This week we will celebrate a wonderful milestone for Yale: the dedication of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges. Like so many in our community, near and far, I am excited about what these two new residential colleges will mean for Yale’s future. I am thinking, too, about how this important moment fits within Yale’s rich history.
Yale has grown for many good reasons over the years. The first major change took place 300 years ago when the trustees of the Collegiate School, as Yale was then known, decided to move the institution from its original home in Saybrook. In 1717, the timbers of the school’s first building in this city were raised on the New Haven Green. Then, on October 8, 1917, the first cornerstone of Memorial Quadrangle was laid. This magnificent Gothic structure—today part of Branford and Saybrook colleges—housed over 600 undergraduates when it opened.
Perhaps the best parallel to our current moment is Yale’s expansion during the era of coeducation. Beginning in 1969, when the first women were admitted to Yale College, the enrollment of undergraduates increased by several hundred. Coeducation forever changed Yale, improving the undergraduate experience and enriching the entire university.
Just as the last expansion opened the doors of Yale College to women, we are now expanding access for students of many backgrounds. With the addition of two new residential colleges, Yale will be able to welcome an additional 200 students in each class, increasing our undergraduate student body by 15 percent in four years.
Franklin and Murray colleges are reshaping Yale’s campus forever. But they also promise to change lives and communities far beyond New Haven. Well into the future, we will see the profound influence of this expansion as Yale College students serve and lead in every sector of society.
Consider our alumni and their remarkable achievements. Five Yale graduates have served as U.S. presidents, four as U.S. secretaries of state; and eighteen as justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Yalies also lead in business, science, media, and the arts.
It is exciting to imagine the future leaders living in Franklin and Murray colleges today. Is there a future Angela Bassett ’80, M.F.A. ’83, or Anderson Cooper ’89 eating lunch in their college dining halls today? Are civic leaders like Kurt Schmoke ’71 or George Pataki ’67 at work in the library? Perhaps they are sitting with a future business leader like Maureen Chiquet ’85, or a future Nobel Prize-winning scientist like Professor James Rothman ’71.
When we dedicate Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges on Friday, we will celebrate both our accomplished alumni and the future leaders who will live, learn, and study in these wonderful buildings. Most of all, we will look forward to the superb contributions Yale graduates will make in their communities and in the world.