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One reader suggests naming a college to commemorate Yale’s role in the Amistad Affair (1839–1841), in which the captives aboard the slave ship Amistad mutinied and were held for trial in New Haven. Yale students and professors befriended the captives, and divinity professor Josiah Willard Gibbs famously went to the wharves of New York to find a sailor who could speak their language. Our reader suggests that the name might serve as balance to Calhoun College, which is named for an ardent defender of slavery.
Rufie Blake College
Alice Rufie Jordan Blake 1886LLB, got into the Yale Law School on a technicality: she applied using only her initials. The school then tightened its rules to expressly bar women; as a result, she remained the only woman graduate of the Law School until 1920. Writing to suggest Blake and her fellow pioneer Josephine Miles Lewis (see below), Liza Grandia ’95 says, “The courage and valor these women showed in getting degrees from an unwelcoming bastion of patriarchy are surely worth honoring.”
Jane Matilda Bolin College
The first African American woman admitted to the Yale Law School, Jane Bolin ’31LLB (1908–2007) went on to be a family court judge in New York for 40 years. She was the first black woman judge in the United States.
Edward Bouchet College
As a corrective to the ten colleges named for white men (eight of them slaveholders), why not name one for the first African American to earn a BA at Yale? Edward Bouchet ’74, ’76PhD (1852–1918), was also the first African American to earn a PhD anywhere.
Brewster and Coffin College
A twofer, like Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College. A name honoring William Sloane Coffin Jr. ’49 (1924–2006) and Kingman Brewster Jr. ’41 (1919–1988) would celebrate the sea change in Yale’s character over which the two controversial men presided. As a side benefit, it would keep this magazine’s Letters editor supplied for years to come.
honoring two modern Yale presidents, Kingman Brewster Jr. ’41 and A. Bartlett Giamatti ’60, ’64PhD. Brewster, who served from 1963 to 1977, has been discussed before (see Brewster and Coffin College). But Smith is the first person to put forward the name of Giamatti, who was president of Yale from 1978 to 1986. A medievalist and baseball fan, Giamatti was president of the National League and briefly commissioner of Major League Baseball before he died of a heart attack in 1989 at age 51.
Norman and Polly Buck College
Norman S. Buck ’13, ’22PhD (1892–1964), was a professor of economics at Yale and a provost of the university, but he was best known to many undergraduates as the master of Branford College from 1942 to 1959. His wife, Polly Stone Buck (1901–2003), served alongside him in Branford and later wrote a memoir about those years titled The Master’s Wife. “I know of no one more devoted to Yale,” writes Richard Hiers ’54 of Mrs. Buck.
Alistair Cooke College
As Yale increases its international presence, why not reach beyond our shores for someone to honor? A reader suggests Alistair Cooke, the English journalist who spent his life reporting on America. Known best to millions of Americans as the longtime host of Masterpiece Theater, Cooke was one of the first Clare Fellows (now called Paul Mellon Fellows)—Cambridge graduates who came to Yale to study in an exchange founded by Paul Mellon ’29.
Harvey Cushing College
his fellow physician Harvey Cushing ’95 (1869–1939), “a graduate of Yale College who went on to essentially found neurosurgery in America.” Cushing spent the last years of his career at Yale and gave his collection of books to the medical school, which named its library in his honor. (He also gave the school a collection of dozens of brains in jars of formaldehyde. They are still awaiting display.)
William DeVane College
William Clyde DeVane ’20 (1898–1965) was the longest-serving dean of Yale College, from 1938 to 1963. Time once called him the “dean of deans,” and Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54, ’61PhD, has said that “if there is one person responsible for the shape of the Yale curriculum today, with lots of seminars and more emphasis on creative education, it’s DeVane.”
Emily Dickinson College
What does the poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) have to do with Yale? Well, her father, Edward, was a graduate of the Class of 1823. That’s good enough for reader Lawrence N. DiCostanzo ’67. “She was not a judge, investor, or doctor,” writes DiCostanzo. “But poets are much more rare. Besides, her voice is still with us.”
Theophilus Eaton College
Theophilus Eaton (1590–1658) was the cofounder, with John Davenport, of the New Haven Colony. A prosperous businessman, Eaton was the colony’s first governor; he more or less ran the secular side of things while Davenport attended to the colonist’s souls. (He was also Elihu Yale’s step-grandfather.)
Murray Gell-Mann College
Can a college be named after a living person? If so, Michael Humphreys suggests Murray Gell-Mann ’48 (b. 1929), the noted physicist who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1969 for his work on elementary particles. Gell-Mann was a child prodigy who entered Yale at 15 and had a PhD from MIT by the time he was 22.
Josiah Willard Gibbs College
Perhaps the most influential scientist ever to graduate from Yale, Josiah Willard Gibbs ’58, ’63PhD (1839–1903), spent nearly his entire career at the university, where he authored major laws of thermodynamics. “He’s been called by historians the greatest American scientist,” writes Robert H. O’Connor ’45W–’48. Guy Butterworth ’61 suggests that the name could also honor Gibbs’s father, also named Josiah Willard Gibbs (1790–1861), a professor of theology and sacred literature at Yale who assisted the Amistad captives (see Amistad College) during their captivity in New Haven.
Roberto Goizueta College
Cuban-born Roberto Goizueta ’53BE (1931–1997) ran the Coca-Cola Company for 16 years, generating staggering shareholder returns and increasing the brand’s global dominance. Reader Eugenio de Hostos ’83 thinks he’s a good candidate, but would Yale trustee Indra Nooyi ’80MPPM (CEO of Pepsi) sign off?
Annie Goodrich College
Annie Warburton Goodrich (1866–1954) is known at Yale as the founding dean of the School of Nursing, which she led from 1923 to 1934. Before that, she served as organizing dean of the Army School of Nursing in World War I. She is in the hall of fame of the American Nursing Association, which called her “a crusader and diplomat among nurses.”
Hanna Holborn Gray College
Hanna Holborn Gray’s time at Yale was short but historic: while a history professor at the University of Chicago, she became one of the first two women on the Yale Corporation in 1971. Three years later, while serving as dean of arts and sciences at Northwestern, she was named Yale’s provost—the first woman in that office. And in 1977, when President Kingman Brewster stepped down, she served as acting president for 14 months—the only woman ever in Yale’s top spot. She left to become president of the University of Chicago, where she served from 1978 to 1993. Gray (b. 1930) is now chairman of the board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She has received numerous honors, including an honorary doctorate from Yale in 1978.
Nathan Hale College
Yale’s fondness for Nathan Hale (1755–1776) makes one wonder why his name was passed up when the earlier colleges were built. Kent Chen ’92 makes a case for the Revolutionary spy from the Class of 1773: “It is time to elevate Mr. Hale from a mere statue in Old Campus and give him the recognition he richly deserves.”
Anne Coffin Hanson College
Anne Coffin Hanson (1921–2004) was the first woman to be hired as a full professor at Yale. Joining the Yale faculty in 1970, she was appointed chairman—the title she preferred—of the art history department in 1974, making her the first woman to head a department at Yale. She was named as the John Hay Whitney Professor in the History of Art in 1978. Professor Hanson was acting director of the Yale University Art Gallery from 1985 to 1987. She retired in 1992, returning in 1995 as acting curator of European and contemporary art. Professor Hanson was a mentor to scores of art history students, particularly women, guiding them into influential positions in museums and universities throughout the country.
Heart and Soul College
an alternative to people as namesakes, arguing that “the new naming opportunity provides a great way to offset the negative image of a famous Yale name often associated with secrecy, spying, exclusion, and pre-emptive control: namely, Skull and Bones.” To that end, he suggests that “The new colleges might offer a different image of a Yale locus, as represented by the essential ‘parts’ of human beings. One would be Heart and Soul College, with an emblem of a young man supporting others through Compassion and Learning. The other, Brains and Muscle College, whose emblem would be a young woman, leading others toward Light, Truth, and Justice.”
During his 13 years on the faculty of the Yale School of Music, German composer Paul Hindemith (1895–1963) helped put Yale on the map as a center for composition and theory as well as performance.
Grace Hopper College
Grace Hopper (1906–1992), who earned her doctorate in math and physics from Yale in 1934, was a rear admiral in the Navy and a computer pioneer. She famously traced a problem in an early Navy computer to a trapped moth, which she mounted in a log book with the notation “first actual case of a bug being found.” So the college intramural nickname (go Bugs!) is ready-made.
Dr. Dorothy M. Horstmann (1911–2001), an epidemiologist, virologist, and polio pioneer, was the first woman appointed as a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Horstmann made significant scientific, educational and public health contributions, and her major scientific achievement was showing that the polio virus reached the brain by way of the blood, a finding that upset dogma and helped make polio vaccines possible. In 1961 she received her professorship at Yale and in 1969 she became the first woman to receive an endowed chair there. It was in epidemiology and pediatrics and named for her mentor, Dr. John R. Paul. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Charles Ives College
Composer Charles Ives ’98 (1874–1954) combined traditional American music with twentieth-century dissonance and atonality—all while running an insurance company. Ethan Hill ’80 writes that a college named for Ives would honor “his contribution to twentieth-century music and Yale’s commitment to the fine arts.”
Levi Jackson College
Levi Jackson ’50, a native of New Haven and football standout at Hillhouse High School, turned down an offer from the New York Giants in order to come to Yale, where he captured national attention as the football team’s first African American football captain. He went on to a career at the Ford Motor Company, where he helped the company reform its minority hiring practices after the 1967 Detroit riots. The alumnus who suggested Jackson’s name notes that he “represented the university in an exemplary way.”
Josephine Miles Lewis College
A painter, Josephine Miles Lewis ’91BFA (1865–1959) was the first recipient of the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Yale. The School of Fine Arts, open to women from its founding in 1869, was Yale’s first coeducational school.
Sinclair Lewis College
Sinclair Lewis ’08 (1885–1951), the first American—and the only Yale alumnus—to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis, who shined a harsh light on Middle America in books such as Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith, might stand for what Lewis Lapham ’56 has called Yale’s “spirit of remonstrance and dissent.”
Sidney Lovett College
Known as “Uncle Sid,” the Reverend Sidney Lovett ’13 (1890–1979) was chaplain of the university from 1932–1958. Far from the William Sloane Coffin model of the activist chaplain, Lovett took a more pastoral role, Richard Hiers ’54, who nominated Lovett, says he was “a warm and charming friend to all.”
Katharine Lustman-Findling College
Katharine “Kitty” Lustman-Findling (1919–2007) was the first woman to assume the mastership of a Yale residential college. Lustman-Findling was an early childhood educator who taught at the Yale Child Study Center and later directed its nursery school. In 1970, Lustman-Findling, a group of Yale undergraduates, and others founded the Calvin Hill Day Care Center. The center’s kindergarten was named in her honor in 1983. In 1971, following the death of her husband, Dr. Seymour Lustman, she was asked to assume the mastership of Davenport College (her husband had been appointed master shortly before his death). Lustman-Findling served in that role for two years, during which time she helped guide and mentor the first class of women undergraduates at the university. She also served on many committees regarding minorities and diversity at Yale.
Lux College and Veritas College
“Human namesakes always fall short, leading to controversy and confusion. By contrast, Light and Truth are the ideal aims of the university. These two principles could also be chosen as the basis for the architecture of the colleges, with timeless aesthetics of illumination and openness. And the colleges would be immediately desirable dwellings for undergraduates; by definition, they would be de Lux.”
Saunders Mac Lane College
You may never have heard of Saunders Mac Lane ’30 (1909–2005), but if you had a degree in mathematical finance like Michael Humphreys ’83, you’d know that he was “one of the greatest theoretical mathematicians and leaders in mathematics education of the twentieth century.” Mac Lane, who spent most of his career at the University of Chicago, was a cofounder of what is called category theory.
Barbara McClintock College
Barbara McClintock (1902–1992), the Nobel Prize–winning plant geneticist, went to Cornell and spent most of her career at Cold Spring Harbor. But reader Eugenio de Hostos ’83 believes her honorary Yale doctorate (from 1983) and the fact that she was born in Hartford are enough to put her in the running.
Lafayette Mendel College
Lafayette Benedict Mendel ’91 (1872–1935) was a Sterling Professor of Chemistry who discovered vitamins A and B during his Yale career. He was also one of the first Jews on the Yale faculty. The suggestion comes from Richard Lafayette Herrmann ’65, a relative of Mendel’s who (with his brother Robert Friend Herrmann ’68) donated Mendel’s papers to Sterling Library.
Pauli Murray College
Pauli Murray ’65JSD (1910–1985), one of the founders of the National Organization for Women. Murray had a remarkable career as a lawyer, professor, poet, and, late in life, the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. In addition to her earned doctorate from the Law School, Yale awarded her an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1979.
“How about just ‘New College?’ It worked for Oxford. Then again, it was ‘new’ in 1379.”
Uriah Parmelee College
the name of Uriah Nelson Parmelee, Class of 1863. In his commencement talks in Stiles, Schwartz often reflects on the names in the war memorial in Woolsey Hall, and in one of those talks he had this to say about Parmelee:
Gifford Pinchot College
Suggesting that scientists are underrepresented among the current college namesakes, Edward Gaffney ’64 nominates Gifford Pinchot ’89 (1865–1946), the influential conservationist who was the first chief of the US Forest Service and the founder of Yale’s environment school.
Cole Porter College
Is there another Yale graduate who contributed more joy and fun to the world than Cole Porter ’13 (1891–1964), the composer of “Night and Day,” “Let’s Do It,” and (of course) “Bulldog?” It would surely be Yale’s most delightful, delicious, and de-lovely college.
Sally Provence College
Sally Provence (1916–1993) was an inspiring teacher, mentor, and clinician who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of children. She was also a mentor to Hillary Clinton ’73JD, who participated in her seminar while a student at the Law School. Dr. Provence, professor in the Child Study Center and the pediatrics department at Yale, was director of the center’s child development unit for 35 years. She retired in 1986. A pioneer in child development, both as a teacher and researcher, she documented young children’s suffering and recovery from deprivation and trauma. A founder and past president of the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs, she received many honors, including the C. Anderson Aldrich Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Catherine Roraback (1920–2007), the only woman in Yale Law School Class of 1948, was an influential civil rights attorney. She pressed the Connecticut case that eventually led the United States Supreme Court to rule that laws banning the use of contraceptives were unconstitutional, a precursor to its Roe v. Wade decision on abortions. In the early 1960s, Roraback represented Estelle Griswold, then the executive director of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut, and Dr. Charles Buxton, the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine, as their case rose through the state courts. Roraback was the lead lawyer in several other controversial cases in her 50–year career, including the 1971 trial of the Black Panther leader Bobby Seale in the killing of another party member.
Letty Mandeville Russell
Feminist theologian Letty Mandeville Russell (1929–2007), who served on the Yale Divinity School faculty from 1974 to 2001, was a leader in the ecumenical movement. In an introduction to a festschrift published in Russell’s honor in 1999, fellow Divinity School theologians Margaret Farley and Serene Jones called Russell’s influence on contemporary theology “monumental” and wrote of her “uncanny ability to articulate a vision of the church that is radical in its feminist-liberationist critique but that nonetheless remains anchored in the historic traditions and communities of the Christian church.”
Joseph Sheffield College
Joseph Earl Sheffield (1793–1882) came to New Haven having already made his fortune in the cotton trade. He bought a building and established an endowment for what became the Sheffield Scientific School, Yale’s science and engineering division from 1861 to 1956. Writes William Davison Glover ’50E: “The departments and schools of science and engineering at Yale would be honored and elevated in both the university community and the general public mind” by a Sheffield College.
Benjamin Spock College
Before his Baby and Child Care became the owner’s manual for the parents of the Baby Boom, and before he became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, Benjamin Spock ’25 (1903–1998) was a star Yale athlete, rowing on the Eli crew that won a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics. Eugenio de Hostos ’83, who suggested Spock, also points out that he was a native of New Haven.
Amos Alonzo Stagg College
As football season approached, we heard independently from two readers who suggested Amos Alonzo Stagg, Class of 1888. Stagg (1862–1965), who played football and baseball at Yale and was named to the first–ever All–America team, went on to be a legendary football coach at the University of Chicago. (Yes, they were once a powerhouse.) Writes Michael Lazare ’53: “Why not, therefore, name one of the colleges after … a man who in his century–plus on this earth inspired generations of young men.” Before he died at the age of 102, Richard Hiers ’54 reminds us, Stagg was for many years the college’s oldest living alumnus.
Gertrude Stein College
One of the twentieth century’s most influential women in the fields of literature and art, Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) had little connection to Yale before she left her papers (and those of her partner Alice B. Toklas) to the university. The Stein and Toklas papers are now an important holding of the Beinecke Library. Noting the dearth of women suggested by readers, Harold Levine ’78 nominated Stein.
chief investment officer David Swensen ’80PhD is college–worthy. Under Swensen’s management, the university’s portfolio has grown from $1.3 billion to $18 billion since 1985. Wesley sees Swensen—who might have been a billionaire if he had used his talents in private business—as “the embodiment of dedication to Yale.”
William Howard Taft College
We hesitate to bring up any of the four recent US presidents to graduate from Yale, but history has had time to judge William Howard Taft ’78 (1857–1930). He was the only person to be both president of the United States and chief justice of the Supreme Court, and he taught at Yale Law School between those two gigs.
Roosevelt Thompson College
of “a brilliant and extraordinarily caring and inspirational graduate”: Roosevelt Thompson ’84 (1962–1984), a Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas who died in a car accident in the spring of his senior year. Though his life was short, Thompson seemed to make an impression on everyone he met, including Bill Clinton ’73JD, for whom Thompson worked as a gubernatorial intern. A branch library in Little Rock was named for him in 2004.
Wendy Wasserstein ’76MFA (1950–2006) was a noted playwright and a winner of the Tony and Pulitzer prizes. Upon her death, the artistic director of Lincoln Center Theatre remarked, “She was known for being a popular, funny playwright, but she was also a woman and a writer of deep conviction and political activism. In Wendy’s plays women saw themselves portrayed in a way they hadn’t been onstage before—wittily, intelligently, and seriously at the same time. We take that for granted now, but it was not the case 25 years ago. She was a real pioneer.” Her best-known plays include The Heidi Chronicles and Uncommon Women and Others.
Noah Webster College
It’s surprising the campus has done so little to commemorate Noah Webster ’78 (1758–1843), Yale’s most ubiquitous man of letters. Without Webster’s Americanized English, we’d still be sending people to gaol; surely he’s worthy of the honour.
Yung Wing College
that a college be named for the first Chinese student to graduate from Yale—or any American university. Yung Wing ’54 (1828–1912) went on to organize the Chinese Educational Mission, which brought 120 Chinese students to America in the 1870s and sparked Yale’s long history of engagement with China.
Mary Clabaugh Wright College
Mary Clabaugh Wright (1917–1970), professor of history, was the first tenured woman arts and sciences faculty member at Yale. Wright served as director of the Chinese Studies program and considered a leader among American sinologists who studied the Nationalist Revolution. In her obituary, her colleague Sterling Professor of History Jonathan Spence ’65PhD wrote that she “helped convince Western historians that Chinese history should be taken as seriously as the more familiar Western historiographical fields.”
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