Salovey prepares for presidency, on campus and off

President-elect Salovey will have traveled to Paris, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and many American cities by the end of May.
President-elect Salovey will have traveled to Paris, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and many American cities by the end of May.

Peter Salovey has just four months until he settles into his new office in Woodbridge Hall. Until then, Yale’s president-elect is on the move.

Since Benjamin Polak took over as provost on Jan. 15, Salovey has devoted his full attention to preparations for the presidency. By the end of this semester, Salovey will have completed a partial world-tour to meet donors and introduce himself to the global Yale community. Though Salovey has been spotted in the lobby of the Yale Club of New York, trips down the Connecticut shoreline are just the beginning, as Salovey estimated he spends about one-third of his time traveling for the transitional job. For the time he is in New Haven, Salovey runs from meeting to meeting and attends various campus events.

Last month, Salovey flew overseas to visit Yale alumni clubs in London and Paris. He heads to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco in March. In April, Salovey will city-hop through Asia before coming back to Washington, D.C., for a conference hosted by YaleWomen, and he will wrap up the president-elect travels with visits to Chicago and Boston in May.

Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said Salovey is working closely with the Development Office to meet with a wide range of alumni, parents and donors, including supporters with whom Levin in particular had developed close ties.

“We want to make sure Peter picks up the baton and is able to continue those relationships,” she added.

Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61 said previous president-elects have not spent as much time traveling before assuming leadership of the University, a change he said could be due in part to the evolution of fundraising, which previously relied mostly on a small number of massive gifts. Salovey said the need to travel more is inherent to a globally expanding Yale.

Salovey added that he hopes to do his part during his months as president-elect to help the University bounce back from the recession. Four years after a nearly 25 percent decline in the value of Yale’s endowment, current budget projections indicate that the University will still have to address a roughly $40 million gap between expenses and revenues for the upcoming academic year.

“We haven’t yet fully recovered,” he said. “I think that can happen more quickly if President Levin isn’t the only person on the road fundraising.”

Salovey was very involved in fundraising as Yale College dean and provost, but “not nearly to the extent the president is,” Levin said, adding that the two have discussed the topic during their regular meetings to discuss the transition in University leadership.

Levin said he and Salovey mostly focus on areas that the provost’s job did not address during these transition meetings, such as the international relations aspect of the position, which involves meeting with officials and developing overseas connections. Salovey and Levin also said Levin is advising Salovey in how to maintain government relations, introducing Salovey to people involved in Connecticut and national-level higher education policy.

When Salovey is on campus, students may catch glimpses of him cheering at a hockey game, rushing off to deliver a speech at the medical school or gesturing animatedly during a phone conversation from the second-floor window of Woodbridge. Salovey also spends his time on campus meeting with as many Yale faculty members, administrators and officials as possible. He said he has already met one-on-one with the 16 fellows of the Yale Corporation, all deans and all vice presidents of the University. He is still working his way through directors of major academic and nonacademic units on campus, many individual faculty members and student groups, Salovey said.

“This is sort of the listening tour,” Salovey said.

He explained that most of the meetings do not address operational details but tend to focus on larger goals and aspirations for the University.

Levin said Salovey continues to have a large say in major University decisions. Associate Vice President Martha Highsmith said Salovey played a central role in emergency management during Hurricane Sandy and continued to contribute to the “collective wisdom” of decision-making during the blizzard.

Beyond attending meeting after meeting, Salovey continues to go to public events at Yale. He listed shows, concerts, talks, dinners, parties and athletic contests he attended or had penciled into his schedule for the upcoming week, adding that he is “out and about quite a bit.”

Salovey served as provost from 2008 until this January.

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