Kai Nip

At the Jackson Institute’s founding in 2009, Yale committed to naming a potential future professional school for global affairs after John Jackson ’67 and his wife Susan, which contradicts recent comments from administrators that the name of the potential school is still under consideration.

Per the gift agreement between Yale and the donors, which was obtained by the News, if the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs were to expand to a full professional school, it would become “the Jackson School of Global Affairs.” This would mark the first time in Yale’s modern history that the University has named a school after an individual. Earlier in January, Vice President for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis told the News that the new school would likely be named the Jackson School of Global Affairs. But, Thursday, he clarified that there has been no decision about what to name the school.

If the University decides to create a school of global affairs, Jackson will donate an amount equivalent to $40 million in 2014 to be adjusted by the Consumer Price Index. The revelation comes amid debates across Yale and among the Corporation members over whether to open the University’s thirteenth professional school.

“In 2019-2020, the Provost will undertake a review for the President and the Yale Corporation to assess whether the Institute should be converted into an independent professional school,” the gift agreement states. “… In consideration of the Donors’ additional commitment, the school will be named the Jackson School of Global Affairs.”

Former University President Rick Levin and Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill did not respond to request for comment.

In 2009, Yale established the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, after a $50 million gift from ex-pharmaceutical businessman and philanthropist, John Jackson, and his wife Susan. The gift agreement, which was signed on April 1, 2009, outlines the terms of Jackson’s donation and specifies how Yale will use the gift. According to the document, Yale agreed to transfer the existing operating budget that supported the now-defunct master’s International Relations program and undergraduate International Studies major to the then-new institute. In addition, the University committed to allocating $24 million from its existing endowment resources to support the new institute and raising ten million dollars for new professorships.

In an email to the News on Sunday, Lewis emphasized that no final decision has been made on whether to convert the Jackson Institute into a school. He argued that since Jackson’s name had been connected to the Institute for Global Affairs since its founding, the continued association of his name would represent “natural and welcome continuity” and “an appropriate tribute to the generosity.”

“The Jacksons have expressed their eagerness to support the transition to a school, but no final decision can be made until we reach an agreement on any further transformative gift,” Lewis said.

But according to three individuals with knowledge of the situation, Yale was working on a gift agreement with Jackson in fall 2018, and Jackson is “planning to donate” a figure upward of $100 million — more than half of the funding required, according to the provost’s advisory committee. Five individuals close to the situation called transforming the Jackson Institute to a school a “done deal” and noted that all parties involved in making that decision — including key administrators, the Corporation and Jackson — wanted to create a school of global affairs.

Lewis added that the report published by the Provost’s Advisory Committee — which recommended transforming the Institute to a school and was published publicly in November — referred to the school as the Jackson school several times.

He declined to comment further about the University’s negotiations with Jackson and said conversations and agreements with donors are confidential.

“It is clear that no one was hiding the possibility that such a school would be named for the Jacksons, since references to the ‘Jackson School’ are peppered throughout the report of the faculty committee, which is the report that was made public and discussed at several faculty meetings, with the FAS Senate, and in the University Cabinet,” University President Peter Salovey said in a statement to the News.

But according to three individuals with knowledge of the matter, all of whom spoke under anonymity for fear of retribution from the administration, members of the University cabinet — an advisory body for Salovey composed of professional school deans and vice presidents — were not aware of Yale’s commitment to name the school after Jackson, if created. Still, one of those individuals said some assumed that the school would be named after Jackson if he made another major donation.

Three Faculty of Arts and Sciences faculty members also said the FAS Senate was not told that the new school will be named after Jackson if the University decides to convert the Institute to a degree-offering school. The faculty members requested anonymity to speak candidly about the matter.

One of those individuals said faculty members would be “extremely distressed” to learn that all the public and private discussions over the last year have taken place without knowledge of the University’s naming decision. The individual added that it is “distressing” to see that Yale’s major institutional decisions are determined by a donor’s interests rather than an “open and informed debate about pressing intellectual and social needs.”

If created, the Jackson School of Global Affairs will be the first professional school to bear a donor’s name in the University’s modern history. Sheffield Scientific School — which was a school for science and engineering — was originally named the Yale Scientific School but was renamed in 1861 in honor of Joseph E. Sheffield, a railroad executive, who donated $100,000. The school was gradually merged with the College until it became relatively obsolete in 1956, according to the University website.

In a statement to the News, Salovey said the Yale Corporation has the authority to create a school and decide upon its name. He added that he would be “thrilled” and “proud” to name a school for a person or family whose generosity would improve the world, the University and its students.

According to Frederick Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, an increased number of higher education institutions across the country have traded the name of a school for a major gift. Currently, Stanford and Princeton are Yale’s only peer institutions to have not renamed or named a school in recognition of a significant benefactor, though Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs bears the name of the university’s — and country’s — former president. Hess added that naming the school of global affairs after Jackson could set a precedent for potential donors for the University who are willing to give a large donation in exchange for a school’s name.

In an interview with the News, Stacy Palmer, an editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said naming a school after a major benefactor can encourage potential donors to give bigger gifts to the University. Still, Palmer added that naming a school after an individual can become complicated if the individual’s name somehow gets defamed, and the institution is forced to decide whether to take the name away.

“Another problem is the symbolism of naming schools after donors rather than other people instrumental to the university like scholars and professors,” Palmer said. “It’s the idea that donors are the ones whose names are most valued. … Some may feel that commercialism is taking part of the nonprofit world.”

In an interview with the News in November, Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling urged members of the Yale community to carefully discuss the pros and cons of naming a school after a donor.

“Some people want the schools to simply be known as a part of Yale University,” Sterling explained. “This is an issue that should be thought through in a careful way … I’m not enthusiastic about naming schools after donors, but what do we say when they offer to give you 50 million or 250 million? I don’t know.”

The Corporation discussed whether to convert the Jackson Institute to a school last weekend. According to the gift agreement, when establishing the Jackson Institute in 2009, Yale also committed to “prominently display” the name of the Institute, move the location of the Institute from Rosenkranz Hall to Horchow Hall and hire a director, associate director, four professors and four senior fellows.

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu