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

At Last, a Home Base for Graduate Students

Graduate students have often lamented that they felt deprived of the “Yale experience” during their New Haven stay. While connected to their academic departments, many have longed for the kind of community that undergraduates and professional students enjoy. The dedication of the new McDougal Graduate Student Center on October 25 represents a significant step toward building such a community.

Carved out of an existing wing of the Hall of Graduate Studies, the McDougal Center includes meeting rooms, offices for student organizations and programs, and other facilities. The heart of the new center is the HGS common room, whose distinctive ceiling and woodwork have been restored. Once considered the “turf” of graduate students who lived in the building, the room has been reprogrammed with a student-run café and new furniture. “It’s a beautiful space to think of as ‘my Yale,’” says Jennifer Marshall '97PhD, who served on a committee that developed the center’s program.

But the McDougal Center is more than just physical space. The gift that created it, from Yale College alumnus Alfred McDougal '53 and his wife Nancy Lauter, provides not only for the renovations but for an endowment that funds ongoing programs and personnel. Director Lisa Brandes '94PhD says her goal for the center is “to provide an ear and a voice” for graduate students.

Among the most important parts of the center is a new Graduate Career Services office. “It’s important for students to have a variety of resources when it comes to careers, especially nonacademic careers,” says Brandes.


Remembering Wilder at 100

Friends and relatives of the late playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder '20 gathered with scholars for a public symposium on September 18 celebrating the centenary of Wilder’s birth. Amid a day-long series of panel discussions and staged readings, participants shared memories of Wilder and debated his influence on contemporary theater and literature.

Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize three times, for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth and for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. He lived in Hamden, Connecticut, for much of his adult life, and maintained ties to Yale until his death in 1975. Among the friends who spoke about his life and work were former Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin Jr. and classics department chairman Heinrich von Staden.

Central to the discussion was the persistent image of Wilder as a sentimentalist, possessing what Arthur Miller called “an insufficient sense of the tragic.” Panelist Liz Diamond, a resident director at the Yale Repertory Theatre, disputed that contention. “Many people do have that view of Wilder, and it is inaccurate,” said Diamond, who staged readings of two Wilder one-act plays as part of the symposium. “Often, our first encounter with Wilder is a bad high school production of Our Town performed for bathos rather than pathos. People come away with the idea he’s sentimental about small-town life, when it’s anything but a sentimental play.”

In an afternoon panel discussion, playwrights John Guare and A. R. Gurney praised Wilder for bringing revolutionary techniques to mainstream theater, citing his efforts to change the relationship between the audience and the stage. “In his works, characters frequently speak directly to the audience and vie for its sympathy,” said Guare. “And the audience is often endowed with knowledge the characters don’t have.” Guare called the symposium “the beginning of a major reassessment of Wilder.”


University Reclaims a Site It Once Lost

In 1972, the University proposed building two residential colleges at the corner of Whitney Avenue and Grove Street, near Timothy Dwight College. But the City of New Haven blocked the plan, insisting that the site should not be removed from the tax rolls. A quarter-century later, the saga has come full-circle: Yale has bought the tax-generating office building that was built on the site instead of the colleges.

New Haven real estate broker Herb Pearce, working with Yale and other partners, developed the site in the early 1980s as Whitney Grove Square, a mixed-use project with townhouses, retail shops, and office space. This spring, the University leased about a third of the building’s 99,000 square feet to provide office space for 103 employees displaced by the demolition of 20 Ashmun Street. The rest of the building is occupied by ten office tenants.

Pearce also sold the seven adjoining retail shops to a partnership led by West Hartford developer Simon Konover, who owns the nearby One Century Tower and the Grove Street Garage.

“It was a bad idea to build residential colleges here,” said New Haven mayor John DeStefano Jr. at the announcement of the sale. “But it’s foolish not to support Yale’s investment in a place like this.” Yale President Richard C. Levin said that the offices not occupied by Yale will remain taxable, although the University hopes to acquire more of the space as it becomes available.


Popular Professor Loses Second Bid For Tenure

When diplomatic historian Diane Kunz '89PhD was nominated for tenure last spring, many students and colleagues considered her a shoo-in. “It appeared that she had done everything right,” says Professor Cynthia Russett, one of Kunz’s supporters in the history department. So after the Tenure Appointments Committee rejected her nomination in April, President Levin and Provost Alison Richard asked the committee to take a second look. But in late October, the committee rejected the nomination again.

Kunz, a former corporate attorney, was named to the history faculty in 1988, a year before completing her PhD. The author of three books on diplomatic history and economics, she helped create Yale’s international studies program along with Larned Professor of History Gaddis Smith.

The repeated rebuff has provoked widespread speculation about the reasons for the action, since the committee’s deliberations are not made public. Some say questions were raised about Kunz’s scholarship, but Smith says there is little reason to question her work. Another complicating factor may have been the history department’s recent appointment of John Lewis Gaddis, a diplomatic historian from Ohio University, to a tenured position in the history department. While Smith says that he and others viewed Kunz and Gaddis as “a fruitful pair of complementary scholars,” some observers have suggested there may have been concern that the scholars' areas would overlap.

Kunz herself says she has no doubt this was the case. She says that Gaddis came to Yale on the condition that his presence would not affect Kunz’s chances for tenure, but that her entire tenure review process has been “a charade from day one. It was all designed to hire John Gaddis and get rid of me.

“The result is that Yale has dumped a qualified Yale woman for an outside white male,” says Kunz, who emphasizes her respect for Gaddis and his work. “What’s happened to me makes a mockery of the University’s commitment to tenuring women.”

The decision comes at a time when Yale’s tenure policy is under attack by student groups, who point out that Yale’s percentage of women among its tenured faculty—11 percent—is less than half the national average.


Impostor Rejects Plea Bargain

A former Yale student who falsified his junior-college transcript and recommendations rejected a plea bargain agreement in early October, setting the stage for a criminal larceny trial next year. The student, Lon Grammer, unexpectedly backed out of a plea arrangement his attorney had already made. The deal called for Grammer to plead guilty, receive a suspended sentence, and pay Yale $100 a month for five years.

“You are rejecting the state’s offer and now it is gone forever,” said Judge Richard Damiani. “If you try to plead again, there will be jail time involved.”

Grammer was within weeks of graduating with the Class of 1995 when a roommate told the University that Grammer had produced a false transcript with an inflated grade point average from Cuesta Community College in California. He was subsequently expelled and arrested. The University gave Grammer $33,000 in financial aid grants, which resulted in the larceny charge.

“Mr. Grammer decided this was not a step he was willing to take,” said his attorney, Norman Pattis, of the plea bargain. “However he got in, it was not larceny.”


Peabody Puts Dinos on I-95

For more than 50 years, visitors to the Peabody Museum have admired Rudolph F. Zallinger’s epic mural The Age of Reptiles. Now, motorists stuck in traffic on New Haven’s infamous Quinnipiac River Bridge can view that same picture of prehistoric life: This fall, the Peabody emblazoned a portion of its dinosaur mural on a heating oil tank near New Haven Harbor.

The original mural, painted between 1943 and 1947, represents over 300 million years of prehistoric plants and animals. The portion of the mural chosen for reproduction on the tank deals with the Jurassic period and features a tyrannosaurus, brontosaurus, and stegosaurus, among others. The image was created by digitizing a transparency of the mural and transferring the image onto 56 panels of thin vinyl sheeting akin to contact paper.

The project was a cooperative venture between the Peabody, Wyatt Energy, Inc., which owns the tank, and the City of New Haven.


Branford Suffers Swing-Napping

For years, a wooden swing hanging from a tree has been part of the picturesque charm of the much-photographed Branford College courtyard. So it was not surprising that intercollege tensions flared early this fall when Branfordites discovered that the swing had been stolen, leaving only a pair of lonely ropes dangling from the tree.

Branford students immediately accused their Saybrook neighbors, citing the recent opening of a previously locked gate that separates the colleges. Branford senior Doug Rubinson blamed “Saybrugians or frat boys, or maybe Saybrugian frat boys,” and noted that during the ten years that the gate had been locked, “zero swings were stolen.”

Branford master Steven Smith, who cautioned the students against finger-pointing, says that while a new swing has been installed, the search for the old one continues. Smith also says he has offered a bounty for anyone who produces information leading to the recovery of the swing. “I told the students I was prepared to cater a dinner for that person and six friends,” says Smith. “So now I have 400 amateur detectives on the case.”


More Fallout from the Bass Affair

For a day or so in early November, it looked as if the long disagreement between a group of Class of 1937 alumni and the University over the $20-million gift of Lee Bass '79 had been resolved. Five class officers sent a letter to Perry Bass '37, Lee Bass’s father, concluding that “Yale is at fault from start to finish” in the matter of the gift for a program in Western civilization that the University returned to Lee Bass in 1995. The letter was read and approved—but not signed—by President Levin. But when news of the letter appeared in the press, the President took pains to distance himself from its interpretation of events.

The letter, which the authors said was intended “to help restore good relations between Yale and Lee and Perry Bass,” quotes Levin as saying that “under the circumstances, Lee’s request for veto power, which resulted in the gift’s return, was completely understandable.”

But when the letter was made public, President Levin told the Yale Daily News that he considered Bass’s veto request “understandable, but not justifiable” and that the letter contained “some interpretations that are distinctly different” from his own.

Levin’s qualifications provoked new criticism from the Class of 1937. “His remarks were quite a disappointment to us,” said corresponding secretary John W. Field. “Now we’re back to square one.” Secretary Rynn Berry said the class council was standing by its call for the release of the findings of the University’s investigation into the Bass affair.


Creating the Tiniest Transistors

The science of miniaturization took a giant step forward recently with the announcement by Mark Reed, a Yale professor of electrical engineering, that he and his colleagues had succeeded in measuring an electric current flowing through a prototype transistor no bigger than a single molecule. This achievement may be the first step in “a revolutionary jump in computer technology,” says Reed, whose research team described the work in the October 10 edition of the journal Science.

Using silicon, scientists have managed to go from “one transistor on a single [computer] chip to tens of millions,” says Reed, an expert in the burgeoning field of nano-technology, which deals with the development of useful devices about three atoms wide (one nanometer, or one billionth of a meter). “Our discovery means we’re now ready to go to billions of transistors on a single chip.”

The researchers are currently attempting to design computer chips whose “wires” are made of self-assembling strings of molecules. The transistors the scientists seek to create would be “like nerve cells whose connections could conceivably be reconfigured as needed,” says Reed. “With them, we might be able to build a generation truly intelligent computers.”  the end


©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