Next month, the Yale corporation will meet to discuss major campus issues this is the second in a four part series on its members. David Shimer reports following an Octover interview with Charles Goodyear IV ‘80.
Successor Trustee Charles Goodyear IV ’80 wears many hats: that of a business titan, a fourth-generation Yale student and a servant to the University.
After graduating from Yale College as a varsity rower and geology & geophysics major, Goodyear embarked on a successful career in business and natural resources, eventually serving as senior vice president and chief financial officer of Freeport-McMoRan Inc. — one of the world’s largest producers of copper and gold — and, beginning in 2003, chief executive officer of BHP Billiton — a multinational mining, metals and petroleum company. He became a successor trustee of the Corporation in 2012.
In an interview with the News, Goodyear discussed his family’s more-than-century-old relationship with Yale, his time as a Yale College student and his general take on current campus issues. Concerning the naming of two new residential colleges and the potential renaming of Calhoun College, Goodyear said that in approaching the subject he would think about how higher education will change over the next few decades.
“I can assure you there will be a huge amount of input from students, faculty and alumni,” he said. “We’ll listen to that and recognize what Yale is today and what we want it to be and pay attention to the kinds of messages that come from issues like naming. And then we will reach a consensus on that and then reach a conclusion.”
University President Peter Salovey described Goodyear as “extremely thoughtful, unafraid to dig into the details and quite reflective about what attending Yale College in the late 1970s meant for his own development and career trajectory.”
But some students on campus, most particularly those involved in Fossil Free Yale, have raised concerns about Goodyear’s involvement with the debate over divestment in 2014, when the University opted not to divest the endowment from fossil fuels.
In a statement to the News, Fossil Free Yale discussed Goodyear’s potential conflicts of interest regarding divestment.
“Mr. Goodyear is the former CEO of BHP Billiton and served on the Board of Directors at Anadarko until last year. Fossil Free Yale is asking Yale to divest from both companies. This is a clear conflict of interest,” the statement read. “That Mr. Goodyear did not recuse himself from the Corporation’s decision on divestment in 2014 makes us question how ‘fair’ Corporation decisions really are, and whether the Corporation truly serves the interests of students and the University.”
Goodyear said he is aware of FFY’s concerns and declined to comment further. But Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith said Goodyear’s professional experiences enable him to think about how Yale can best position itself to retain its leadership position in the world in the coming decades.
Calling his family a “Yale family” that stretches back to the late 1800s, Goodyear said his great-grandfather, grandfather and father all attended the University. He added that he only realized just how many of his relatives were associated with Yale at a recent family reunion attended by roughly 30 alumni. Goodyear also has two children who currently attend Yale.
Highsmith said Goodyear’s family history only bolsters his qualifications for serving on the Corporation.
“I view his Yale connection, his sense of Yale as a family and his family being so involved with Yale as a real positive,” she said. “I think people who have those deep connections not just in the past but also in the present have a very good understanding of what Yale is like today.”
Looking back on his time at Yale, Goodyear said the time he spent on the crew team stands out as particularly formative.
“Clearly the part I remember most is the relationships built with so many interesting people, and to this day those relationships continue to be very important to me,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to meet a broad range of people with lots of different interests. They worked hard and played hard.”
Goodyear said other than rowing with close friends each year after graduation, he lacked direct contact with the University for many years.
But he said his engagement with Yale increased when he connected with then-University President Richard Levin in Australia. While there, Goodyear said they bonded over the shared belief that Yale must connect with countries around the world and give students opportunities to immerse themselves abroad.
“It was our interest in globalization that happened to coincide with President Levin’s vision — we built a relationship around that,” Goodyear said. “That’s really how I got re-engaged with Yale, and I think it’s common for people to leave school, work on their career, their family and at some point come back.”
The Corporation meets five times per year, usually from Thursday evening to lunch on Saturday. Goodyear called this service a “pretty significant commitment of time.”
He added that he takes advantage of his time on campus to observe the Yale community in person.
“I usually try to spend Wednesday and Thursday around the campus,” he said. “It gives me a chance to see students and faculty, see what’s happening — sometimes I’ll go to a basketball or hockey game.”
Goodyear said he does not bring any specific specialty to the table concerning campus-naming issues, though he added that he appreciates the changing nature of higher education and the societal implications of controversial names.
He added that it is important for Corporation members to consider all aspects of these issues, as well as their personal takes.
“It all means something to us individually,” he said of naming-related decisions. “It will be based on our experiences and what we believe to be most important. These are not unique decisions in the sense that there are always tough decisions. We’ll walk through them with a group of people you have a great relationship with and respect for.”
Still, when asked about October discussions at Princeton University to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from certain buildings, Goodyear emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to naming issues. What might be appropriate in one place or one institution may not be appropriate at others , he said.
Goodyear said while it is important for all students to feel comfortable in their residential colleges, he does not associate his own residential college, Pierson, with the person for whom it is named.
“What I remember is the people I was there with and all the fun we had,” he said. “I’m sure to people there now, Pierson means to them whatever it means to them. I don’t think the first thing that comes out of their mouth is who Pierson was. Everybody can have a view about this. It is an important symbol. The school at one point decided to name colleges for the people they named them for, and that was relevant at the time. But the atmosphere of the college now is based on the people there.”
Salovey said while on the Corporation, Goodyear has been especially involved in “buildings and grounds” planning and, more recently, on developing the capacity and strategy for Yale’s next fundraising campaign, which has yet to be scheduled. He added that Goodyear chaired the presidential search committee in 2012.