The Yale Divinity School completed renovations on an old refectory in the Northeast Wing of the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle this fall after decades of miscellaneous use.

The refectory, which originally functioned as a communal eating space, fell out of use in the 1990s, according to Harold Attridge, dean of the Divinity School from 2002 to 2012. Divinity School administration began renovating the vacant space in the spring, with the goal of creating more meeting rooms for students. The space now comprises a lounge area called “The Ballroom” and a hallway with smaller meeting rooms. The Ballroom will open this week, with a dinner event scheduled for Monday night.

The renovations were led by Greg Sterling, the dean of the Divinity School; Jim Hackney, senior director of development for the school; and Tom Krettanmaker, Divinity School director of communications.

“Meeting rooms have definitely been lacking at Yale Divinity School, and this will let the students work together and be more collaborative,” said Julia Johnson DIV ’18, a community coordinator at the school.

Administrators began plans to renovate the old refectory in response to student needs, Johnson said. Previously, she added, students had a hard time finding a place to meet, as there was only one common room, which was often reserved for formal events.

Attridge told the News that the University was planning to tear down buildings in the Northeast Wing of the divinity Quad — including the old refectory — in the late 1990s. However, after protests by alumni and faculty, the “buildings were mothballed with some external modifications to prevent deterioration,” Attridge said.

Students at the Yale School of Music temporarily used the old refectory as a gathering space from 2015 to this January, while Hendrie Hall — which consists of practice rooms and studios for Yale ensembles — was being renovated.

“That took a little longer than originally planned, but when it was completed, the buildings reverted to the Divinity School for their use,” Attridge said.

Although the music school stopped using the space at the beginning of year, Divinity School students did not have access to it until the recent renovations were completed.

“No Divinity School students used it,” Johnson said. “We would just walk around it. We still thought they were music rooms. It was an extra annex no one knew what it was for.”

The restoration of the refectory is part of a larger effort at the Divinity School to promote environmental efficiency. Johnson said the renovation was “strategically planned to minimize energy loss,” and involved the installation of “environmentally friendly light bulbs.”

James Cogman DIV ’19, who toured the renovated areas with Sterling, expressed excitement about the restoration.

“The new refectory and the common area has a very nice modern feel to it,” Cogman said. “I’ll be using the common areas with other students and school faculty.”

Serena Cho |