Before a Pierson dining hall brimming with students and alumni, President-elect Peter Salovey introduced Stephen Davis GRD ’98 as the next master of Pierson College.
Davis, the director of undergraduate studies in the Religious Studies Department and a fellow in Pierson, will replace outgoing Master Harvey Goldblatt on July 1. Goldblatt, affectionately referred to as “Master G” by Pierson students, has held his post for 19 years, the longest of any current master. In his first brief remarks to the college, Davis highlighted Goldblatt’s legacy and said he looked forward to getting to know “each and every one” of the students in Pierson.
“I have a steep learning curve ahead of me,” Davis said to those assembled. “I look forward to learning from you.”
Davis graduated from Princeton in 1988 before moving on to Duke Divinity School and eventually Yale, where he received three graduate degrees between 1992 and 1998. The author of seven books, Davis speaks six ancient and four modern languages and is also the executive director of the Yale Monastic Archaeology Project.
Goldblatt said he expects Davis to continue conveying the “humanistic values” that he has upheld as master.
Reactions to Davis’ appointment were largely positive, though students interviewed said they were not yet familiar enough with the new master to make a full judgment. Many also emphasized the large role Goldblatt plays in the college, adding that his presence will be difficult to replace.
“Master Davis shows enthusiasm,” Ric Best ’14 said. “That’s the first step in following the big shoes of Master G.”
Still, some students were disappointed. Janie Greenberg ’14 said she hoped the new master would be a professor in a STEM-related field.
Several juniors also expressed their displeasure that they would not have enough time before graduating to get to know Davis well.
“As seniors it will be hard because we won’t be able to have very strong relationships with our master,” Clarissa Marzán ’14 said.
Davis said he has not yet determined the steps he will take to integrate himself into Pierson College life. As he prepares to take over the mastership on July 1, he plans to reach out across Pierson and the University in an effort to learn more about students, the college and his new job. He added that he will consult with as many college and administrative officials as possible.
Thursday’s announcement came nearly three years after rumors circulated that the University administration had forced Goldblatt to accept a shorter-than usual three-year extension to his term as master. Goldblatt and the administration had reportedly locked horns on residential college funding, with Goldblatt fighting to preserve special programs and funds for Pierson students.
Nevertheless, University President Richard Levin announced at the ceremony that the mastership of Pierson will be renamed in Goldblatt’s honor. Levin said donations from Pierson alumni made the renaming possible.
Goldblatt’s mastership has focused on connecting current Pierson students to alumni.
Although he said leaving his position would be difficult, Goldblatt added that the formal announcement of his successor was not as tough as expected.
“When you spend 19 years devoted to something, it’s a way of life,” Goldblatt said. “The only way to do this is to have it as a way of life.”
Aside from Goldblatt, who received a standing ovation, the loudest applause of the evening came when Salovey announced that Davis has two dogs, a beagle and a mutt.