A Center for Retired Faculty Will Open at Yale

Yale University President Richard C. Levin has announced that a new center to serve emeritus faculty as a place to meet and work will open in January 2003.

The Center – to be known as the Henry Koerner Center – has been made possible by a gift from Lisbet Rausing and Joseph Koerner, a 1980 graduate of Yale College, through the Fanny and Leo Koerner Charitable Trust.

The Center will occupy the second and third floors of Pierpont House, at 149 Elm Street, with the Yale Visitor’s Center on the first floor.

“The principal aims of the Center are to provide a focal point for the activities of the emeritus faculty and to integrate them into the life of the University,” said Levin.

He emphasized that the Center would encourage and facilitate their involvement with students and active faculty and would help develop and support a variety of formats for their teaching. Further aims of the new facility are to support emeritus faculty in the continuation of research and scholarly writing and to provide small grants to promote such activity; and to provide help with benefits and with computer problems.

The facilities of the Center will include a 600-square-foot comfortably furnished common room, an adjoining 300-square-foot seminar room for teaching, conferences and discussion, 12 faculty offices equipped with computers and telephones, and two carrels. Faculty offices will be assigned by the Director to those involved in undergraduate teaching and to those participating in the programs of the Center. For those without offices, lockers will be available for storage of books and materials.

“All members of the emeritus faculty will be welcome at the Center, regardless of their degree of participation, and will find the Center a comfortable place to stop by, read the newspaper and meet friends for coffee, tea, sherry and conversation,” said Levin. “I am deeply grateful to Lisbet Rausing and Joseph Koerner for making possible this innovative approach to increasing the involvement of retired faculty in the life of the University.”

Dr. Bernard Lytton, the Donald Guthrie Professor Emeritus of Surgery and former Master of Jonathan Edwards College, is the director of the Center. The Advisory Board of Fellows, appointed by President Levin, includes Harry Adams, the Horace Bushnell Professor Emeritus of Christian Nurture at the Divinity School; Sidney Altman, the Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Development Biology; Marie Borroff, the Sterling Professor Emeritus of English; Howard Lamar, the Sterling Professor Emeritus of History and former President of the University; and John Simon, the Augustus E. Lines Professor of Law. Patricia Dallai, former Executive Assistant to the Council of Masters, is the Center’s Executive Director. All inquiries about the Center should be addressed to her at 203-432-8029 or at patricia.dallai@yale.edu.

The donors of the Center, both formerly members of the Harvard University faculty, are now teaching in London. Lisbet Rausing is senior research associate at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and the author of “Linnaeus: Nature and Nation” (Harvard University Press, 1999), as well as many other essays and articles in the history of science. Joseph Koerner, a professor of the history of art at University College London, is a major scholar of German Renaissance art and the author of many publications and exhibition catalogues, including “Casper David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape,” which was published by Yale Press and Reaktion Books and was the winner of the Jan Mitchell prize for the History of Art 1992.

The Center is named for Joseph Koerner’s father, the painter Henry Koerner. Born in Vienna in 1915 to Jewish parents and trained there as a graphic designer, Henry Koerner immigrated to the United States in 1938 after Hitler came to power. In New York, he won prizes in the National War Poster Competition. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in the Office of Strategic Services in Washington and London. In 1943 he began to paint; in 1945 he was shipped to Germany to draw Nazi war criminals in the Nuremberg Trials. His work was given urgency in 1946 when, returning to Vienna, he learned that his parents (Leo and Fanny Koerner) and brother (Kurt) had died in extermination camps in Belorussia and Poland.

In 1947, Henry Koerner had his first one-person show in Berlin, the first exhibition of an artist in post-war Germany. Dealing directly with the trauma of war and loss, his “magic realist” pictures caused a public sensation in the ruined capital. Returning to the U.S. later that year, he had acclaimed exhibitions in New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. His work was acquired by major museums, including the Whitney, which holds three of his works. In 1953 he settled in Pittsburgh and until his death in 1991 divided his time between there and Vienna. Koerner painted (always from life) over fifty Time Magazine covers between 1955 and 1967, including covers of John. F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Honored posthumously by retrospectives in the Austria National Gallery and the Frick Art Museum in Pittsburgh, he was a massively prolific artist who, distant from mainstream 20th-century art, produced an eccentric corpus unusual for its humor, formal beauty and spiritual purpose. A great portraitist of the experience of survival, Koerner is appropriately honored by the Center.

The Pierpont House, which the Center will occupy, was built in 1767 by John Pierpont, a grandson of the Reverend James Pierpont, who was one of the founders of Yale College. A member of the family occupied the house until 1900, when it was bought by Anson Phelps Stokes, who lived there for twenty years while he was Secretary of the University. He deeded the house to the University in 1920 when he retired, and the house then became the Yale Faculty Club. The Club closed in 1977 and the house was used afterwards as the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and subsequently as the Yale Visitor’s Center.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345