Mory’s solicits Whiffenpoofs for needed funds

Whether the Whiffenpoofs can once again journey “to the tables down at Mory’s,” as their eponymous song implores them to do, may depend on how willing they are to fund the effort to revive the historic eating club where their group first joined in song.

Representatives from Mory’s gave a presentation for Whiffenpoof alumni at the group’s centennial reunion this past weekend. While fundraising for Mory’s has been going well, Mory’s Board of Governors President Christopher Getman ’64 said, the organization will need between $500,000 and $800,000 more in order to begin construction on the building which sent waves through the Yale community when it closed last December.

“We’ve got some big hooks out there, and we’re going to try and catch some big fish,” Getman said of Mory’s fundraising efforts and plans to start up construction. “We don’t know how soon that’s going to happen.”

Getman said last week that the Mory’s Association is hopeful that construction could begin in the upcoming weeks.

At the presentation, held at Battell Chapel on Saturday, Board of Governors member Jonathan Ingham ’65, one of the presenters, said Mory’s gave the Whiffenpoofs in attendance a summary of their goals for the club. Ingham said the presentation included discussion about changing the governing structure of Mory’s, expanding membership to include more graduate students and holding more activities at Mory’s. Out of the over 600 Whiffenpoofs who attended the reunion, about 200 attended the Mory’s presentation, Ingham, himself a former Whiffenpoof, said.

Barry McMurtrey ’88, one of the coordinators of the reunion, said he was impressed with the presentation, which he said provided information Whiffenpoofs could take back to their non-Whiff friends in order to encourage them to donate.

McMurtrey also emphasized the importance of Mory’s to the Whiffenpoof tradition. Before Mory’s closing, the Whiffenpoofs traditionally sang on Monday nights at the club, where the singing group was said to have been born. To mark the reunion last weekend, organizers hung red and black Whiffenpoof banners outside Mory’s, while the inside remained empty.

“Not having [Mory’s] takes away the first and foremost and most key tradition of being a Whiffenpoof,” McMurtrey said, later adding that the Whiffenpoofs had hoped for exclusive rights to Mory’s for the three days of their reunion “because it is our temple.”

Ingham, who had not been a Mory’s member until November of last year, joined the Mory’s Board hoping to preserve the club for the Whiffenpoofs. Now, he is organizing a campaign to solicit donations. A general mailing will be sent to Whiffenpoof alumni about Mory’s this week, Ingham said. He also will contact the Whiffenpoof business managers from each graduating class to try to get them to organize group donations, he said.

Some Whiffenpoof classes have already done so; for instance, Ingham’s Whiffenpoof class has pledged $75,000. Over the weekend he met with members of the Whiffenpooof class of 1954, which has pledged $175,000, to answer some of their questions about Mory’s.

“This is going to be wonderfully successful,” Ingham said.

John Burke ’72, an active trustee in the Whiffenpoof Alumni Association, said the presentation made him feel more comfortable about giving money to Mory’s. But he said he still needs more information about what the renovated Mory’s will be like before he decides whether to donate.

“Certainly there will be more [information], but as the communication gets better, then the vision of what Mory’s is going to become will become clearer,” he said.

Burke said he was impressed by Ben Bloom, whose company, La Cuisine, will oversee the management of Mory’s. Bloom also spoke at Saturday’s presentation.

Currently, Getman said, Mory’s has raised about $800,000, but there is about $200,000 that Getman expects to come. In total, Getman said, the restaurant needs to raise about $1.5 million to $1.8 million to begin work on the building.

While no construction has started, Getman said the building was prepared for the winter months by covering some areas that were left exposed to the elements. In March, the organization hired architecture firm Gregg Wies & Gardner, which has drawn up plans for the club’s proposed renovations.

Mory’s has also set up a way to donate on its Web site via credit card or PayPal, which was announced Oct. 1.

Mory’s closed in December 2008, citing declining endowment and revenues.

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