YAA Assembly and Alumni Fund Convocation
November 16-17, 2023

written November 26, 2023

The 2023 YAA Assembly and Alumni Fund Convocation was a splendid and enthusiastic event, bringing together Representatives of Yale College Classes and the Yale Alumni Fund with Representatives from the Yale professional schools, current undergraduate classes, and the Secretaries of Yale College Classes. The registration desk and headquarters was stationed in the Omni Hotel, with an efficient and energetic staff, where several breakout-sessions were held. With its many more attendees and available vents, this was no “bare-bones,” post-Covid Assembly.

Each attendee selected events and tours from a menu: for me there was a tour of the Schwarzman Center, with its refurbished Dome and beneath it the President’s Room. Outside the northern wall of Commons, another wall has been constructed with several small rooms in between. Underneath Commons is The Underground, a popular cafeteria with areas for study; together with Commons an enormous number of meals is served daily.

A delicious Yale Alumni Fund lunch was held in the large, elegant dining room of the Divinity School. Joan O’Neill, the Vice-President for Alumni Affairs and Development spoke about the importance of the current For Humanity Campaign, the goal of which is $1.2 billion. She reported $800 million has already been received, which is 67% and that 10% of the total raised has come via gifts to the Alumni Fund. Later, there were two interesting Faculty Panel Discussions. At the first, Cultural Developments in Teaching and Learning, the panelists discussed the social, political, and economic factors that affect student, family, and teacher experiences in schools today. At the next panel, Design Agency and Urbanization Models: A Discussion of Architecture & Climate Change, Professor Joyce Hsiang, a founding partner of Plan B Architecture & Urbanism, discussed how her research and design work applies architectural methods and cartographic analysis to explore new relationships between humans and the earth and examines the agency of design at the planetary scale.

In the evening, there was a lavish reception in The Underground before the gala Yale Medal Dinner and Ceremony in Commons when Yale Medals were presented to five recipients for their extraordinary devotion to Yale’s ideals and their demonstrated support through extensive, exemplary service to the University.

Timothy Collins ’82 MBA
Andrea DaRif ’72, ’74 MFA
Edward A. Hirs III ’79, ’79 MA, ’81 MBA
John W. Jackson ’67
David R. Sanchez ’84 MA, ’84 MPhiL

On Friday morning, there were three Plenary Sessions in Sprague Hall. President Peter Salovey ’86 PhD gave a university update, reporting that Yale had increased contributions in lieu of taxes to the City of New Haven, that 22% of the current first year undergraduate class were the first from their respective families to go to college, that the number of students on Pell Grants had increased, that 85% of the last year’s graduating college class left debt free. He spoke of his pride for the Schwarzman Center and the Humanities Quadrangle and of the plans already under way to create modern facilities on lower Hillhouse Avenue for engineering and science. Regarding the trouble in the Middle-East, he reported there were demonstrations on the campus in which strong positions were voiced in support of both sides of the conflict, but there had been no violence. Though freedom of speech is essential for education and for the civilization, hateful, disrespectful tirades would not be tolerated. Finally, he looked forward to receiving the report from the committee, chaired by Professor David Blight, Sterling Professor of History, author of Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom, investigating Yale’s role with slavery; he acknowledged Connecticut Hall was built by slaves.

The second session was the Yale University Deans in Conversation. The panelists were Jeffrey Brock ’92, Engineering; James Bundy ’95 MFA, Drama; and Megan Ranney MD, Public Health. The Moderator was Renee Kopkowski, Vice President of Communications. While each had many interesting and important things to say, the most impressive was Brock’s commitment to restore the glory of the Sheffield Scientific School that was established, in the mid 19th century by Benjamin Silliman, America’s first important scientist and was the premier scientific school in America, which was supported by the eminent scientist Josiah Willard Gibbs. Its reputation suffered in the 20th century.

The panelists for third session, Yale University Trustees in Conversation were Fred Krupp ’75, and Maurie McInnis ’90 MA, ’96 PhD, with Weili Cheng ’77 as Moderator. Krupp described his study of climate changes and his efforts to deal with them since he graduated and announced the creation of a Vice Provost of Climate Changes. There was also discussion of the law suit brought before the Supreme Court against the Harvard and the University of North Carolina admission policies, in which Yale had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the two universities. The Count ruled against Harvard and UNC. Yale is now seeking legal advice to comply with the ruling and yet maintain a diversified student body. They also reported that a committee had been created to search for a successor to President Salovey, who is resigning in March 2024, and would be happy to receive recommendations.

After luncheon in the Omni Hotel Ballroom, there were two Volunteer Development Sessions. The panelists of the first, Managing Alumni Groups on a Shoestring: Leveraging Technology and Social Media, were Rachel Littman ’91 and Kevin Winston BA, who discussed proactive methods of utilizing free and low-cost technology and social media to grow and manage membership in alumni clubs or groups. Some brought their mobile or laptop to try out these tools in real time. In the second session, Engaging Alumni Across Generational Divides, Y. J. Kim ’80, Lauren Harris ’14, Jennifer Ebisemiju Madar ’88, and Thomas Opladen ’66 offered informative and interactive suggestions for cross-generational alumni activities.

The final event was the presenting of Alumni Volunteer Awards to several individuals for their outstanding contributions to Yale and to their respective clubs.

When the Assembly-Convocation ended its success was evident in the pervasive euphoria of nearly everyone who attended, demonstrated in their heightened appreciation of the outstanding education provided to them by their Alma Mater and in their resolve to do what they could to preserve and enhance that opportunity for future generations.

On Saturday morning, the Alumni Village was open at the Yale Bowl at 10 AM. The kickoff for The Game, Yale versus Harvard, took place at noon in beautiful weather before crowd of 50,000. The Bulldogs prevailed in a close fought game to win the Ivy Championship. It tipped off a thrilling assembly with an exciting game.

November 26, 2023
Submitted by William H. H. Rees
YAA Representative, Yale College Class of 1956