On Friday — Yale University Day by order of Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland –the Yale community concluded the yearlong celebration of the University’s 300th birthday with an academic convocation on Cross Campus and a festival and performance at the Yale Bowl.
The festivities, which the University decided to hold in spite of the recent terrorist attacks on the United States, drew thousands of alumni, students and faculty.
Yale President Richard Levin looked to the future of both the school and its students in his remarks at the Yale Bowl event.
“We cannot predict the news of Yale’s future any more than Elihu Yale could have envisioned the University of today,” he said. “But we can have confidence that Yale men and women will continue their efforts for God, for Country and for Yale forever.”
During the academic convocation, Levin announced a review of Yale’s educational practices, which College Dean Richard Brodhead will coordinate.
But forward was not the only direction that the convocation speeches looked. Harvard President Lawrence Summers spoke extensively about the foundation of Yale by colonists dissatisfied with what they considered the “moral cesspool” of Harvard.
“Frankly, we have never forgiven you,” Summers said.
Princeton President Shirley Tilghman, current student Tali Farhadian ’97 LAW ’03, Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Kurt Schmoke ’71, Associate Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand and Brodhead also spoke at the event.
The festivities continued Friday night at the Bowl.
Exhibits outside of the stadium started at 3:30 p.m. and included representatives from a broad range of Yale programs, including athletic teams, a cappella groups and the Department of Electrical Engineering.
At 7:30 p.m., events began inside the Bowl, which had been fitted with a stage that was flanked with the numbers “1701” and “2001,” as well as glowing blue “Y’s.” The action on the stage was projected simultaneously onto three large screens.
The program began with more remarks from Levin, who mentioned administrators’ discussion of cancelling the event in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said that the Yale community was almost unanimous in its support for going forward with the tercentennial celebration.
After a moment of silence, he invited a number of candle-holding New Haven residents and Yale employees onto the stage to lead the audience in singing “America the Beautiful.”
The program was divided into four sections, titled “For God,” “For Country,” “For Yale” and “Forever.”
The “For God” segment began with a look into early Yale history. After a flash of green light and a burst of smoke, an actor playing Elihu Yale stumbled onto the stage. Author Tom Wolfe GRD ’57 assured him that his legacy was well-protected at the modern Yale University.
Author William F. Buckley ’50 and Sesame Street’s Big Bird appeared next, as a part of the “For Country” segment. The pair departed from a scheduled lesson on the letter “B” to teach the audience about the letter “Y.” Big Bird was so enraptured with the new letter that he insisted on calling his human co-host “Mr. Yuckley.”
When the avian Muppet had trouble remembering any words that begin with the 25th letter of the alphabet, Buckley offered several polysyllabic possibilities, while the audience members shouted “Yale!” in an attempt to jog Big Bird’s memory.
Paul Simon Mus.D. ’96, was the next performer. Only scheduled to play one song, he surprised the audience by playing both “Graceland” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” After his performance, audience members began to trickle out of the Bowl.
The “For Yale” section dealt with the contributions Yalies, including Garry Trudeau ’70 and Mitch Leigh ’51, have made to the arts.
The “Forever” section included a “Futuristic News Network” update from reporters Jack Ford ’72 and local news anchor Verna Collins. The headlines from 2101 included the completion of campus renovations and the takeover of the New York Times by the editors of the Yale Daily News.
The evening concluded with brief remarks from Levin and an extensive display of pyrotechnics.
Many students responded positively to the event, especially the concluding fireworks show.
“The most amazing part was at the very end with the fireworks,” Rachel Scheinerman ’05 said. “I remember thinking that I don’t know how I got to be at such an amazing place.”
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