Worth David, dean of admissions for two decades
Worth David ’56, dean of undergraduate admissions from 1972 to 1992 and a central figure in the Yale administration for two decades, died at Yale New Haven Hospital on June 1 of heart failure. He was 87.
David came into office soon after the tumultuous 1965-1969 tenure of Inslee (Inky) Clark ’57, who had been asked by President Brewster to bring to Yale a more diverse cohort: students with strong academic credentials from a greater range of schools and a wider range of family income. David devoted himself to this mission, including expanding the admissions process to admit more applicants from underrepresented groups — and he managed to win over alumni who were unsettled by the changes with his measure and tact.
He brought the office into the modern age, restructuring and hiring new and younger staff, reaching out to a broad range of constituencies, and making the transition to a different admissions process less dramatic to minimize challenges to these changes. David, who had been a wrestler at Yale, looked very much like what others might have imagined a Yalie of that era to look, and came across as a fine example of the traditional Yale graduate, even as he worked to expand the definition of that term. It helped that he stayed in the background, never insisting publicly on his agenda, but working toward it quietly.
“Worth was a leader of great independence, integrity, and quiet charisma,” said Margit Dahl ’75, the current director of admissions, who worked for David starting in the 1970s. “He was one of the best admissions officers I have ever known. As a former high school principal, he knew young people. He had an almost uncanny way of assessing who a student was in reading a file. He was a leader who commanded the respect of the staff because he was always the best admissions officer in the room.”
Charles Long, former deputy provost, added that the faculty, pleased by David’s vision and by the students he brought to campus, had great confidence in him. He remembered David’s poise and skill at presenting the goals and outcomes of the process to sometimes skeptical alumni. “He was smooth,” Long said, “and won critics over in spite of themselves.”
More staff members added their remembrances. Christopher Murphy, who began as an admissions officer in the early 1970s and remains an admissions reader today, was one of several who remembered that David had an institutional memory second to none. “He knew every student who was admitted and could remember and talk about them years later,” he said.
Keith Light, another current admissions staff member who has worked for a number of Ivy League schools, mentioned the respect in which David was held by admissions officers around the nation. Penelope Laurans, today a senior advisor at the university, added that in the admissions community of the day he was often regarded as the “dean of deans.”
Worth David graduated from Yale College in 1956, received an M.S. in mathematics from Wesleyan University in 1965 and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from Harvard in 1968. He was a teacher and director of studies at Suffield Academy for a decade and a highly regarded principal at Clayton High School, a public school in Missouri, from 1968 to 1972, before he was appointed dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale. He served as Master of Branford College from 1991 to 1996, taking pleasure in overseeing students he had admitted. David, his wife, Nina Glickson ’73, who worked in several capacities at the university, including as assistant to President Richard Levin for two decades, and their young daughter Sarah ’10, filled Branford with their knowledge, understanding, and love of Yale.
Besides his wife and daughter, David leaves five children from an earlier marriage, and seven grandchildren. There will be a wake on Monday, June 7 from 10:00 to noon at the North Haven Funeral Home, 36 Washington Avenue, North Haven, Connecticut, followed by a burial service in Grove Street Cemetery.