Celebrating a historic milestone: Newest residential colleges dedicated

Photo of ribbon cutting
From left: Tina Lu, Marvin Chun, President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D., Marta Moret ’84 M.P.H., Josh Bekenstein ’80, G. Leonard Baker Jr. ’64, Anita Bekenstein, Charles Johnson ’54, Edward P. Bass ’67, Jane Levin ’75 Ph.D., President Emeritus Richard C. Levin ’74 Ph.D., Robert A.M. Stern ’65 M.Arch., and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp ’78 M.E.D. Behind Salovey is Charles Bailyn ’81. (Photo by Tony Fiornini)

On Oct. 6, President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. led members of the Yale community in celebration of a milestone — the dedication of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges.

Over 275 people attended the commemorative event, including President Emeritus Richard C. Levin ’74 Ph.D., current and former members of the Yale Board of Trustees, university leaders, donors to the project, and over 30 members of Pauli Murray’s family. Among the honored guests were the leadership donors who helped make this historic project possible: Ann and Charles Johnson ’54, Edward P. Bass ’67, G. Leonard Baker Jr. ’64, and Anita and Josh Bekenstein ’80.

Prior to the start of the formal dedication, guests toured the new facilities, led by students from the new colleges. Attendees then assembled in the Benjamin Franklin College dining hall for the ceremony, which included remarks from university leaders and community members who spoke about the historic nature of the day and the impact the new colleges will have on the university.

A more accessible Yale

Today we celebrate two magnificent structures, Benjamin Franklin College and Pauli Murray College,” said Salovey. “Their stunning architecture — Gothic yet modern — fits perfectly within our beautiful campus. They link us to Yale’s proud traditions while pointing us to an exciting future. These buildings, as splendid as they are, are only part of the story. … For today we celebrate one of the finest investments in knowledge — and in the future — that has ever been made at Yale.”

Named for Benjamin Franklin 1753 M.A. Hon. and Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray ’65 J.S.D., ’79 Hon. D.Div., the colleges officially opened their doors on Aug. 25 to 293 first-year students. They joined 468 sophomores, juniors, and seniors, who along with heads, deans, and resident fellows, round out the new college community. With the addition of its 13th and 14th colleges, Yale has made room to increase its undergraduate enrollment by roughly 15% over four years, the first expansion of Yale College since the admission of women in 1969.

Within the walls of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges, our students will open their minds to new ideas and embark on new paths. … That is the legacy of these stunning buildings — not merely the beauty they add to our campus, but the untold impact that these students, for generations to come, will have on our world,” Salovey added. 

Celebrating a historic occasion

The day’s celebration culminated a process of planning, fundraising, design, and construction that began in the late 1990s, when university officers and trustees first began to consider building new residential colleges. The Yale Board of Trustees officially approved their creation in June 2008. Following a delay necessitated by the financial crisis, work began on Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges in October 2014 and continued through August 2017. Their addition brings the total number of colleges to 14 and marks the first addition to the residential college system since 1961.

We attract the best students from all over the globe, diverse in ethnicity, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, interests, and talents,” said Marvin Chun, dean of Yale College. “By bringing them together in the residential colleges, we give these citizens and leaders the chance to live and learn from one another.

The residential colleges, especially Benjamin Franklin College and Pauli Murray College that we’re dedicating today, are the glorious and magical spaces where this all happens. And I’m so pleased that more students can now come to this place, share their gifts with their peers, learn from each other, and go out into the world with a sense of fellowship and service and gratitude that they learned from living in these beautiful spaces,” Chun said. 

Charles Bailyn ’81, the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy and the first head of Benjamin Franklin College, echoed Chun’s sentiments, noting that the colleges are places that are “inhabited by star athletes, former and future senators, brilliant performers, dedicated members of the administrative dining and facilities staff, pathbreaking scholars, world-renowned visitors, and many others. Everyone in the Yale community lives in a few close circles, sometimes closed circles, of interests and affinity. And it is here, in the residential colleges, that those circles intersect.”

In his remarks, architect Robert A.M. Stern ’65 M.Arch. illuminated the vision that guided the colleges’ design: “As we designed the new buildings, we climbed on the shoulders of architect James Gamble Rogers B.A. 1889 and landscape designer Beatrix Farrand to show us the way, to inspire our reconciliation of the complicated patterns of modern student life with the demands of an urban campus.”

Following his remarks, a time-lapse video was played that showcased the construction of the two colleges, condensing the three-year timeframe to just over one minute. The ceremony also featured the debut of “Come Summer,” a song written for the occasion by Pauli Murray College student Solon Snider MY ’18. Cellist Paul Lee MY ’18 and vocalist Camille Arboles DC ’20 joined Snider in the performance.

Emulating a proven model

Bass, one of the project’s leadership donors, spoke on behalf of all supporters to the colleges’ construction: “This institution was founded upon a set of fundamental values — four in particular — to which we have remained true in all that we do: dedication to the quest for knowledge (lux et veritas); dedication to teaching; dedication to service, society, and to humankind; and dedication to the pursuit of excellence in every aspect of the process. And I know that Yale undergraduate education, the Yale residential college system, and Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges embody these same values.”

Communities nested within the larger university, Yale’s residential colleges provide students with a deep sense of belonging, even as they bring human scale to a world-class teaching and research enterprise. Tina Lu, professor of East Asian languages and literatures and the first head of Pauli Murray College, said, “With the opening of these two new residential colleges, we have the unique opportunity to start something new, while at the same time being firmly rooted in a tradition that stands at the heart of the Yale College experience.”

After the formal remarks concluded, guests made their way from Benjamin Franklin College dining hall to Prospect Walk for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Flanked by two trumpeters, lead donors Baker and the Bekensteins, Richard Levin and Jane Levin ’75 Ph.D., New Haven Mayor Toni Harp ’78 M.E.D., and Marta Moret ’84 M.P.H., Salovey officially dedicated the colleges, and Johnson and Bass cut the ribbon stretched across Prospect Walk, symbolically opening Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges to members of the Yale community and the future generations who will benefit from these newest campus homes.

Only years from now — when we see what the graduates of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges have accomplished as scientists, inventors, artists, and leaders — only then will we be able to take the measure of what they have added to the sum of human achievement and happiness,” said Salovey. “I am confident that the results will be extraordinary.”

Campus & Community