yale University Library contributed sourcing.