ESSAY

President Salovey’s Letter to Our Class

By Peter Salovey ·

To the Class of 1974,

Every year, I write to alumni, inviting them to visit campus for Yale College Reunions. With the approach of this spring’s festivities and the spirit of reflection they call forth, I am reminded that yours was among the first classes to which I sent such a letter as president — what a privilege it is to now bookend that message! In the intervening years, our university community has made substantial progress toward the set of aspirations I articulated on my appointment. We have at once transformed teaching and research at Yale and created the momentum that will carry our community forward. I am eager to welcome you to campus to reconnect with friends and rediscover a Yale that has become more accessible, more innovative, more unified, and even more excellent.

During your years at Yale, which began just months after May Day, you saw the opening of the Cross-Campus Library (now called Bass Library), renovation of Payne Whitney Gymnasium, and construction of the Yale Center for British Art. There has likewise been a burst of activity over the last decade to revitalize campus infrastructure, including the redesign of 320 York Street as the Humanities Quadrangle and the University Commons as Yale Schwarzman Center; the renovation of Kline Tower, the Yale Peabody Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery; and the creation of two new residential colleges, our first new professional school since 1976, research and innovation spaces at 100 and 101 College Street, the magnificent Yale Science Building, and Evans Hall. In all, Yale has added approximately 2.7 million square feet of new space dedicated to teaching and research, with millions more planned. These new sites — and reimagined treasures — across campus await your visit.

As Yale works to reinvigorate our campus, we are also focused on fostering a diverse and exceptional educational community within it, guided by your example as a class integral to the advent of coeducation. In the past decade, we more than doubled the enrollment of first-generation (first in their families to attend college) and Pell-eligible undergraduates and significantly increased the matriculation of those who are from historically underrepresented groups. There are, for instance, approximately 500 more first-generation students in Yale College today than in 2013, and 86 percent of Yale College students graduate debt-free. This academic year, Yale has forty-two enrolled veterans or active-duty service members, representing a 17 percent increase from the 2022–2023 academic year and a nearly threefold increase since 2018. Over the last few years, Yale has significantly enhanced financial aid for the Eli Whitney Students Program for adult learners. We have also enabled more veterans to take advantage of Yale’s generous need-based financial aid.

To extend the frontier of knowledge and tackle the most critical problems facing humanity, Yale must recruit and retain preeminent faculty members who define their fields. In short, faculty excellence is essential to Yale’s future. Every aspect of Yale’s academic investments—from buildings and facilities to providing resources for research and teaching—supports its faculty. We have recruited and retained exceptional educators and scholars across each of Yale’s priority areas and beyond. And because the quality of our faculty is so critical, we are devoting substantial resources to sustain and expand its excellence across many different disciplines. For example, Provost Scott Strobel and I announced in 2022 landmark investments in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. We are adding forty-five faculty positions to FAS and SEAS. Overall, this brings the target size of the combined FAS and SEAS faculties to more than 750 tenure-track and tenured positions. For context, there were 590 FAS positions twenty years ago.

This growth is reinforced by the success of the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative, which promotes faculty excellence, diversity, and inclusion across campus. Of the ladder faculty who began last academic year, 19 percent are from underrepresented backgrounds—more than double the percentage from 2003. So, in light of these strides, I announced that Yale would renew the program with an $85 million commitment across an additional five years. Other expressions of our support for field-defining faculty — from mentoring and development programs to initiatives that improve faculty life — will reinforce and amplify the university’s iconic strengths to propel Yale for years to come. I think, for instance, of how we are helping to translate faculty research into innovative products and services that benefit society. Since FY 2019, Yale spinouts have raised $2 billion in new venture financing. This year, Yale faculty members have nearly 2,000 active patents around the world. Just in FY 2023, we launched 14 startups and raised $153 million in new venture financing.

One of the university’s most exciting hubs for nurturing this spirit of cross‐disciplinary innovation is Yale Ventures. Launched in 2022 with significant new investment, the initiative combines several existing university groups that promote innovation and entrepreneurship under one umbrella. Yale Ventures is dedicated to supporting faculty members, students, and members of the broader community. It does so by helping these innovators to develop research, direct their intellectual property to industry partners, and attract new investment. Yale is already a leading force for catalyzing economic growth in Connecticut and the United States.

As Yale Ventures accelerates the expansion of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, it is invigorating to think about its boundless promise. During your visit, I encourage you to explore our new innovation corridor. Centered along the southern stretch of Prospect Street and Hillhouse Avenue, the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, Greenberg Teaching Concourse of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY) cultivate creative thinking and entrepreneurial solutions to real-world problems for our students.

As Yale expands in education, research, and scholarship, it is strengthening its partnership with New Haven. In November 2021, I announced a $140+ million pledge to the city. This includes increasing Yale’s voluntary payments — further extending our lead as the university that makes the largest annual contribution to its home city. Specifically, we have increased our voluntary payments to the city by $52 million, for a total contribution of $135 million over six years. We also established a new Center for Inclusive Growth, with an initial investment of $5 million. The center underscores our commitment to bringing the university’s scholarly strengths to bear on developing and implementing strategies for growing the city’s economy to benefit every neighborhood.

Yale today looks very different from your student days — indeed from your last visit — as we forge ahead extending the reach of our scholarship, research, and teaching. Yet Yale remains the same in the most meaningful way: in our commitment to light and truth, lux et veritas, and to educating future leaders and creating knowledge.

I look forward to seeing many of you soon on campus to celebrate your fiftieth reunion, taking pride in your extraordinary accomplishments and enduring legacy. In the meantime, I thank you for supporting Yale’s progress over the last decade. As some of our most loyal and generous alumni, you have inspired me daily to advance our mission of improving the world today and for future generations.

With my warmest wishes,

Peter Salovey

Peter Salovey
President
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

April 15, 2024