On Monday, Bass Library received four new stained-glass tables bearing the residential college insignias of Saybrook, Calhoun, Davenport and Berkeley colleges, with the remaining 10 to follow in the coming weeks.
The new tables will replace the marble ones currently filling the Thain Family Cafe in Bass Library and have already been hailed by students as a welcome visual upgrade to a communal space. The stained-glass tables are gifts from Ken McKenna ’75 GRD ’78 and Patty McKenna, whose son Conor McKenna ’16 is a recent alumnus. Ken McKenna was inspired to donate the tables after walking through Bass last May and noticing that many of the marble slabs were chipped.
“I thought it would be nice to have more colors in that beautiful space on a Connecticut winter afternoon,” McKenna told the News.
The tables are not the first that McKenna has donated to Yale, as he contributed some similarly colorful tables to the Timothy Dwight College courtyard several years ago. McKenna, who lived in TD as an undergraduate, said the inspiration for the TD tables was similar, adding that he thought the tables would add “a little zest” to the courtyard and describing the tables as “nice cufflinks” for the outdoor space.
All the tables are made by the Los Angeles-based furniture and décor company Furthur, which also made the tables which currently sit on the porch of the McKennas’ residence in California.
The process of making the tables uses the latest technology in glass cutting, including a machine that shapes the glass by shooting it with beads of water and garnet dust. Traditional glass cutting involves cutting the glass directly with a diamond, but this new method allows for a larger selection of glass shapes like the lions, bulls and fleurs-de-lis of Yale residential college crests, McKenna said.
Yale University Library director of development Basie Gitlin ’10, who helped with the table installation, said that the idea to create the tables for Thain Family Café was entirely McKenna’s. McKenna contacted University Librarian Susan Gibbons with an offer to have them made for the library, and she and Gitlin then worked with other library administrators to coordinate the project.
According to McKenna and Gitlin, a set of four these tables takes approximately three weeks to manufacture, and shipping requires two weeks. The slowest part of the production process, McKenna noted, is the input of the designs into software that dictates instructions to the glass cutting machine. Because certain college crests are more complex than others, each set of four tables will contain two relatively simple designs and two more complicated ones in order to equalize production times between sets.
Tables bearing the insignia of the remaining 10 colleges will arrive within the next few weeks at an interval of approximately four every three weeks.
Undergraduates have taken well to the new tables so far, according to several students studying in Bass.
Viola Lee ’20 said that the tables “look a lot better than the old ones” and expressed curiosity at where the old tables would go.
Pranam Dey ’18 noted that he thinks the tables will “help build college pride and knit the campus together.” Dey complimented the new visual aesthetic that the tables bring to the underground space, noting that the tables provide a colorful contrast against the brown walls and sofas of the cafe.
“I’m very thankful to whoever donated them,” Dey said.
Voicing a concern that 14 tables would not be enough to replace all the tables in Bass — there are currently 20 in the space — McKenna plans to send an additional copy of each table in addition to the 14 that will arrive in the coming weeks, bringing the total number of stained glass tables in Thain Cafe to 28. In the end, however, he said he leaves it entirely up to the judgement of library administrators to decide how many tables to add.
A two-year, $47.8 million project to renovate Bass Library was completed in 2007.