A Home for the Humanities

Peter Salovey, President of Yale University
October 27, 2022
Humanities Quadrangle Dedication

Thank you, Katie, for that generous introduction and your exceptional leadership as dean of humanities for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

And thank you all for joining us on this very special day for Yale.

What a joy it is to honor this building and its extraordinary renovation.

For decades this structure was known as the Hall of Graduate Studies.

It housed apartments for doctoral students, a few Humanities doctoral programs, and administrative headquarters for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

For a while, too, the provost’s office was here.

Thousands of Yale doctoral students have walked their printed dissertations by hand to an office in this building, thereby completing their journey to a doctorate degree.

Today, this building gathers fifteen humanities departments into a single hub for scholarship and learning.

More than bridging these departments, the building will enable students and scholars to go beyond traditional academic boundaries for the benefit of humanity.

Indeed, HQ represents, in a physical way, our longstanding commitment to cross-disciplinary connection.

Its transformation, led by Boston-based Ann Beha Architects, increased the size of the original building by about 13,000 square feet, all underground.

It now includes 311 offices, 28 classrooms, and 24 shared meeting spaces, as well as lounge areas, study spaces, and kitchenettes.

Each floor, once divided into dead-end sections, can now be traveled from one end to the next without retracing one’s steps, creating an easier—and, for the first time, handicap-accessible—flow between rooms.

In short, everything about this building has been improved to serve the mission of the humanities that it houses.

So, what is that mission?

I am struck as I travel the country on behalf of Yale that I find many people are quite lost right now.

They are concerned about the health of the world and worried about whether their children’s lives will be safer and more prosperous than their own.

Time and again I find that what comforts people in these moments of despair is understanding—from books that explain hard histories, articles that interpret a particular political issue, or a poem that captures the feeling of the moment.

The humanities teach skills of communication and interpretation that are necessary for understanding.

In the classrooms of HQ, students and faculty will work through hard texts methodically, they will debate whether a particular view is sound, and they will name all possible perspectives.

They will learn languages and work to comprehend how human beings have solved problems in the past, and, in so doing, they will be inspired to find solutions for today and the future.

I am thinking of one such undergraduate student, Brian Reyes, who lived in Berkeley College and graduated in 2021.

Brian is a current Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford completing his Master of Philosophy in comparative social policy.

A first-generation college student from New York and the son of Dominican immigrants, Brian studied history, served as a staff member at La Casa Cultural, and as co-president of the Dominican Students Association during his undergraduate career at Yale.

He plans to take his humanities education out into the world to work on policy and legal aspects of economic and social justice—to advance our broader mission of improving the world for this and future generations.

I also think of one of this year’s MacArthur Genius Award winners: Monica Kim, who graduated from Yale in 2000 with a BA in history.

She is now the Chair in U.S. International and Diplomatic History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Celebrated author, renowned scholar, and committed educator, she won the MacArthur award for “uncovering new insights into U.S. foreign policy in the context of global decolonization after World War II.”

Her work helps us to understand the past and present and think of the future in new light.


For over 300 years, Yale has educated and prepared students to serve the world, and its faculty has created knowledge that benefits humanity.

This is an area of historical strength at Yale.

And students and alumni such as Brian and Monica are building on this great tradition of excellence in the humanities to better our shared future.

Of course, there is no future for humanity without the practices of the humanities.

The most difficult things we face as individuals and as citizens require an understanding of history, the diversity of human perspectives, and culture; knowing what facts are; and having the skills to debate opinions.

To fully grasp global challenges, we must explore and understand the human experience in all its complexity.

So, the humanities form one of the core areas for strategic investment at Yale.

For instance, we are augmenting the university’s ability to ask and answer key questions about humanity and to develop new areas in teaching and scholarship.

This academic year, there are around 30 ladder faculty searches at all ranks across the humanities.

These searches build on existing preeminence in English, History, Philosophy, and the modern languages.

And they expand our leadership in African American, Islamic, Persian, and South and Southeast Asian studies.


I am so grateful that the aesthetic grace of Yale’s new humanities hub is matched by the excellence of the teaching, research, and cross-disciplinary collaboration that happens within it.

I am very proud to be president of a university that has made such a signal investment in the humanities.

Let the Humanities Quadrangle, and its tower at the heart of campus, be a symbol of the necessity of humanistic knowledge to the building of a better world—and of the centrality of the humanities here at Yale.

Thank you.