A quiet Monday morning ushers in a new era for Yale

On a quiet Monday morning, staff members at Woodbridge Hall greeted the first new University president in two decades.

Former Provost Peter Salovey officially took the reins of the University today as Yale’s 23rd president, succeeding his longtime mentor Richard Levin. The outgoing president, who first assumed the job in 1993, is widely recognized as having been one of Yale’s most successful leaders, with his tenure drawing praise from members of the University and outside observers alike.

While the change in Yale’s senior leadership has built excitement and anticipation throughout the campus community since Levin’s announcement of his retirement trickled into email inboxes on the morning of Aug. 30, 2012, the transition itself proved fairly unremarkable following months of preparation.

Other than a small staff reception held in Woodbridge Hall, the president’s office remained somewhat subdued.

“It will be a big moment for Peter,” Levin told the News last week. “But it’s not like there’s going to be 21-gun salutes. It’s July — there’s not much going on on campus.”

Many of Salovey’s colleagues in the senior administration were absent from his first official entrance into the President’s Office. Levin is currently hiking with his wife Jane Levin in Chamonix, France, while Provost Benjamin Polak has been in Europe since Saturday.

University Vice President Linda Lorimer, who just returned to campus last week from Italy and London, told the News that she would “pop over” to Woodbridge Hall to give Salovey a congratulatory hug.

To kick off the first official day of Salovey’s presidency, University Secretary and Vice President for Student Affairs Kimberly Goff-Crews hosted a small gathering in Woodbridge Hall to welcome and celebrate the transition. Salovey told the News that the gathering — which is customarily held every time a new staff member arrives in the building — was an opportunity for him to greet staff members officially and settle into his new office.

Goff-Crews said in an email to the News that roughly 20 people were at the gathering, including Salovey’s wife Marta Moret and several newer staff members. The attendees ushered Salovey in with “applause, laughter and cheer.”

Joy McGrath, who worked as Salovey’s special assistant during his time as provost and will continue to support him as president, added that the relocation of his office took place in stages. Woodbridge Hall is currently receiving a fresh coat of paint, so Salovey has not yet moved all of his office belongings into the building, though he did bring his computer and work files with him on Monday morning. Salovey said he expects to be settled into Levin’s old room by the end of the week.

Salovey also said he expects McGrath to move into the office of the president’s executive assistant, which sits beside the president’s office. Regina Starolis, who served as an assistant to six University presidents over the last 40 years and chose to leave her position after Levin’s retirement, said it took her weeks to clean out the office — the contents of which are now piled in boxes in her living room.

Starolis added that while the transition and packing processes have made her nostalgic, she and the rest of the Woodbridge Hall staff could not be happier for both Levin and Salovey today.

“I’ve always said I have the best job at Yale and I still maintain that,” Starolis said. “I’ve had the honor, privilege and pleasure of working for [Levin] for 20 years. Of course I’ll miss that, but for me it’s also a brand new day.”

Levin marked Starolis’ retirement with a party for her at the President’s House on June 17, where he announced a scholarship in her honor. He added that the end of his tenure has been marked with a number of parties and receptions, and that moving out of Woodbridge Hall has been “a somewhat out-of-body experience.”

Salovey said he views the transition with optimism, hoping to “carry on the positive momentum of the Levin years.” He added he will spend the better part of July meeting with Yales deans, as well as spending a few days fundraising at events for the Development Office.

Salovey will also continue meeting one-on-one with members of the Yale Corporation. Though no major policy changes have been made with the start of his new term, Salovey said he has adjusted the structure of some meetings to allow for more interaction among administrators.

Already, Salovey is also getting a head start on preparation for speaking engagements in the fall — he told the News that he wants to work on his first freshman address over the next four weeks and on his inaugural remarks over the next eight.

“I think this is a time of renewal,” Lorimer said. “There is an exciting sense of anticipation and a comforting layer of confidence.”

Salovey made his transition into the presidency official with a Monday email to the Yale community, in which he discussed plans for his term and announced the launch of a new presidential website. A campus-wide presidential inauguration will take place in October

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