A message from President Peter Salovey about the $250 million gift for two new residential colleges

Yale President Peter Salovey sent the following letter to Yale students, staff, and alumni on Sept. 30 about the $250 gift from Charles B. Johnson for the construction of two new residential colleges. The gift is the largest in Yale’s history.

I am truly delighted to be able to announce that Charles B. Johnson ’54 has pledged $250 million—the largest gift in Yale’s history—to support the expansion of Yale College through the construction of two new residential colleges.

Since his undergraduate days, Charlie has demonstrated his devotion and generosity to the university in countless ways. These include the growth of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, the establishment of the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy, the renovation of the Yale Bowl, and the creation of Yale’s first all-season outdoor athletics field.

With this singularly generous commitment, we are approaching our fundraising goal for the construction and ongoing maintenance costs of the new colleges. I am committed to raising the remaining funds that will allow us to move forward with this project, which will be fully gift-funded.  I believe Charlie’s leadership will inspire others to come forward with the additional $80 million we must still raise to provide access to the world’s best undergraduate education to more of the world’s best students.

I thought it might be useful to review a bit of the history of the new colleges and to provide some information on how we plan to prepare for the impact of the new colleges on our community. In June 2008, the Yale Corporation voted to proceed with the expansion of Yale College. The Corporation’s vote followed thoughtful advice from two committees comprised of faculty, undergraduates, and administrators. Obviously, the work of the review committees was undertaken before the economic downturn, but most of their insights remain relevant.

Now that Charlie Johnson’s gift has made groundbreaking for the new colleges more likely within the next few years, I have asked Provost Ben Polak and Yale College Dean Mary Miller to co-chair a new committee to review the planning for the new colleges. I have also asked the provost to update the community on the capital projects we are planning in addition to the colleges. Over the next five years, I fully expect to start construction on other important projects that were delayed by the financial downturn, for example, the long-awaited Yale Biology Building. Provost Polak will be communicating soon about these plans.

This is a most exciting time for our institution. Yale College has not expanded since 1969 when women were first admitted. And since that time, the number of applicants has more than quadrupled. Every year, there are far more deserving applicants than we can admit. By growing the size of Yale College by a modest amount (approximately 15 percent more in each class), we will provide more outstanding young women and men with access to our outstanding faculty.

In closing, I hope you will all join me in celebrating Charlie Johnson for this unprecedented commitment to Yale. Charlie’s vision of enabling access to a Yale College education to a greater number of astonishingly talented students tracks perfectly with my hopes for a more accessible and excellent Yale. We all owe Charlie our deepest appreciation and thanks.