On Sunday afternoon, after months of listening to faculty, students, alumni and New Haven residents during his tour as president-elect, University President Peter Salovey finally had the chance to speak to the community about his vision for Yale’s future.
In an inaugural address that lasted just under half an hour, Salovey spoke of the central importance of education to both his own life and the identity of Yale as a whole.
“Today, I am reminded of all those who have nurtured and supported me — my teachers along the way,” Salovey said in his opening remarks, adding that he especially valued the guidance of his “friend and teacher” former President Rick Levin, who expanded Yale’s global footprint and built a partnership with New Haven that became a “model for our nation” in town-gown relations.
In his speech, Salovey defended the value of a liberal arts education. Though he said the University’s emphasis on liberal arts has been challenged by a poor economy and elected officials in Washington, D.C. who do not see the benefits of such an education, Salovey argued that Yale’s liberal arts curriculum cultivates critical thinking skills and instills a love of learning for its own sake.
Salovey also highlighted the importance of focusing on the University’s students. Though Yale should strive to maintain its impressive resources, facilities and high standards of research, Salovey said, the University should still prioritize teaching and remain at the forefront of education.
“We have found our distinct place in the great constellation of excellence, and we should embrace it,” he said.
Quoting former University President Kingman Brewster’s inaugural address in 1964, Salovey said that modern technology has brought the University to the cusp of a revolution that will change the nature of teaching and learning. By harnessing digital technology, he said, Yale will be able to spread its faculty’s ideas to a broader and more global audience without compromising its foremost mission of educating its own students.
Salovey also spoke of how the addition of the two new residential colleges will allow the University to offer the “precious gift” of a Yale education to a larger number of deserving applications, adding that many of these students will “invigorate our campus and improve our world through lives of leadership and service.”
Over a dozen students, alumni and faculty interviewed said they were happy with Salovey’s address, with many citing his friendly tone and demeanor as evidence of Salovey’s “approachability.”
“What impressed me most was his enthusiasm,” said Ian Gilchrist ’72, a former member of Yale’s Development Board. Gilchrist added that the speech “was a testament to his humility.”
Sophia Jia ’14, a former director of advertising for the News, said the speech’s emphasis on education demonstrates the difference between Salovey and Levin — whereas Levin seemed to be focused on “lofty administrative goals,” she said, Salovey “is still closer to his role as a teacher.”
David Bach ’98, the senior associate dean for global programs at the School of Management, said he was pleased with the attention Salovey gave to the ways in which technology is changing education, as SOM continues to study and integrate the field of educational technology.
During the speech, Salovey also mentioned how Yale could build stronger ties with Africa, home of 11 of the 20 fastest-growing international economies. Charles Kwenin ’14, an international student from Ghana, said he was happy to see Salovey talk at length about Africa. Kwenin said that while Levin “has done a great job reaching out to Asia,” he felt that African countries had been neglected from Yale’s international outreach.
Salovey’s address, which was part of a larger two-day inaugural ceremony, was broadcast live on a Yale website created specifically for the inauguration.