In Woodbridge Hall, six Yale presidents have come and gone in the past 40 years but one thing has remained constant: the red leather books in which Regina Starolis has painstakingly written every presidential appointment since 1973.
When University President Richard Levin steps down from the presidency at the end of June, so will Starolis, his executive assistant, and so will her characteristic scheduling books. In the age of iPhones and GCals, Starolis’ hand-written calendars have been a point of light-hearted contention in the president’s office. Ever since Levin started using his first Blackberry, Starolis said he has pleaded with her to switch to digital. But Starolis prefers the control of a pencil and eraser.
“Anything you say about the red books versus the computer, [Levin] just won’t buy, period,” Starolis said.
Around 30 volumes sit next to a window in her Woodbridge Hall Office, each with a gold embossed year on the front, and a name, like Richard Levin or Benno Schmidt, written on the first page. Starolis said she will give the books to the University archives before she leaves.
Scheduling years and years of presidential appointments has brought Starolis into contact with “everyone,” Levin said: She has met presidents like George W. Bush, rock stars like Paul McCartney and big-name donors like William Beinecke ’36. Through her window, which overlooks Beinecke Plaza, and which she called the “greatest window in the entire world,” Starolis has watched many important events in University history, including a variety of protests and annual Commencement processions. She has also watched 40 classes of undergraduates pass her window daily, and she said she can recognize some students based on their more distinctive attributes, such as purple or orange hair.
Though she gives Levin the chance to choose his appointments himself, she always knows which people or events he may or may not want to make time for, a mental connection the two have forged over his 20 years as president.
“My life without her?” Levin said. “That will be a challenge.”
Assistant to the President and Advisor on Student Affairs Nina Glickson said Starolis has had an immense impact on both the productivity and the atmosphere of the President’s Office. She added that she and the rest of the Woodbridge Hall staff will miss Starolis’ guidance and ability to make anybody who walks into the stately office feel comfortable.
President-elect Peter Salovey, who has known Starolis since he was a graduate student in the 1980s, said he would have been Starolis’ seventh president, but he added that she deserves the chance to govern her own time.
“Regina and I frequently reminisce about times I would come to visit a Yale president, in particular President [Bartlett] Giamatti, in the year 1983-’84 when I was president of the [Graduate and Professional Student Senate],” Salovey said. “Those meetings usually involved kibitzing with Ms. Starolis before a meeting with the president.”
When she departs her office in June, Starolis will take with her the framed pictures and Yale memorabilia she has collected and placed on her shelves, including dozens of photographs of past presidents and administrators, like one of Levin and his wife, Jane Levin, posing with Hilary Clinton LAW ’73 and Bill Clinton LAW ’73 at a Law School Reunion. She also has a picture of a younger Salovey, posing for his Psychology Department photo as an assistant professor, and a bobble-head resembling professor and former Law School Dean Harold Koh.
Starolis has already started gathering her belongings, evidenced by a box at the foot of her bookshelf, in which she placed a vintage stuffed bulldog and a piece of stone from the construction of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Rifling through the box, she called herself an “armchair archeologist and crazy historian.”
Though she will no longer work as an assistant, Starolis said she hopes to stay at the University after taking the summer off, preferably working at the Yale University Art Gallery.