In May’s Yale Corporation election, alumni elected Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 to the University’s highest policy-making body over the Rev. W. David Lee DIV ’93 by a wide margin, ending the most controversial and contentious Corporation election in University history.
Lin received 41,575 votes, over 83 percent of the total turnout, while Lee received 16.7 percent of the vote. Forty-four percent of eligible alumni cast ballots, a participation rate far higher than that of any recent Corporation election.
“It is a great honor to have been elected to the Yale Corporation. Yale has given me so much and I am glad to have the opportunity to be able to give back to my alma mater,” Lin said in a statement at the time of her election. She added that she did not spoken to the press throughout the process because she did not want to appear to be “campaigning” for the seat.
Lin continues to be unavailable for comment to the Yale Daily News.
Lee, who conducted by far the largest campaign in Corporation history, said the day of the results that he was doing well and that he thought Lin would be a valuable trustee.
“I think Maya Lin is a great asset to the board,” Lee said. “I always thought she should be and again it was never about the person but about the partnership.”
Although Lee could not be reached for comment Tuesday, he said in May that he was not dismissing the possibility of running in next year’s alumni election.
“I am in dialogue with the same people when we met in the beginning to talk about it to see if that is an option,” Lee said.
Lee stressed his commitment to Yale-New Haven relations and emphasized the importance of a stronger town-gown partnership throughout his campaign, the initial part of which was funded by Yale’s labor unions.
His efforts eventually took him to speaking engagements in New York and Philadelphia and earned him the endorsement of politicians like Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
Following Lee’s initial mailings and campaign actions, a group of alumni led by former University Secretary Henry Chauncey ’57 and Frances Beinecke ’71 spent over $80,000 on mailings urging Yale alumni to vote against Lee. The Association of Yale Alumni also spent over $60,000 on several controversial mailings that its board of governors said were intended to educate alumni about Lee’s candidacy.
The high profile of this year’s election resulted in remarkable voter participation. Of the 111,833 ballots Yale sent to all alumni who earned degrees at least five years ago, a record 49,899 came back marked with a vote for the Corporation — a turnout more than two and a half times the norm during the past 20 years.
The day of the election Levin and Lee showed signs of future collaboration. Lee told optimistically of how Levin “reached out” and invited him to a regular breakfast Levin has with local clergy. Lee said he planned to attend, but Levin said Lee did not come to the meeting. Levin said a meeting has been tentatively planned for himself, Lee, and Vice President of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander.
Ted Wittenstein ’04, one of Lee’s student campaign coordinators, said he personally was surprised by the margin of the loss.
“It seemed like there was a lot of support — but, you know, we are not crushed by the loss,” Wittenstein said, adding that he felt Lee had received negative publicity that ultimately influenced the course of the race. “I definitely think the negative camp painted a negative image of Rev. Lee that I don’t think is accurate of the way I know Rev. Lee.”