Courtesy of Yale Divinity School

The Yale Divinity School has received $15 million to help fund a sustainable residential complex — among the largest gifts ever bequeathed to a divinity school and the largest in the school’s history.

This past weekend, Dean Greg Sterling announced the donation from George and Carol Bauer, who have been close to the Divinity School community since the 1990s despite not having educational ties to Yale. George Bauer has served on the Dean’s Advisory Council, and Carol Bauer has worked extensively with the school’s career vocational training.

The couple’s donation is meant to support the Divinity School as it constructs a proposed new residential complex — dubbed “the living village” — that aligns with the sustainable goals of the “living building” project. The new building would be the first structure constructed by any divinity school to meet “triple net zero” standards for energy, waste and water. The impending project hopes to create new living spaces adjacent to the existing Sterling Divinity Quadrangle that will breathe new life into the school’s residential community, according to a press release.

“This project will ease students’ financial burdens, enable us to enhance community life, and make an important eco-theological statement,” Sterling wrote in a press release. “The Village will restore the close-knit community life that once characterized the Divinity School … The Village will send a powerful message to churches and society — the message that it is both imperative and feasible to live sustainably in a world threatened by climate change and other environmental challenges.”

In an email to the News, Sterling wrote that this is a “major first step” in fundraising efforts, but a great deal of work remains. He added that, among other things, the project awaits approval from the Yale Corporation.

Divinity School student Phil Antinone DIV ’22 said that the living community will provide a much-needed facelift to the “substandard” current residential offerings. Antinone — who does not live in the dorms — said it will be a beacon of the new standard that Yale should strive to achieve in all its construction endeavors. He said that the current dormitories are not Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant and the rooms themselves are not as environmentally friendly as they could be. Antinone added that the central climate control makes the rooms lose heat in the winter. Still, he added that the existing housing on campus is affordable, convenient and conducive to community.

“The Divinity School’s proposed Living Village project promises to be groundbreaking for Yale,” Office of Sustainability Director Ginger Chapman said. “Embodying sustainable attributes that exceed anything on campus or in Connecticut, the aspirational project is bold yet achievable.”

Chapman added that the project augments the Divinity School’s role in embracing sustainability in its discipline. Environmental stewardship is embedded in the school’s identity, she said.

Barbara Sabia, senior director of alumni engagement and development at the Divinity School, said that the project is about “investing in people” as it is an opportunity for the school’s students to learn and live in a sustainable structure and take that experience with them in their lives in ministry. She added that it will inspire others to pursue sustainable living options.

The Sterling Divinity Quadrangle opened in 1932.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu