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SOM Students Offering a Stake in the City

Even at a time when “globalization” is an inescapable buzz-word, finding money to start a business almost always means looking close to home. “Venture capital is very much a local phenomenon,” says Cebra Graves, a second-year student at the School of Management. “Most VCs are within driving distance of their investments, because they are active participants in the companies.” With that in mind, Graves and some 40 fellow students have started a venture capital fund associated with the School called Sachem Ventures to fund New Haven-area startups.

The new firm, which is not part of a course at the School, will make small ($75,000 to $125,000) investments in local businesses that meet with the approval of the student analysts and the fund’s investment committee. The students will also advise the companies on writing business plans and securing additional funding. “There are three motivating factors” for the fund, says Graves. “Most important is the rate of return for our investors, and that trumps the other two. Next is to help provide jobs and opportunities for New Haven and for Yale graduates to stay in New Haven. And third is to provide educational opportunities for the students who are involved.”

The $1.5 million in capital that is held by the fund came primarily from three sources: Zilkha Venture Partners, a New York investment fund; the New Haven Savings Bank; and the University, which invested $300,000. The first investment, made late last year, was a $100,000 stake in Higher One, a financial-services company started by a group of recent alumni who also founded the Yale Entrepreneurial Society.

Professor David Cromwell, who teaches classes in venture capital and entrepreneurship at the School, is acting as an adviser to the fund. Cromwell says one likely lesson for the students will be that failures are more common among startups than successes. “I’m sure we’re going to lose all of our money in about four out of ten deals,” says Cromwell, “but if we hit just one we’ll be in good shape.”


Of Computers and the Canvas

David Gelernter has no intention of giving up his day job, but a recent exhibition at the Slifka Center for Jewish Life of 21 recent paintings demonstrated that the computer science professor could probably make a living as an artist. The subjects, as disparate as the Old Testament’s David, a DC-3 transport plane, portraits of Edgar Degas and Joseph Cornell, grapes, and a mezzuzah (the small boxes on the doorposts of Jewish homes), are strikingly rendered in traditional and non-traditional media such as acrylics, watercolor, pastels, liquid iron, gold, and screen wire.

It is remarkable enough that a scientist can be so skilled an artist. In Gelernter’s case, it is all the more noteworthy that he can paint at all. On June 24, 1993, Gelernter opened a package that contained a mail bomb sent by Theodore J. Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber. Gelernter, like most other victims, was targeted because of his expertise in technology.

The 1993 near-fatal attack destroyed the scientist’s right hand, but after a lengthy rehabilitation, he became adept enough with his left hand to write and draw again. The experience is recounted in his 1996 memoir, Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber, but it is not immediately visible in his art. Ironically enough, what does come through is a frustration with technology itself, exemplified in the exasperation of the computer user in the painting Man and Computer.

Gelernter, who is also a prominent art critic, has long railed against bad design and clumsy products, and he explains that an artistic turn of mind can be a great asset in computer science. “Good software is elegant and beautiful,” says Gelernter. “The best guide is not an engineering impulse but an esthetic sensibility.”


Longer Nursing May Block Cancer

Most new mothers in Western countries breast-feed their infants, but within a year, the vast majority of these women have ceased nursing. According to a new Yale study, however, continuing the age-old practice for a considerably longer time than is usual may carry a health benefit for mothers: a 50 percent reduction in their risk of developing breast cancer.

In a paper published in the December issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, Tongzhang Zheng, an associate professor at the School of Epidemiology and Public Health, and his colleagues at Yale, McGill University in Canada, and in China, compared 404 women in a rural part of China who had breast cancer with a similar number who were cancer-free. Zheng (who has also investigated the potential role of chemicals such as PCBs and DDT, as well as electric blankets, in causing a dreaded illness that statisticians estimate will develop in one out of every nine women) chose to work in China because “it is socially acceptable there to breast-feed for a long time.”

The main difference between the two groups, says Zheng, was the amount of time the women spent nursing: The protective effect was found only among mothers who breastfed for more than 24 months per child.

A variety of factors in Western society, among them differences in work schedules and sexual mores, mitigate against long-term nursing. The average duration in the U.S. is about 14 weeks, says the Yale epidemiologist, which is far too short for the anticancer effect to become obvious.

Researchers do not know how breastfeeding might offer protection, but “our studies in China are clear,” says Zheng. “The longer duration of lactation—whether it is based on breastfeeding of a first child, or breastfeeding over a lifetime—leads to a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer.”


Another Take On Intelligence

The opening of the Yale Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (PACE) on February 19 gives a team of researchers a home base from which to test nationwide a controversial idea about learning and teaching. The PACE Center, located at 340 Edwards Street, is the brainchild of Robert Sternberg ’72, the IBM Professor of Psychology and Education and the creator of the theory of “successful intelligence,” the notion that being smart requires more than well-honed memory skills.

Sternberg, the Center’s director, is an outspoken opponent of such traditional educational practices as IQ tests and rote learning, maintaining that they promote a “narrow and fatalistic” view of intelligence. Instead, the psychologist believes that being smart involves developing skills and competencies in three key areas: analytical, creative, and practical.

In earlier research, Sternberg has shown that while students differ in their strengths in each area, “their analytical, creative, and practical abilities are modifiable. The core belief of successful intelligence is that anyone can get smarter,” he says.

Buoyed by $7 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and other organizations, the Center is undertaking more than a dozen projects that range from the design of tests for the College Board to the development of a middle-school curriculum aimed at nurturing wisdom, which Sternberg defines as “successful intelligence applied for the common good.”

“We’re trying to change how schools work so that they can capitalize on the strengths of their students and ultimately transform education and society,” notes Sternberg, adding that he has personal experience with the flaws of the traditional system. In an introductory course in psychology at Yale that took a rote learning approach to the subject, the researcher got a C. He almost decided to pursue another field.


Media Buzz Over Putative Porn

The story drew the attention of news outlets ranging from the New York Times to the India News Network. But it’s not the kind of publicity the Tercentennial Office had in mind. The media seized on a Yale Daily News story in January claiming that a group of undergraduates were making a pornographic film in the stacks of Sterling Memorial Library.

The supposed film is the work of Porn ’n’ Chicken, a group of mostly male undergraduates who gather to watch adult movies, eat takeout chicken, and drink beer. The group’s officers, who communicate with the media only by e-mail using such pseudonyms as “Canadian Bacon” and “Baby Gristle,” say the film is to be titled The StaXXX and will be screened on campus when it is completed this spring. (Yale administrators have not taken any action based on the press accounts, although the University is known to be restrictive about allowing filming on campus.) The principals describe their endeavor in language tailor-made to suit media impressions of Yalies: “Through our viewing of the pornographic canon.we found that most depictions lacked the complexity and aesthetic beauty of the sensual experience as well as the intellectual aspects of seduction,” the producers wrote in one e-mail.

One could be forgiven for suspecting that the film is a hoax, especially given Porn ’n’ Chicken’s dubious account of its own origins. A representative told the Yale Herald that the group was being funded by bitter graduate students “engaging in technological, intellectual, financial, and reputational terrorism against Yale.”

Hoax or not, though, the group has captured media attention and may yet cash in on the story. Publishers and movie studios have reportedly contacted the group about acquiring the rights to tell the story of the film’s making.


Jewish Chaplaincy Now Endowed

The University has in recent years seen a proliferation of endowed positions for professors, deans, masters, and coaches. Now, attorney and arbitrator Howard Holtzmann ’42, ’47JD, has established the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplaincy at Yale. Rabbi James Ponet ’68, who has served as Yale’s Jewish chaplain since 1981, will fill the position, which he says is the first endowed and named chair for a Jewish chaplain at any American university.

Holtzmann, who previously endowed a chair in international law at the Law School and fellowship programs in international dispute resolution and Judaic studies, is an attorney in New York who has spent much of his career in the arbitration of international disputes. (He served for 13 years on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague.)

Holtzmann, who says that in his time there was “no organized Jewish life at Yale” save for a part-time graduate-student chaplain, stresses the chaplain’s importance both in ministering to the Jewish community and in representing that community in the University’s ceremonial life. “At the Jewish Theological Seminary,” he says, “they say they award degrees as ’rabbi, preacher, and teacher.’ I see the chaplain as filling all those roles.”

For Ponet, the gift is an important symbol of the permanence and prominence of the Jewish presence at Yale. “More and more, the chaplaincy on college campuses is losing its sense of uniqueness and meaning,” says Ponet. “Social workers instead of religious leaders are coming in to fill the role. By endowing the position and giving it the dignity of a chair, Judge Holtzmann is endorsing the importance of a religious figure on campus.”


Church Is New Student Nightspot

You might not think Yale students were in need of more a cappella singing or thick Gothic atmosphere, but one of the more surprising student trends of the year is the success of Christ Church’s weekly compline service, which regularly draws more than 100 students on Sunday nights at ten o’clock. Since the Episcopal church, located on Broadway across from the Yale Bookstore, added the service last September, compline—a service that marks the end of the day—has become its biggest service of the week.

The Rev. Chip Gilman, Christ Church’s rector, says he wanted to find a way to reach the Yale community that surrounds the church. Noting the popularity of a compline service in Seattle that attracts hundreds of young people every week, Gilman and organist Robert Lehman decided to try it in New Haven. The service is sung in Elizabethan English and Latin entirely by a choir that is hidden in an alcove. No clergy are present at the front of the darkened church, only candles and incense. Students and other worshippers remain silent as they arrive and throughout the half-hour service.

Gilman says it has attracted people from many different religions—or no religion—who are drawn by the opportunity for meditation. “There’s no proselytizing,” says Gilman. “There is a sense of mystery, quiet, and contemplation, and people can participate however they want.”


An Alder on the Younger Side

Last November, Benjamin Healey voted for the first time. This November, he most likely will be on the ballot. Healey, a freshman from Washington, D.C., has won the endorsement of the Democratic Ward 1 Committee as a candidate for New Haven’s Board of Aldermen. In a contentious seven-hour meeting, the committee chose Healey over Lex Paulson ’02 and Michael Montano ’03.

The overwhelming majority of voters in Ward 1 are Yale students (the district includes eight residential colleges and the Old Campus), and the ward’s aldermanic seat traditionally is held by a Yale student or recent graduate. The incumbent, Julio González ’99, announced last fall that he would not seek another term.

Healey emphasized labor issues, the city’s empowerment zones, and zoning law as his foremost concerns. Since Democrats enjoy a nearly insurmountable advantage in the ward, Healey’s election in November is virtually assured unless another Democratic candidate forces a primary election by gathering the signatures of five percent of the ward’s voters.


For Law Professor, Moonlighting Pays

If you see Law School professor Stephen Carter at Mory’s, you might ask him to pick up your tab. The cultural critic just signed a contract for two novels with the Knopf Publishing Group for $4 million, a record advance for a first-time novelist.

Carter’s seven previous books (including Civility, The Culture of Disbelief, and Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby) have been nonfiction works focused on race, values, and faith. His 900-page novel, called The Emperor of Ocean Park, follows an African American law professor as he investigates the death of his father, a conservative federal judge.

Think it sounds like a good movie? Warner Brothers agrees, reportedly having paid Carter more than $1 million for the film rights to the book, which will be published next year. But Carter says he’s not going Hollywood, even if his book is. “I love teaching law,” he says. “That’s what I do.”


Gymnastics Raises the Bar

Yale’s gymnastics program is no stranger to Ivy League success, having won the conference title 12 times in 25 years of women’s competition. (The last four are unofficial: Official Ivy title competition ended in 1990, since only four Ivy schools field a varsity team.) But you wouldn’t have known it in 1997, when recruiting woes made for a small team and injuries depleted it still further, leaving only four women standing when it came time for the Ivy tournament.

But four years later, the team has 16 members—plenty of depth to deal with the injuries that are inevitable in the sport—and in February the team regained the Ivy title for the first time since 1996. At the league tournament at the John J. Lee Amphitheater, the gymnasts topped Yale’s team scoring record for the third time this year in beating out its nearest competitor, archrival Penn.

The team got its start when women undergraduates first started wandering up to the eighth floor of Payne Whitney Gymnasium in the early 1970s. Barbara Tonry, who has coached the team since it became a women’s sport in 1973, recalls that her husband, Donald, who was then the men’s gymnastics coach, was hospitable to the neophyte women. “There were not a lot of welcome places for the first women at Yale,” she recalls.

The Tonrys taught the budding gymnasts cartwheels and other basics and soon began competing against other inexperienced teams. From there, Tonry has built one of Yale’s most consistently successful varsity teams.

This year, the team returned all but one member from last year, including strong performers Shoshanna Engel ’03 (who ended her season with a knee injury just before the Ivy meet) and Amanda Wolf ’03, who placed third individually at the NCAA Northeast Regional Tournament last year. While Wolf may repeat at this year’s regionals, the team in early March had its eye on a higher goal: qualifying for regionals as a team. The tournament is dominated by scholarship schools like Penn State and Michigan, and Yale has never had enough regular-season points to qualify. But Tonry says there’s a chance that this could be the year. “We send a couple of individuals every year,” says Tonry, “but it would be nice to have the team up there.”  the end




©Yale Alumni Magazine

From the Collections

Late last month, the Art Gallery opened its
reconfigured American wing, which features the Gallery’s extensive holdings in American painting and decorative arts. Among the pieces on display is this late-18th-century desk and bookcase from the Mabel Brady Garvan collection.




Campus Clips

Applications to Yale college hit a record high this year: 14,500 students applied for admission to the Class of 2005, a 12.5 percent increase over last year. The College admitted 526 early-decision applicants in December; regular-decision applicants were to receive word at the beginning of this month.

President Levin and leaders from eight other universities vowed at a meeting at MIT in January to promote gender equality among their science and engineering faculties. The administrators signed a document that listed three goals: faculty diversity, equity for and full participation by women faculty, and accommodation of “family responsibilities.”

Yale’s two biology majors may evolve back into one. Just five years after the biology department—and its undergraduate major—was divided into ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology (MCDB), the two departments want to offer a single undergraduate major with requirements in both areas of study.

New York university has agreed to collective bargaining with its teaching assistants, choosing not to appeal a National Labor Relations Board that affirmed the TAs’ right to organize. The university and the United Auto Workers, which is the graduate students’ parent union, reached an agreement in March that leaves “academic issues” off the bargaining table.

Radio station WYBC has moved off campus after 55 years in Hendrie Hall, taking a suite of offices on Temple Street across from the Omni Hotel. The University is planning to renovate Hendrie for the exclusive use of the School of Music, and said it could find no space for the radio station, whose status as an undergraduate organization has frequently been questioned because of its joint operating agreement with Cox Broadcasting.




©Yale Alumni Magazine


Building the Law School took four years; renovating it took seven. But with the reopening of the School’s dining hall in January, that $90 million project is now complete.




Sports Shorts

The men’s hockey team won the Ivy League and ended the regular season in the middle of the ECAC with a 10–10–1 conference record and 14–14–1 overall. Senior Jeff Hamilton became Yale’s all-time scoring leader, with 165 regular-season goals.

An Ivy title seemed within reach for the women’s fencing team, but they finished second after losing a squeaker to Princeton at the H-Y-P match February 24–25. Freshman saberist Sada Jacobson finished the regular season undefeated and won the saber event at the Junior Olympics in Salt Lake City on February 19.

For six days in February, the men’s basketball team sat at the top of the Ivy League after a 66–58 home win over Harvard on February 17. But the team lost four of its last five games, finishing in fourth place with a 7–7 Ivy record and 10–17 overall.

Yale finished third at the national championship tournament in men’s squash, held at the Brady Squash Center February 23–25. After losing to Trinity in the semifinals, the team beat Princeton for the first time in two years to take third place. Harvard placed second.





April 22
A Celebration of Culture, Creeds & Creativity

An interfaith service and concert at Battell Chapel will feature singers and choirs from the University and the community.

May 4–5
All-Asia Tercentennial Celebration

If you’re in the neighborhood, the Yale Club of Hong Kong is playing host for a Tercentennial symposium for Asian alumni and friends.

May 10
Yale-China Centennial

Another anniversary will be marked in Changsha, China, where Yale-China operates a school, hospital and medical college.

For information on Tercentennial events, call (203) 432-0300 or go to yale.edu/Tercentennial


©1992–2012, Yale Alumni Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Yale Alumni Magazine, P.O. Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905, USA. yam@yale.edu