The future home of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and the World Fellows program received a $5 million donation from Yale Corporation member Roland Betts ’68 and his wife Lois Phifer Betts.
Yale will renovate the former Davies Mansion at 55 Whitney Ave. and rename it the Betts House as part of the University’s ongoing effort to make Yale more international. The building is slated to open in fall 2002.
Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer, expressed her enthusiasm about the donation.
“It allows us to house the center in a wonderful place to launch it,” Richard said.
The future Betts House was built in the 19th century, and Betts said it sits on the highest ground in New Haven.
“It was once a beautiful building and has been left derelict,” he said. “Once restored, it will be absolutely spectacular.”
The donation was planned prior to September’s terrorist attacks, but now Betts, a New York City resident, said he feels his gift is more timely than ever.
“I think [globalization] is more important today than it was Sept. 10,” Betts said. “We need to be in the forefront of understanding.”
World Fellows Program Director Daniel Esty said international efforts have taken on renewed importance after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 and added that he feels fortunate to have donors who support President Levin’s attempts to globalize Yale.
Betts said he is excited about the building that soon will bear his name.
“I am very, very proud to be in the position to do something like that and am excited about the activities that are going to take place in the building,” Betts said.
Betts currently is the chairman and general partner of Chelsea Piers Management, Inc., and developer and operator of Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex in Manhattan — operations he said he started while trying to find a better place for his daughter to figure skate.
Chelsea Piers Executive Vice President David A. Tewksbury ’83 said Betts has been successful because of his ethical approach to business.
“Roland’s success is due in large part to his ability to be sincere, honest and fair when he deals with people,” Tewksbury said.
Five generations of Betts have called themselves Elis. The first Betts Yalie, Roland Betts’ great-grandfather, graduated in 1868 after taking time off for the Civil War. The family’s most recent Yale graduate is Betts’ daughter Jessica Betts ’98.
At Yale, Roland Betts, a member of Jonathan Edwards College, played defense on the hockey team and was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He majored in American studies.
Betts entered the sports and entertainment industry after graduating from Columbia Law School in 1978.
He founded and serves as president of Silver Screen Management, Inc., and was the lead owner of the Texas Rangers in an investment group organized by his Yale classmate and friend President George W. Bush.
Betts said his gift stems from his love and gratitude for Yale, and his associate Tewksbury agreed.
“I think Roland has been and continues to be a huge supporter of Yale,” Tewksbury said. “He is very, very proud of the institution and what it does for people.”
In the past, Betts has donated to other University projects, including the Howard Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders. He said that gift stemmed from his interest in the American West.
Gustav Ranis, the director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, said the renovation of the mansion will make Yale’s commitment to internationalism more visible.
“We still don’t have a school of international studies, but it is moving in the direction of greater visibility for Yale’s efforts in the international field,” Ranis said.
Despite the house’s position on the National Register of Historic Places, history professor and Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54 said it can take on a new name without any trouble.
“There isn’t any reason to feel that the name can’t be changed,” Smith said.
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