Staff member Annette Tracey reflects on working at Yale, living in New Haven, and engaging with the community

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Annette Tracey, pictured at her home in New Haven, is one of more than 1000 Yale staff and faculty participants in the Yale Homebuyer Program. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Annette Tracey came to New Haven from Jamaica in the early 1980s. She started working at Yale University in 1983 and has been the well-known and much-respected desk attendant in the Berkeley College Dining Hall for many years. In 2008, her long-service recognition citation celebrated “her energy and joie de vivre [which] lead colleagues to describe her as ‘poetry in motion.’”

Tracey is also a committed citizen and active volunteer in New Haven. The International Festival of Arts and Ideas recently honored her for her service as a community volunteer for every one of the festival’s 21 seasons since 1995.

“Annette Tracey’s dedication, seemingly unending festival knowledge, and contagious personality have made her one of the festival’s most valued partners. Annette is, as far as the festival is concerned, a living legend,” according to A.J. Hawks, the festival’s volunteer coordinator.

Tracey is one of more than 1,000 Yale staff and faculty who have purchased homes in New Haven with financial assistance from the university through the Yale Homebuyer Program, the largest and most generous employer-assisted homeownership program offered by any institution of higher education in the nation. She bought her own home in July 2005 in the Dixwell neighborhood near downtown and the main campus.

Diners in Berkeley College look forward to the different “word of the day” Tracey offers each day. Asked to give a word of the day for herself, she said it would be “achievement,” emphasizing that being a homeowner in New Haven is, for her, “my greatest achievement.”

YaleNews sat down with Tracey recently to discuss living in New Haven and working at Yale. 

What motivates you to be involved in the community?

I have a passion for people – I’m a people person. I feel like I’m doing something, giving back to the city.

What do you like about being involved in the International Festival

Tracey is described as a “living legend” by organizers of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, where she has volunteered for 21 years. (Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal)

It’s an asset for the city, its people, and children. I like meeting people from different parts of the country and even the world.

How do you like living close to campus?

That’s a great incentive. It’s a big plus being so close, 10 minutes away walking, with all the things close by, the Yale police substation, New Haven Reads, Scantlebury Park. The park is nice for children and even adults to relax. It’s great living close to the Yale Health center.

The homebuyer program was a great opportunity for me.

What are some things you like about working at Yale?

I love the interaction with students. I treat them like they are my own. I always adore meeting students from all different countries  That’s what I look forward each day: to the students. The workers of Berkeley College try to make it a homey place for the students. The food in Berkeley is really good.

You have lived in the Homes at Monterey in the Dixwell neighborhood for more than a decade. What is your neighborhood like?

There are different people from different backgrounds. I’m from Jamaica, proud to be an American. There are people of many nationalities and cultures — it’s a variety, it’s diverse.

We all get to know each other. They’re like my family. We help each other out. I have a green thumb from the Caribbean, so I try and help out with the gardens the best I can. As the saying goes, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

People on Frances Hunter Drive want to be homeowners and try and take care of their houses as best as they can. You can see it.

How do you describe New Haven to family back in Jamaica?

I use the words “new heaven.” It’s quiet, not like a hectic city. Its calmer, more relaxing. It’s a family-oriented culture. I feel like I’m at home.

Editor’s note: The major contributions Yale makes to a strong New Haven include the $8.2 million Yale voluntary payment to city government, funding for the New Haven Promise scholarship, and the Yale Homebuyer Program.

Amidst such signature contributions, there are also scores of connections Yale people, programs, schools, and departments sustain with New Haven neighbors. These efforts are essential elements in the renaissance of “town-gown” relations in recent decades.

YaleNews will be showcasing more of these stories of Yale and New Haven and would welcome reader suggestions for people and programs to profile in the coming months. You can contact us via email at

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