Few people become famous by working in the administrative ranks of Yale University. Men and women like Radley Daly ’49, who died on Jan. 5 and made countless contributions to this school, will not be the subjects of biographies or long obituaries in The New York Times.
But that is not to say we should forget them or the lessons of their lives. Daly, known as Rad, held more than 11 positions — and occasionally more than one at a time — during his 38 years of employment at Yale. He was the deputy secretary of the University and was the first person to be named University marshal. But even though former Yale Secretary Sheila Wellington said Daly’s “commitment to the University has been surpassed by no one,” his name remains unfamiliar to most on campus. Daly helped get buildings like the Cross Campus Library built, but there will surely be no building named for him.
Maybe there should be. Like only a handful of people remaining at Yale, Daly saw the University though four decades of great challenges and great change. Aside from presenting a plan to build an “underground SML” to the student body in the spring of 1969, Daly managed to head departments ranging from the Office of Public Affairs to the Peabody Museum when they had leadership openings. As the News reports in an obituary today, Daly was always — even during retirement — willing to step in and help Yale when needed.
As we begin a new year at Yale, we should all find a way to be more like Rad Daly in our involvement here. This is not to say that we should all devote our entire careers to the University, but we can make it a better place in the years that we are here.
Involvement, after all, can and should take many forms. Daly shaped Yale not though any singular contribution but through a commitment to the University as a whole; he willingly shifted between various jobs and took on each assignment with enthusiasm. His particular position at any given time mattered little. What mattered was that he devoted his life to an institution about which he cared deeply.
We already know that this year and this decade will bring many changes, and perhaps a few hardships, for Yale. In a few weeks, the Yale Corporation will announce the latest in a string of budget cuts to close the school’s $300-million budget shortfall. As the economy recovers, we will see the center of our community shift as the West Campus takes a more prominent place at Yale and two new residential colleges are built. We will watch as our city tries to reform its schools, make its streets safer and improve its economy. Yale will continue to reach out to the world as well, building programs in India and beyond.
These are big changes, and it may seem that students have no role to play in such a large and complicated University. But we can speak out, and we can take on small projects and we can do our part for Yale and New Haven by volunteering and even just making suggestions.
After all, we could use more people like Rad Daly on this campus. Here’s hoping we all find a way — our way — to make Yale a better place in 2010 and beyond.