Yale University

For years, students have lamented the lack of diversity in the portraits that hang in college dining halls. Branford is no exception: Of the 15 portraits currently on display, 14 depict white men. The only woman is Phyllis Curtin, master of Branford from 1979 to 1983.

But that will change within the next week. A portrait of Elizabeth Bradley, who served as head of Branford College from 2011 to 2017 and is now president of Vassar College, will soon join Curtin’s in the 85-year-old dining space. The portrait, which depicts a smiling Bradley clad in a blue jacket and holding a couple of books, was unveiled at a ceremony last Thursday. The painting was temporarily on display on an easel near the back of the dining hall and is slated to go up near the entrance within the next week.

“Bradley worked tirelessly for students and Branford College,” said Enrique De La Cruz, current head of Branford. “It is an honor to have her portrait displayed in our dining hall. She joins the many individuals who have played important roles in Branford’s history.”

According to Annalise Graves ’19, co-president of the Branford College Council, Bradley, her family, Branford fellows and students were all in attendance at Thursday’s unveiling.

De La Cruz introduced Bradley, citing examples of the positive impact she had, before unveiling her portrait. Bradley then spoke about her time at Yale and fondly recalled the strength of the Branford community — a quality she has tried to replicate at Vassar. Bradley said she was pleased that a portrait of another woman would soon hang in the dining hall, according to Graves.

“President Bradley is perhaps my greatest role model, and it was a delight to share this moment with her,” Graves said. “I am thrilled that there will be another portrait of a woman in Branford dining hall, particularly a women who personally inspired me in more ways than I can describe.”

Bradley came to Yale over 25 years ago as a doctoral student, after graduating magna cum laude from Harvard and receiving a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago. During her tenure at Yale, Bradley served as the Brady-Johnson professor of grand strategy and helped establish the Global Health Leadership institute in 2009. She also helped revitalize the School of Public Health’s global health concentration and introduced the first undergraduate program in global health education.

In 2011, Bradley was appointed head of Branford. She helped establish the Branford Tea Room — a technology-free space that hosts gatherings and facilitates difficult conversations — which played an especially important role in fall 2015, as racial protests roiled the campus community. Bradley also oversaw the renovation of Branford’s art and pottery rooms.

“She has enriched immeasurably the life of our campus community and will be missed as a visionary researcher, beloved teacher, wise mentor, trusted leader and invaluable colleague,” University President Peter Salovey wrote before her departure in 2017.

Frank Bruckmann, a local artist who painted the portrait of Curtin, was selected to create Bradley’s portrait.

The unveiling of Bradley’s portrait comes in the wake of a larger push across campus to broaden the range of people represented on Yale’s walls. In Davenport, a portrait committee — tasked with improving the diversity of the portraits in the college — was formed last year. Now, two paintings depicting nine diverse members of the college’s community hang on the walls of the dining hall.

Vy Tran ’21, a sophomore in Branford, said she appreciated the push for diversity but thinks there is still room for improvement, particularly where the representation of people of color is concerned.

Since its completion in 1933, Branford has had 11 heads of college.

Lorenzo Arvanitis | lorenzo.arvanitis@yale.edu