Courtesy of David Foster

In an early October ceremony complete with live music, speeches and aquatic-themed desserts, Grace Hopper College unveiled a six-foot brass trident that will hang permanently in the college’s dining hall.

Originally proposed by Hopper students in 2019, the trident is a project years in the making. It pays homage to Hopper’s aquatic themes — the college is named for Naval Adm. Grace Hopper GRD ’34 and features a dolphin in its coat of arms — and was designed and constructed by Jacob Eldred ’24.

“[The trident] could have literally been anything else, but the reason it’s important is because it got us in a room together all cheering for the same thing,” Sam Karp ’23, one of the students that originally proposed the idea for the trident, wrote in an email to the News. “After so much time apart, a lot of people — especially older students — have been saying that they don’t feel as included in campus life as much as they used to. I feel like really deliberate physical manifestations of our community are really important to get back some of what’s been lost during the pandemic.”

Karp, who was originally a member of the class of 2022, said that the idea for the trident came up during lunch with his friends in the spring of their first year. Although he acknowledged that the idea at first seemed “very silly,” Karp and his friends began bringing the idea up in Hopper College Council meetings until Grace Hopper Dean David Francis began taking the idea seriously.

According to Karp, Hopper’s 2017 name change helped make the trident a rallying point for students in the class of 2022.

“Other colleges had chants for IMs (and for that matter, really active IM teams), cool t-shirts, and even something as unnecessary as a Latin Motto,” Karp wrote. “Hopper, when I first arrived, was lacking in many of these areas, and it’s understandable why: No one at that point had spent all 4 years in ‘Grace Hopper College’ with the name change only about a year previous. But with my year coming in having never been in Calhoun, we wanted to make a really fun and active legacy.”

But the road to the trident was not a smooth one. When Karp and his friends began researching blacksmiths online, they quickly realized that commissioning a professional to make the trident would be prohibitively expensive.

For help finding an inexpensive trident, Karp turned to Eldred, a student in Morse College who had been a “master builder” on their high school science olympiad team. After doing some research, Eldred decided that the most cost-effective option would be for him to make the trident himself, with the guidance of Nick Bernardo, the machine shop director at the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.

“I study mechanical engineering and I’ve always made things and had lots of different projects,” Eldred said. “This was my first metal sculpture. I’ve done wooden furniture and other things, but the basic skills, all mechanical engineers learn in the machine shop.”

Karp said that the next step was convincing the rest of Hopper to trust his “random friend from high school who was just a first-year in Morse” — a process which did not take very long.

The most significant delay to the design and construction of the trident was the COVID-19 pandemic, which prohibited Eldred from entering the machine shop, finding the necessary materials and being able to meet with Head of Grace Hopper College Julia Adams on a regular basis.

Once Eldred was able to get to work in the machine shop in August 2021, the actual trident took about three weeks to make. 

“It was two weeks in the machine shop every day,” Eldred said. “And one week making the brackets, which are all custom, polishing it and putting it together.”

Karp said that Eldred also considered etching a quote into the trident or installing a locking mechanism to prevent it from being stolen, but ultimately opted for a simple and elegant trident that would not look obtrusive in the dining hall.

One unique element that Eldred did incorporate into the trident, however, was a doorknob from an old building on Science Hill which a Yale plumber got for him. The knob, which Eldred estimates to be over 80 years old, is attached to the bottom of the trident.

“It refers back to my grandfather, who made things like that and would use objects found in plain sight,” Eldred said.

The final trident is six feet tall and weighs 80 pounds, Karp said.

To commemorate the trident’s installation, the Hopper College Council planned a trident unveiling ceremony, which was held during Sunday family dinner in the Hopper dining hall.

“It is something that we have all been looking forward to, and it felt like the perfect time to celebrate being all together again since everyone’s return to campus,” said Hopper College Council president Kate Williams ’24. “It was fun and over the top, and I think it was a lighthearted affair that we all needed.”

The Hopper dining hall prepared aquatic-themed cupcakes and beverages for the occasion. The Hopper College Council also made commemorative trident ceremony shirts.

Williams and Karp spoke at the event, as did Adams and Francis.

“The unveiling was a thrill, and Family Night dinner was the perfect time for it,” Adams told the News. “Hopper spirit reverberated to the rafters. The ceremonials were appropriately tongue-in-cheek, but the trident is seriously gorgeous.”

The ceremony concluded with a rousing violin rendition of “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid,” performed by Albert Gang ’24, the concertmaster of the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s first concert.

“I was so excited to play for the trident ceremony,” Gang said. “I always want to be more involved in Hopper, so I was happy to play a part in the event. It was a little nerve-wracking to play for almost all of Hopper, but I still enjoyed performing such a fun song.”

After listening to the song by ear, Gang arranged his version of the song himself.

Karp said that his immediate response to seeing the trident unveiled at the ceremony was relief.

“To see it really there, forever … it was so much pressure off and instant gratification,” Karp wrote. “The next feeling was just real raw animal instinct: ‘Look how shiny it is!’ I had never seen anything gleam like that.”

The trident is available to view during mealtimes in the Hopper dining hall.

LUCY HODGMAN
Lucy Hodgman covers Student Life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in English.