Over 500 alumni delegates and their guests arrived on Yale’s campus yesterday to attend the annual Association of Yale Alumni assembly.
The two-day assembly is Yale’s biggest alumni leadership conference and features educational sessions focused around a different theme each year. To commemorate New Haven’s 375th anniversary, this year’s assembly focused on New Haven, hosting lectures and discussions for graduates to learn about how Yale’s partnership with New Haven has improved over the past 20 years under the leadership of Yale President Richard Levin and Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
“I think it was the right time to focus the event on New Haven because it was such a big part of President Levin’s tenure,” said Judy Schiff, chief research archivist at the Yale University Library. Schiff, who delivered the opening lecture on the history of New Haven, added that “there was this realization that you can’t have a great university in a town that is suffering.” She added that she believes the University has made great strides already.
In her Thursday morning lecture in the Shubert Theater, Schiff recapped New Haven’s history since its founding 375 years ago, highlighting visionaries such as Eli Whitney and Noah Webster, who were attracted to the Elm City. Schiff said she hoped her talk informed Yale alumni about the importance of cooperative and mutually beneficial town-gown interaction.
Following Schiff’s talk, Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65 gave a presentation about Yale’s recent partnership with the Elm City through programs such as the New Haven Promise and the Homebuyer Program, as well as through economic development projects like Science Park and the revitalization of the Broadway shopping district.
Alexander expressed the University’s commitment to continuing the partnership as Mayor-elect Toni Harp ARC ’78 and recently appointed President Peter Salovey take on the city’s leadership.
Alumni in attendance said that they were happy to hear about the improvements in town-gown relations and that they were impressed by the economic development of the city.
“It’s so nice to come back and see all the development and growth that is happening in the city,” said first-year delegate Pamela Weinstock ’89. She added that when she was a student living in Ezra Stiles College, Broadway streets had far fewer retail shops and restaurants.
Jeannine Scott GRD ’85, who serves on the alumni board of governors, said that such a robust town-gown relationship did not exist when she was an undergraduate. She added that of the six AYA assemblies she had attended, this year’s was among the best because of how well organized it was.
In the afternoon, delegates went on a bus tour of the city to see firsthand how the city has developed and how Yale’s investments have shaped that growth.
Delegates and guests were encouraged to use the hashtag #NHV375 for all posts related to New Haven and its anniversary. Weinstock said that people were tweeting during the morning talks in order to “get the word out” about the Elm City’s accomplishments.
“These forums serve as an informal avenue for discussions between a variety of alumni groups — from clubs, classes and other interest groups — and the University,” said Stephen Blum ’74, senior director of strategic initiatives at AYA. Blum added that alumni delegates often return from the annual assembly reinvigorated and excited about contributing to Yale.
Both the Yale Medal, the highest award bestowed by the AYA to alumni with exemplary records of service to the University, and the Yale-Jefferson Award, which honors one undergraduate, one graduate student and one alum for inspirational contributions to public service, will be awarded on Friday, the last day of the assembly.
This year, the six recipients of the Yale Medal included President Levin, his wife Jane Levin GRD ’75 and Guido Calabresi ’53 LAW ’58, the former dean of the law school.