spacer spacer spacer
yalealumnimagazine.com   about the Yale Alumni Magazine   classified & display advertising   back issues 1992-present   our blogs   The Yale Classifieds   yam@yale.edu   support us


The Yale Alumni Magazine is owned and operated by Yale Alumni Publications, Inc., a nonprofit corporation independent of Yale University.

The content of the magazine and its website is the responsibility of the editors and does not necessarily reflect the views of Yale or its officers.


Comment on this article

“What Was Missing”
Q&A with Vera Wells ’71

Vera Wells was raised by her mother, a beautician, in Pittsburgh, where she was one of a few black students at the then highly regarded public Peabody High. She graduated second in her class and attended Howard University before transferring to Yale. She has worked in international development and as an NBC executive and has received the Yale Medal for service to the university.

Y: Why did you choose to come to Yale?

W: At Howard I got married while I was still an undergraduate, and I left school in 1968 when my husband took a position as a lawyer with New Haven Legal Assistance. My mother was very disappointed with me, since I was the first person in our family to attend college.


“My husband literally stood over me and insisted that I apply.”

That fall, Yale announced it would accept women. My husband literally stood over me and insisted that I apply. I was very pragmatic about it: this is a great opportunity to finish my education. I thought it was a long shot: what do I have to lose?

It was my mother’s aim in life that I get an education. The only occupation I thought of for women at that time was being a public-school teacher, or maybe a librarian.

Y: What was it like to be a black woman at Yale?

W: I was accustomed to being the only black person in the room. In high school, I would walk into class, and the teacher would look dead into my face and say, 'Are you sure you’re in the right place?' As a consequence, I always sit front and center.

At Yale, the guys tripped over themselves to accommodate women: 'What is the female opinion on this? Are you comfortable with this?' But I realized what was missing was that I didn’t see any black women who were professors. So, even though I didn’t consider myself an activist, another student and I proposed a college seminar on black women. We worked with Elting Morison, master of TD [Timothy Dwight College], and we got approval for the course and had to find an appropriate teacher. They recruited Sylvia Ardyn Boone from Hunter College. [Boone later became the first African American woman tenured at Yale.] It was the only time that I saw a lot of black women. She taught two sections, and the classes were oversubscribed. It was right at the beginning of Afro-American Studies.

Yale opened up a whole new framework of possibilities for what I might be able to do with my life.  the end






“On the Advisability and Feasibility of Women at Yale”


©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