Peter Salovey, President of Yale University
Sunday, September 24, 2017
The Inauguration of Elizabeth H. Bradley as the Eleventh President of Vassar College
I am thrilled to bring greetings from Yale in honor of President Bradley—aware ahead of time that any Yale president who comes to Vassar might be met with some understandable suspicion.
As most of you know, Yale secretly courted Vassar and was near to marrying Vassar, when Vassar, proud of its independent strength and accomplishments, and fiercely protective of its mission, strongly resisted the approach and wisely called the wedding off. Our approach might not be the happiest memory. Thankfully, all agreed later that Vassar made the right call.
Each institution has gone on to flourish, fulfilling its independent mission. Very happily, however, we have remained close friends and allies. We are proud of our possible partner’s intellectual contributions, strength, identity, accomplishment, and self-possession. We are proud of the many Yale connections between faculty and leaders that have continued through the years. We are proud of Cappy Hill, a Yale trustee and alumna, and proud of Betsy, who has been our own since she came to Yale 25 years ago as a doctoral student in health economics.
Vassar is special to Yale. The engagement did not work, but the alliance and mutual regard have endured. We are especially proud that Betsy comes to Vassar from a meteoric Yale career, one that makes us know she will thrive as Vassar’s president and advance this esteemed institution—with brilliant inspiration and wise action.
When I think of her, actually, I am reminded of familiar words from my childhood: “Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”
Yes, that’s Betsy.
At Yale, Betsy managed a stellar career in the School of Public Health, traveled the world through flood and storm, and boldly undertook the leadership of the fabled Yale Grand Strategy program, bringing a new direction to that course of study while preserving its traditions. At the very same time, she was the faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute and led projects related to strengthening health systems around the world, including in China, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, South Africa, and the U.K. She also simultaneously applied for grants, conducted research, and managed a big team while coauthoring her last book on American health care and its cost. And as if all of this were not enough, at the same time, she was the beloved head of Branford College, a position where she set a perfect tone, seemed to be omnipresent, built with John a strong community, and engaged in endless conversations on challenging questions with undergraduates.
Students from Branford College here today—representing all those who are watching on campus—can tell you how much they adore her.
No grass grows under Betsy’s feet. She can juggle ten balls at the same time. She has energy to burn and can walk off a twelve-hour flight into a campus meeting. She attacks problems with a fierce commitment to their solutions. But through it all, her commitment—to her principles, to balancing what should be with what is possible, and to the integrity of the educational process—reigns supreme. And, inclusion, in all ways, is her mantra.
Cheers to her, and cheers to venerable Vassar, as you meet the current complex climate of higher education with a leader who we all—and I, especially—admire and who is perfectly suited for this undertaking.