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From the Editor

James C. Pine '26, who was the oldest living alumnus of Baltimore’s Gilman Country Day School before he died this year at 101, might also have been Yale’s oldest living alumnus. It’s hard to tell. If Alumni Services enters into its database the parameters for a birthdate of 105 or more years ago, the database will return 150 names, most of them without contact information. (Let’s assume that these are outdated records, rather than that Yale alumni are statistically immortal.) To find the oldest living Yale alum, Alumni Services recommends searching for people with a class year of 1921, for instance, which is the earliest date when the data start becoming dependable. But even that search returns a list of nine people with no contact information and one who, on further investigation, turns out to have died 16 years ago.

Demographically, James C. Pine seems to have fit the profile of the “Yale man,” that classic undergraduate type of the first half of the twentieth century. According to Pine’s obituary, his father had been headmaster of Gilman; James Pine himself became head of its history department and public speaking program and was a deacon of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church. Granted, the Yale man was a construct of more than demography. A New Haven native once wrote to the Yale Alumni Magazine that decades ago one could recognize a Yale man on the street by his distinguished clothing. The ensemble has long since deteriorated to t-shirts and cargo shorts.


The Yale alumni of old, even the undergraduates, weren’t always who we think they were.

The ten 1921 alumni exhibit a different demographic and a fuller picture of Yale. Four are women and three have East Asian names. Half attended the Graduate School, two the Law School, and the remaining three studied at the schools of music, art, and forestry. Similar patterns turn up for other years of the period. All those varied names are a corrective reminder that the Yale alumni of old, even the undergraduates, weren’t always who we think they were. The late Alfred Cossidente '27, who started writing witty and poignant class notes for this magazine when he was 99, memorably described life in Yale College on scholarship: “I never lived on campus. I would ride my bicycle to Yale every day, carrying the lunch my mother packed for me. I never bought a meal in the dining room at Yale.”

This issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine has much food for thought about who Yale alumni were and are. We bring you the Grove Street Cemetery, where lie Eli Whitney, Class of 1792; Kingman Brewster '41; and Sylvia Ardyn Boone '79PhD, the first African American woman to win tenure at Yale. We bring you the debates about whether an ex-spokesman for the Taliban should ever become a Yalie. We bring you the distinguished young men of the World War I era—Prescott Bush '17 and his set, “Yale men” in every way—who were, apparently, grave robbers. We also have the diploma of the first Yale graduate. As it turns out, he never even enrolled.

The demographics of Yale alumni are changing fast. There are now 36 alumni with the last name of Phelps and 583 with the last name of Kim. And assuming that women’s life expectancy remains longer than men’s for the next several decades, there will probably come a day when the preponderance of the oldest Yale alumni are female. On that day, the iconic “Yale man” of legend may be gone. It’s unlikely he’ll be forgotten.  the end


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