In Remembrance of Worth David
Worth David, Dean of Admissions for Two Decades
Worth David ‘56, dean of Undergraduate Admissions from 1972-1992 and a central figure in the Yale administration for two decades, died at Yale New Haven Hospital on June 1 of heart failure. He was 87.
David came into office soon after the tumultuous 1965-1969 tenure of Inslee (Inky) Clark ’57 who had been asked by President Brewster to bring to Yale a more diverse cohort: students with strong academic credentials from a greater range of schools and a wider range of family income. David devoted himself to this mission, including expanding the admissions process to admit more underrepresented minority applicants – and he managed to appease alumni who were unsettled at the changes with measure and tact.
He brought the office into the modern age, restructuring and hiring new and younger staff, reaching out to a wide range of constituencies, and making the transition to a different admissions process less dramatic so he could accomplish change with less challenge. He had been a wrestler at Yale, looked as an outsider might imagine a Yalie of that era would look, and came across as a fine example of the traditional Yale graduate, even as he worked to broaden that category. It helped that he stayed in the background, never insisting publicly on his agenda, but working it quietly.
“Worth was a leader of great independence, integrity, and quiet charisma,” said Margit Dahl ‘75, the current director of Admissions who worked for David starting in the seventies. “He was one of the best admissions officers I have ever known. As a former high-school principal he knew young people. He had an almost uncanny way of assessing who a student was in reading a file. He was a leader who commanded the respect of the staff because he was always the best admissions officer in the room.”
Charles Long, former deputy provost, added that the faculty, pleased by his vision and by their students, had great confidence in him. He remembered David’s poise and skill at presenting the goals and outcomes of the process to sometimes skeptical alumni. ”He was smooth,” Long said, “and won critics over in spite of themselves.”
More staff members added their remembrances. Christopher Murphy, who began as an admissions officer in the early seventies and remains a reader today, was one of several who remembered that David had an institutional memory second to none. “He knew every student who was admitted and could remember and talk about them years later.” Keith Light, another current admissions staff member who has worked for a number of Ivy League schools, mentioned the respect in which David was held by admissions officers around the nation. Penelope Laurans, today a senior advisor at the University, added that in the admissions community of the day he was often regarded as the “dean of deans.”
Worth David graduated from Yale College in 1956, received an M.S. in Mathematics from Wesleyan University in 1965 and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from Harvard in 1968. He was a teacher and Director of Studies at Suffield Academy for a decade and a highly regarded Principal of Clayton High School, a public school in Missouri, from 1968-1972, before he was appointed Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale. He served as Master of Branford College from 1991-1996, where he took pleasure in overseeing students he had admitted. He and his wife Nina Glickson ’73, who worked in several capacities at the university, including two decades as assistant to President Levin, along with their young daughter Sarah ’10, filled Branford with their knowledge, understanding, and love of Yale. Besides his wife and daughter, David leaves five children from an earlier marriage, and seven grandchildren. There will be a funeral on Monday, June 7, at noon, with a wake beforehand from 10:00-noon at the North Haven Funeral Home, 36 Washington Avenue, with burial following in Grove Street Cemetery.
Yale Alumni Association
June 4, 2021