Yale University

Class News

Don Edwards '64 reports on the 2017 AYA Assembly

Don Edwards is the representative of the Class of 1964 to the AYA (Association of Yale Alumni), and as such he attends the annual AYA Assembly. Here is his report on the AYA Assembly on November 16-17, 2017.

November 16-17, 2017

Report to the Class of 1964

Don Edwards '64, AYA Representative

The 77th meeting of the AYA Assembly opened in a much different environment from last year’s gathering, which took place two days after the 2016 election. The visible reactions to that earth-shaking event were gone, and campus life seemed to have returned to some semblance of normal. The consequences of the election, however, were on the minds of the delegates as the Republican Congress was considering taxing Yale’s endowment income and graduate student tuition waivers.

This year’s event was a joint meeting of Assembly delegates and Alumni Fund Board members, so Kai Lassen '64 joined me in representing our Class.

President Salovey welcomed all of us, and his opening remarks on Thursday focused on the Assembly theme “Creating Communities at Yale.” While he has worked to create a more unified Yale, given the size and complexity of the University, it is more realistic to think of the institution as a collection of communities. Salovey underscored the role of the residential colleges, the “signature strength of Yale College,” and pointed to the successful opening of the two new additions, Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray. He went on to describe how new building projects are designed to foster other communities — new residences for graduate and professional students, new buildings on Science Hill, and the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale.

Salovey’s remarks served as an introduction to a panel of four deans, moderated by Kimberly Goff-Crews, Secretary and Vice President for Student Life, which addressed the theme of “Maintaining Communities within a Community.” 

  • Goff-Crews spoke about Yale’s commitment to student mental health as part of the “Yale Well” initiative.

  • Sten Vermund, Dean of the School of Public Health, emphasized the ways in which his school connects with other Yale units: medicine and nursing, of course, but also forestry and environmental studies, engineering, divinity, and architecture. YSPH is also engaged in the larger community; all 350 students do internships in public health agencies. And the school seeks to impact policy in the global health community.

  • Lynn Cooley, the new Dean of the Graduate School, spoke about the challenge of maintaining community among the 2,800 PhD students spread across 60 degree programs and three campuses: Main, Medicine, and West. The school will be aided by the relocation of the McDougal Student Center to the former School of Management building on Prospect and the opening of grad student housing on Elm, over the new L. L. Bean store.

  • The new Dean of Yale College, Marvin Chun, expressed his commitment to the residential college system, which he says Yale does “better than any of our peer institutions.” He also said his highest priority is reducing the proportion of juniors (28%) and seniors (40%) who choose to live off campus.

  • Dean Robert Blocker began by noting the scope of Yale’s musical life; over 35% of all students participate in music; half the residential colleges and the Medical School support orchestras. The School of Music itself has 200 students, 40% of whom are international. The presidents of Julliard, the New England Conservatory, and the University of Richmond are Music alumni. The School is a model of community outreach, offering more the 300 public performances a year.

A second panel addressed the topic of “Creating New Communities at Yale.” The moderator, Charles Bailyn, contrasted his experience as the inaugural Dean of Yale-NUS in Singapore with his new role as Head of Benjamin Franklin College.  Other members of the panel included:

  • Karsten Heeger, Director of Wright Laboratory

  • Ann Kuhlman, Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars (11% in Yale College, 30% to 40% in the graduate school, and 40% in the School of Music)

  • Andrew McLaughlin, Executive Director of Tsai CITY, which will provide training and support for student entrepreneurship

  • Maria Trumpler, Director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources, which now has new space in the same building as the graduate student center. 

Delegates then fanned out for lunch in the residential colleges. The afternoon offered two sessions of electives. I chose “Rules of Engagement: Student Service in the New Haven Community,” led by Peter Crumlish, Executive Director of Dwight Hall, and “Yale’s Spiritual Communities: Nurturing Light and Truth,” led by University Chaplain Sharon Kugler. Both were examples of how religion and community service remain important at Yale even as they have evolved in significant ways. Day One closed with the Yale Medal Dinner in the Lanman Center at Payne Whitney, where we joined Terry Holcombe '64 and Chris Getman '64, both previous medalists.

I began the second day with a session for Class delegates while Kai attended the meeting of the Alumni Fund Board. President Salovey’s address on "University Priorities and Academic Investments" is covered thoroughly and well by Yale News.

Full of anticipation of a victory over Harvard the next day, Salovey began with a shout-out to retiring Athletic Director Tom Beckett and listed the numerous national championships Yale has won during his tenure. Sports Illustrated ranks Yale ninth among "Best Schools for Sports Lovers." Salovey noted the many ways in which new academic and residential facilities are enhancing connectivity among the disciplines. “I am incredibly optimistic about the world-changing research that comes out of this place, as well as the education of leaders for all sectors of society that Yale will continue to deliver,” Salovey said. “We are poised to be the university that does this better and more impressively than any other.”

At lunch, the Yale-Jefferson Public Service Awards were presented, as were the Alumni Fund Chairman’s Awards.

The afternoon plenary session was largely devoted to the Alumni Diversity & Inclusion Task Force Report, and I attended their workshop in Harkness Hall. The Task Force Report represents a great deal of work by a very dedicated group of volunteers with support, I am proud to say, from my daughter Jenny Chavira, the AYA’s Deputy Executive Director. It provides a road map for the future of alumni relations at Yale.

I have to admit that I cheered Yale’s victory over Harvard the next day from the comfort of my TV room. But it was no less pleasing a finale to the alumni gathering. I’m grateful to the Class Council for asking me to serve as a delegate to the Assembly.