For the past two weekends, Marta and I have visited with Yale alumni back on campus for reunions. Over 6,800 people—alumni and their families and other guests—returned to Yale this year. Some of them have been back faithfully for their class reunions every five years; some of them have been able to visit campus more often since their graduations; still others have not been on campus for a while. But all seemed delighted and amazed at the physical changes to Yale and to the City of New Haven since their student days.
Just as with Commencement, it takes many Yale hands to welcome alumni back to campus. More than 1,000 alumni volunteers, faculty, staff, and students created programs, erected more than 82,000 square feet of tenting, and served over 35,000 meals. During reunions, our alumni heard from some of our outstanding faculty members on topics ranging from climate change to Jane Austen. I very much appreciate everyone who rolled out the red carpet for our alumni!
Reunion lectures and educational programs are some of the most important aspects of reunion weekend—our graduates are able to reconnect not only with classmates but also to the excellence of a Yale education. The Association of Yale Alumni plans over 250 events for each reunion weekend—meals, tours, class panels, memorials, informal get-togethers, and more—but for me, the opportunity to hear from our faculty is perhaps the best way for alumni to connect to the Yale of today.
And it’s important for alumni to connect to the Yale of today; our 170,000 living alumni around the world are Yale’s best ambassadors. Through their leadership and involvement in their own communities, they demonstrate one of the central tenets of a Yale education: to be of service. Yale strives to inspire the minds that inspire the world, but inspiration does not end on Commencement day. Indeed, as this year’s Class Day speaker, Secretary of State John Kerry ’66, pointed out, when one graduates from Yale, one is admitted to the “rights and responsibilities” of a Yale degree—not the “rights and privileges” that are granted to graduates of other universities.
I am also truly delighted to report one exceptional update from the two weekends of reunions: we have now raised sufficient funds to move forward with the process of building the two new residential colleges, and we now can “bid out” the construction project. If we receive satisfactory proposals, we can begin construction this winter. I must thank all of the alumni and parents who have helped make this project possible. Of course, there are still opportunities available to contribute to the first expansion of Yale College in over forty years, with many naming opportunities associated with the new colleges remaining. It will be exciting to see the vision for these colleges gradually come to life over the next few years, and we will be sure to keep you posted.