Seven years ago, Harold Attridge taught Yale Divinity School courses in seminar rooms with mold-covered walls and broken windows. Thursday afternoon, Attridge –now dean of the institution –joked about his unpleasant memories as he rededicated a newly renovated Divinity School.
Attridge, Yale President Richard Levin and other robed administrators joined members of the Divinity School community in the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle Thursday to celebrate the school’s newly completed $49 million renovation. After seven years of construction, buildings feature preserved exteriors and modernized interiors, including enhanced technology in classrooms, Attridge said.
Attridge welcomed the long overdue renovation and thanked those who contributed funds and time to the project.
“It’s hard to believe how dreadful it was,” he said. “The place needed some tender love and care.”
Plans for renovation began seven years ago amid controversy over whether to move the school. When officials rejected this idea, the project received more criticism over its modern design plan, which was ultimately rejected after protests by alumni and architecture expert Vincent Scully.
“Preserving the historical fabric of the exterior of the building was a very important consideration,” Attridge said.
Levin echoed the importance of maintaining the Divinity School’s historical perspective.
“Today, Yale once again remembers and celebrates its heritage and embraces the future,” he said.
Students praised the design for its sense of spaciousness, which they said encourages them to gather as a community.
“The big difference [from before renovations] is there being unofficial space to meet people and hang out,” Emily Bennett DIV ’04 said. “It makes you want to spend more time on campus. It makes a more cohesive community at the school.”
Divinity students said they are particularly happy after living through the long and often inconvenient renovation process, Attridge said. During the renovation, classes were held in makeshift swing spaces.
“We had to do a lot of planning and a lot of careful thinking,” he said.
Funds for the project were provided by the University and donations from nearly 200 alumni and foundations, Attridge said. Major donors included Jack R. Howard ’32 and the Lilly Endowment.
Many of the new spaces created in the renovation are named after donors like Sarah G. Smith DIV ’91, who left money for the school after her death from colon cancer. Her husband, Rodger Smith, and her sons were present at the ceremony.
“We’re here to celebrate her life and what she got out of Yale and gave back to Yale,” Smith said.
The newly renovated buildings are much better reflections of the Yale Divinity School, Smith said. Attridge said he agreed.
“It sends a message that the University has confidence in the school and mission and that we intend to continue the noble enterprise of theological education into the twenty-first century,” he said.