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Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke '71 has been named senior fellow of the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing body. Schmoke, who has been a fellow of the Corporation since 1989, will succeed Richard J. Franke '53.
Besides being the first African American to serve as senior fellow, Schmoke is also the first member of the Baby Boom generation named to the post. He was a prominent campus activist during his time at Yale, when he cofounded the Calvin Hill Day Care Center. Schmoke is serving his third term—which he says will be his last—as mayor.
The Corporation also announced the appointment of two new successor trustees in February: Holcombe T. Green Jr. '61 and Barrington D. Parker '65, '69LLB. Green, a resident of Atlanta, is chairman and CEO of West Point Stevens, Inc., and the principal of Green Capital Investors L.P. He has been an active fundraiser for Yale, and he himself gave the money to make possible the renovation of 1156 Chapel Street, which will be the new home of the School of Art. Parker is a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York. He has been active in both College and Law School alumni affairs.
Applications Rise to Record High
This month, 13,167 would-be Yale students will hear from the admissions office on the fate of their applications—the most ever to the College. The number of applications, which was up by 10 percent over last year, breaks the previous record set in 1987.
While the University endured a pair of crises last fall—the slaying of an undergraduate and the arrest of a professor on child molestation and pornography charges—the adverse publicity does not seem to have affected applications. Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw says the increase is a sign of Yale’s increased competitiveness. “The word is out,” he says. “Yale College is a very popular option.” But the numbers may have been boosted by the tendency of high school students to apply to more colleges than in years past; Yale’s peer institutions have also reported dramatic increases.
Those who find the thick acceptance envelopes in their mailboxes this month will have the chance to join 529 students who were chosen from the early decision pool in December.
New Boathouse Set for Launch
After one false start, the Yale crews appear to be on their way to getting a new home on the Housatonic River. Pending approvals, the University will begin construction this summer on the Gilder Boathouse, which will rise on the site of the existing Bob Cook Boathouse in Derby.
The old boathouse, completed in 1924, has long been considered too small, especially since women’s crew was added in the 1970s. A design by Architectural Resources Cambridge, Inc., for a new, larger boathouse was proposed in 1996, but it was dependent on acquiring additional property north of the site. When that failed to happen, the design was scrapped.
Last year, School of Architecture professor Turner Brooks won a competition to design a boathouse using the existing property, a narrow sliver of land between the river and Route 34. Brooks’s design calls for a concrete base with five large boat-storage bays (two more than the existing building) topped by a wood building with locker rooms, offices, and a “viewing room” at the finish line of the race course. “It’s a lightweight wood structure,” says Brooks of the upper portion, “somewhat akin to modern boat construction.”
A central feature of the design is a ceremonial staircase that leads from the building’s entrance down to the water to provide a meeting place and viewing area on race days. Another welcome change is a waterside ramp for unloading shells from trailers so that the boats will no longer have to be carried across the right-of-way.
The new boathouse is named in honor of the Gilder family, whose foundation made a major contribution to the building. Olympic rower Virginia Gilder '79, the daughter of Richard Gilder '54, also helped organize the fundraising effort.
Peabody Examines Feathered Finds
A group of 120-million-year old, feather-bearing fossils discovered in China in 1996 took center stage at an international symposium on the origin and evolution of birds that brought more than 400 paleontologists and ornithologists to New Haven on February 13 and 14. The gathering was coordinated by the Peabody Museum of Natural History to honor John Ostrom, the Yale paleontologist who revived the theory, first proposed in the 19th century by Thomas Henry Huxley, that birds are descended from dinosaurs.
“These fossils are very important because they show that almost all the features we think of as uniquely avian originated in dinosaurs long before true birds appeared on the planet,” says symposium host Jacques Gauthier, a professor of geology and geophysics and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Peabody, which will exhibit some of the China material through early May.
Gauthier, an expert on the evolution of reptiles, notes that one of the fossils is simply a small dinosaur that is clearly covered with down. “Feathers apparently first evolved to hold in body heat,” he says. “These animals certainly couldn’t fly.”
Researchers at the symposium explained that over time larger feathers developed, particularly on the tail and forelimbs of the Chinese creatures. The adornment served an important, albeit secondary, purpose. The reptiles remained flightless, says Gauthier, “but the feathers gave them added maneuverability.”
Eventually, these feathered dinosaurs would be able to take to the air—as birds. “The take-home message is that members of the Audubon Society and the Dinosaur Society are really in the same club,” says Gauthier.
Yale Sued Over Historic House
A Connecticut Superior Court judge heard arguments in January in a lawsuit to prevent the demolition of 85 Trumbull Street, a vacant Yale-owned house also known as Maple Cottage. A group called Friends of Hilhouse Avenue filed the suit against the University, claiming that the house should be spared because it is an early exemplar of the noted “ornamented cottages” designed in the mid-19th-century by the architect Alexander Jackson Davis.
Yale officials argue that the house’s historic value has been lost because of significant alterations since it was built in 1836. That position is shared by the New Haven Preservation Trust, which made an agreement with the University last year whereby Yale would restore four of the historic homes it owns if the Trust would not oppose the demolition of Maple Cottage and the relocation of another nearby house.
“It’s lost virtually everything Davis put into it,” Trust official Robert Grzywacz says of the house. “If you restored it, you would just have a replica of a Davis house. That’s not the best use of limited preservation dollars.” But Jack Gold, vice president of the Friends group, disagrees, arguing that since the building’s original cladding and some original detail remain beneath a stucco façade that was added later, the house “retains a significant degree of architectural integrity.”
A bit of drama was added to the story in November when a visiting scholar working at Sterling Memorial Library discovered that the building had once been the home of Lillie Delveraux Blake, an early feminist and one of several women who founded Barnard College. But the revelation was not enough to sway the Connecticut Historic Commission, which approved the demolition on November 4.
A decision in the lawsuit is expected this month.
Students Simulate Mideast Peace
A group of 70 delegates representing five Middle Eastern nations and the Palestinian Authority hammered out a peace agreement at Yale in mid-February. But the “Yale Accords Peace Conference” was the product not of real diplomats but of college students from around the country gathered for a simulation.
The conference was the brainchild of a group of undergraduates who formed their own organization, the Yale Accords, to plan and implement the affair. As in Model United Nations simulations, delegates were assigned at random to represent the views of each nation. “We wanted to force people to see the issues from viewpoints different from their own,” says simulation director Justin Florence '00. “So for example we had a couple of Orthodox Jews on the team representing the Palestinian Authority.”
But if the delegates were role-playing, the guest speakers were real: The conference was addressed by former Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban, U.S. assistant secretary of state Matrin Indyk, and Jordanian ambassador to the United Nations Hasan Abu Nimah. And when the delegates had completed their task, University of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi gave the accords a realist’s evaluation. “He was very impressed with some of the resolutions and thought they were likely to happen,”says Florence. “But there were others where he said ‘Neither side would agree to this.’”
The conference was dedicated to the memory of Jordan’s King Hussein, who had died the week before. Florence says the group will hold another conference next year. “We don’t know of anything else like this that’s happening anywhere,” says Florence.
Teachers Program Goes National
For more than 20 years, the Yale–New Haven Teachers Institute has given New Haven public school teachers an opportunity to sharpen their skills and develop teaching materials for their classrooms. (See “Teacher Power,” May 1998.) Now, the Institute is providing the same opportunity to teachers in four other American cities. YNHTI recently awarded $1.3 million in grants to launch versions of the institute in Houston, Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, and Santa Ana, California.
The new institutes, like Yale’s, will offer seminars taught by college faculty on subjects that will assist teachers in developing curricula. Faculty members from Chatham College and Carnegie-Mellon University will teach in the Pittsburgh program, Houston’s will draw instructors from the University of Houston, Albuquerque’s from the University of New Mexico, and Santa Ana’s from the University of California at Irvine.
YNHTI chose the four sites from among 14 university-school partnerships that were considered. The funding for the national program was provided by the DeWitt Wallace–Reader’s Digest Fund.
Before Yale Turns 300, Eli Turns 350
While planning for Yale’s Tercentennial celebration in 2001 is in full swing, the Secretary’s Office is making sure another milestone doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. The University is planning a birthday party for its namesake, Elihu Yale, who was born 350 years ago this month.
On April 5 at 12:30 p.m., cake and punch will be served on Beinecke Plaza to mark the anniversary of Yale’s birth. An exhibit on Yale’s life, running through June, will open on the same day.
As most alumni of campus tours know, Elihu Yale was an American-born Englishman who made a fortune with the East India Company. In 1718, he gave the struggling Collegiate School a gift of books and goods worth about 800 pounds, prompting its trustees to rename the institution Yale College. Yale died in 1721.
A Puritan’s Positive Side
Of all the much-maligned “dead white males” for whom Yale has named its residential colleges, the Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) might be the last one modern students would want to spend an evening with. But some 300 people flocked to the University Theater on January 22 for the world premiere of The Flaming Spider, a play about Edwards’s life by New York playwright Austin Flint.
The production, sponsored by Jonathan Edwards College, came about when JE master Gary Haller heard that Flint, who is now an associate fellow of the college, was writing the play. “I was enthusiastic because it produced a picture of Edwards as a human being,” says Haller, “as opposed to the way people perceive him when they read ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,’” the famous sermon in which Edwards spoke of a God who “holds you over the pit of hell much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over a fire.”
But the Edwards that Flint discovered in his research was more complex. “Edwards was a sensual man who loved music, who fought to preserve hymn singing in church, who exhorted his parish to experience nature’s beauties,” the playwright says.
The play, directed by James Andreassi of the Elm Shakespeare Company, traces Edwards’s sensational career: He started a remarkable religious revival from his pulpit in Northampton, Massachusetts, that spread across New England, but soon found himself rejected by his followers and died of smallpox as he embarked on a new career as president of Princeton. “It was the curve of his life, its rise and fall, that got me interested in Jonathan Edwards as a good subject for a play,” says Flint. “In a way, Edwards was a tragic hero.”
Big Bucks For “Best” Eggs
Readers of the Yale Daily News have become accustomed to classified ads that offer four-figure sums to Yale women willing to act as egg donors for infertile couples. But an unnamed couple upped the ante in late February by placing a half-page ad in the newspaper offering $50,000 for a half-dozen or so eggs.
Not just any Yalie will qualify, though. The ad, placed on behalf of the couple by a San Diego attorney, asks for a donor who is “athletic, at least 5'10",” and who has a combined SAT score of 1400 or higher and no “major family medical issues.”
The ad also ran in newspapers at six other top colleges. The couple’s attorney said last month that she had already been contacted by some 200 interested women.
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