Mary Lui, a professor of American Studies and history, will succeed Jeffrey Brenzel as the next master of Timothy Dwight College.
Hundreds of students filled the TD dining hall Tuesday evening — some kneeling in order to find space in the room — as University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway praised Brenzel’s mastership and expressed excitement over Lui’s new appointment. Lui is the first Asian-American female to serve as a residential college master at Yale.
Addressing the audience, Lui said she already feels at home in TD and hopes to work towards bridging the gap between the college and New Haven during her tenure.
“I’m pretty sure we’re at the right college,” Lui said. “I feel like you guys built this community, and we were just lucky enough to be selected.”
Lui specializes in Asian-American history, urban history, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and public history. She is the author of “The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City,” which uses a 1909 unsolved murder case to examine race and gender in the cultural formation of New York City’s Chinatown from 1870 to 1920.
Before Salovey addressed Brenzel, students gave the current master a standing ovation. Brenzel spoke briefly, asking TD students to join him in a resounding “Àshe,” the college’s motto, which means “We make it happen” in Yoruba.
“Having introduced your master and family, I can’t let the moment pass without talking about your current master, Master Brenzel,” Salovey said. “Master Brenzel has been an exemplary master. He has built this incredibly community along with all of you.”
Last November, Brenzel announced that he would be stepping down after 18 years as a senior administrator. Brenzel previously served as dean of undergraduate admissions from 2005 to 2013 and teaches philosophy in the Directed Studies Program and a lecture class called “The Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”
Joined by her husband and two young sons, Lui spoke of how TD was the perfect fit for her family, especially given the college’s proximity to the New Haven Free Public Library. Lui’s husband, Vincent Balbarin, is a solutions architect for Yale Information Technology Services and will serve as associate master. The family’s Lakeland Terrier, Chloe, will join the community as well, Lui added.
All nine students interviewed said they were sad to see Brenzel leave but also excited to welcome Lui and her family.
“It’ll be a tough transition because we’ve all grown to love Master Brenzel, but [Lui] seems like an excellent replacement and very well qualified and kind,” Reyna Schaechter ’17 said.
According to Rebecca Connelly ’16, Brenzel has been an important part of the TD culture, and his presence will be greatly missed in the college next year. However, Connelly said she is also excited to see what kind of a personality Lui will bring to TD as the college’s new master.
Stephanie Anaya ’17 said TD has been looking forward to the master’s appointment for months. The community is very excited about welcoming the new family, she said.
“TD is such an incredible community of students and a nice foundation for her [Lui] to come into,” Emma Simon ’16 said. “Having a master who is as passionate as we are helps — all it takes is love for the college, and TD isn’t hard to love.”
Although Simon noted that TD has been experiencing a different transition — after the recent change in deanship earlier this school year — she said she feels positive about Lui’s ability to contribute to the TD community.
Connelly also said she was already very impressed that Lui was taking the time to walk around the dining hall and greet students after Salovey’s announcement.
Engaging in the excitement of the moment, Lui remained in the dining hall until after everyone had left.
“I was not prepared for the incredibly boisterous and energetic welcome,” Lui said after the announcement. “It was very, very lovely. I’m looking forward to getting to know the students and trying to understand the fun and intellectual energy of the community.”