In the midst of midterms, Yale is preparing for one of its biggest parties in recent memory.
University President Peter Salovey will be officially inaugurated this weekend, marking the completion of Yale’s first leadership transition in two decades. Although he has occupied his office in Woodbridge Hall since July 1, Salovey will not formally hold the presidency until he is instated by Yale Corporation senior fellow Margaret Marshall LAW ’76. The ceremony will come at the end of a week-long series of festivities including events such as open houses, concerts and Inaugural Balls, most of which are open to the entire Yale community and to residents of New Haven.
“President Salovey told the Inauguration Committee that he cared a great deal about making this event as inclusive as possible,” Special Assistant to the President Penelope Laurans said. “The Inauguration committee has tried hard to heed his wishes in its planning.”
The week’s activities began Monday, with Salovey visiting 27 academic departments and other staff offices. For the first half of this week, Salovey will make up to 10 appearances per day.
Daniel Harrison GRD ’86, a music professor and chair of the Inauguration Committee, said these visits, though low-profile, are among the most important events of the week because Salovey is interacting with both faculty and staff, many of whom are also residents of New Haven.
With 10,000 residents of New Haven and the surrounding area working at Yale, the University inevitably has an impact on the city, Deputy Chief Communications Officer Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said. For Salovey, including the Elm City in the festivities was a fundamental concern, he said.
“[Salovey] and his wife are deeply involved with, and committed to, Yale’s hometown,” Morand said, adding that Salovey “was clear from the beginning of planning that he wanted Yale’s neighbors, his home community, involved in the celebration.”
Though there will be a celebration for faculty and staff on Tuesday and some invitation-only symposia with top Yale professors Friday afternoon, the more formal aspects of the inauguration will not commence until Friday evening. Woolsey Hall will play host to an invitation-only “Celebration Concert” hosted by Music School Dean Robert Blocker, who said the concert will “honor the new president and his wife with music that has meaning for them.”
On Saturday, the University will host a campus-wide open house, allowing Yale community members and New Haven residents to explore parts of the University, such as the residential colleges, that are typically restricted. Later that evening, students are invited to attend one of two “Inaugural Balls,” one in the Hall of Graduate Studies Courtyard for graduate students and the other on Old Campus for undergraduates.
According to University Vice President Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86, Salovey personally selected the bands playing at each event. His own band, the Professors of Bluegrass, will also perform.
Still, the formal inauguration of Yale’s 23rd president on Sunday in Woolsey Hall will be by far the most traditional event. After Marshall presents him with the University’s symbols of authority, most notably the President’s Collar, Salovey will deliver an inaugural address.
Most of the seats at the ceremony will be filled with distinguished faculty, presidents of Yale’s peer schools and other dignitaries, but each residential college was allotted five seats per class, which were distributed through lotteries. The University’s graduate and professional schools were also allocated tickets. For those unable to attend, the ceremony will be livestreamed online and satellite viewing locations will be set up in Battell Chapel and on Hillhouse Avenue.
“Our ability to livestream events has allowed us to use current digital innovations to increase accessibility,” Goff-Crews said in a Monday email. “We no longer judge access by how many people we can get in a room. We have the capacity to reach many more people by providing a live feed for everyone to view the event — on their own, in small groups and at special venues on and off campus.”
Despite the University’s efforts to make the inaugural ceremonies accessible, many Yale students will still miss Salovey’s Sunday speech. Of 36 students interviewed, 21 said they did not plan to watch the ceremony.
“I have other obligations that I feel are more pressing than these celebrations,” Hung Pham ’15 said.
Following the ceremony in Woolsey Hall, the University will host a block party on Hillhouse Avenue. The party will be the final, and most inclusive, event of the inauguration week.
Though administrators declined to comment on the exact cost of the inauguration festivities, Morand said the cost of the inauguration celebrations “is in line with other large-scale university events,” and Goff-Crews said the event will be entirely gift-funded.
According to Harrison, much of that funding will come from contributions made by the 15 members of the Yale Corporation, the body responsible for appointing the president.
“When the corporation turns over the president they pass the hat amongst themselves to help the community celebrate,” Harrison said.
Yale’s former president Richard Levin was inaugurated Oct. 2, 1993.