Next JE master hospitalized

The master-designate of Jonathan Edwards College, Richard Lalli MUS ’86, sustained a brain hemorrhage on Sunday, and his condition is unknown.

Lalli, who is scheduled to assume office Jan. 1, is recovering at Yale-New Haven Hospital, JE Dean Kyle Farley told students in an e-mail message on Monday. A hospital spokesman said Tuesday evening that Lalli remains at Yale-New Haven under evaluation.

Music professor Richard Lalli, donning his new JE scarf upon being named master last winter, has been hospitalized after sustaining a brain hemorrhage.
Nick Bayless
Music professor Richard Lalli, donning his new JE scarf upon being named master last winter, has been hospitalized after sustaining a brain hemorrhage.

“I hope you will keep Richard in your thoughts and prayers,” Farley wrote.

Lalli, an adjunct professor of music and a JE fellow, broke barriers last winter when he became the first openly gay person to be named the master of one of Yale’s residential colleges. Lalli’s partner, Michael Rigsby MED ’88, is the medical director for Yale University Health Services and will assume the title of associate master in January.

“We are focused for now on Richard’s recovery,” Rigsby said in an e-mail to the News on Monday afternoon. “I and his doctors are extremely optimistic. Nothing means more to Richard than his work as a teacher and soon-to-be master of JE, and we expect that he will tackle both with his usual energy and enthusiasm as soon as possible.”

In his e-mail message to JE, Farley said Lalli would begin to serve as master as soon as he is able, but he did not elaborate as to when that would be.

At a previously scheduled farewell brunch for outgoing Master Gary Haller on Monday, there was no mention of any contingency plans if Lalli cannot take over the mastership in January. University President Richard Levin declined to comment when asked if there was a plan in the event that Lalli cannot yet serve next semester.

Levin praised Lalli as a wonderful teacher, noting his patient and supportive nature.

“Everyone’s just hoping and praying for his recovery,” Levin said by phone on Tuesday. “He has an extraordinary commitment to undergraduates and undergraduate life.”

When students woke up to an e-mail on Monday about Lalli’s condition, many were shocked by the news. Those who knew Lalli personally took time to reflect upon his role on campus.

Stefan Weijola ’11, a student in Lalli’s “The Performance of Vocal Music” class this fall, said Lalli inspired him to pursue singing professionally.

A member of the JE College Council, Caitlin York ’10, said Lalli has already had a tremendous presence in the college and has been eager to meet students. York said she has already received numerous e-mails from students wondering how best to send Lalli get-well messages.

“He is a really involved fellow in JE life,” she said. “Everybody remembers when he played piano after dinner and sang Christmas carols last Friday.”

While Lalli recovers at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Rigsby wrote in the e-mail message that he appreciates the Yale community’s outpouring of thoughts and prayers.

“The love and support of so many wonderful students and colleagues has been tremendously gratifying,” he wrote.

Gabriel Barcia contributed reporting.

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