Thursday, July 11, 2013

Salovey Strolls into Woodbridge Hall

Levin slips out, as Salovey (above) slips in
(Yale photo)
Maybe you didn't get the e-mail from Yale's new president Peter Salovey '86 Ph.d.  The baton has passed.

After Yale's 2013 commencement and after receiving a surprising (or was it really a surprise?) honorary degree, retired president Richard Levin '74 Ph.d. slipped out of town and headed to the West Coast where he plans to spend the next few months with family--resting and deciding what's next. Maybe an eventual return to New Haven.

New president Salovey strolled happily and cheerfully into Woodbridge Hall July 1.  A first task at hand was for him to send out an understated, simple e-mail to faculty, staff and alumni announcing that he was eager, ready and excited to start his new job.

There is a Westchester wrinkle to Salovey's presidential appointment, a story that could be told for years to come, especially if his presidency climbs to great heights. Last fall, as provost, Salovey was invited to be the guest speaker at the Yale Westchester Alumni Association fundraising dinner in Mamaroneck.  The dinner was held, as Westchester alumni would eventually find out, on the same day of his interview with the Yale Corporation.

During stretches of the interview earlier in the day, Salovey acknowledged later, he kept peeking at his watch. Part of his mind was focused on providing thorough responses to tough, penetrating interview questions. Part of his mind, too, was staring at the dial of his watch to be mindful of the time.  While Corporation members were assessing him, sizing up his abilities to run a research university known around the world, a little bit of Salovey was worried he might be late to the Westchester dinner.
Presidential duties: Salovey conducts the Yale band (Marsland/Yale photo)

The chips fell correctly and neatly.  Salovey was among the first arrivals at the Westchester dinner, gave a memorable speech referencing one of his favorite topics ("EQ--emotional quotient"), and was announced days later as the new Yale president.

In November, in his first speech just one day after the announcement was made, he recounted the Westchester-dinner story to a large group of Yale alumni at the AYA Assembly. He admitted for the first time publicly how he pressed through the interview with Westchester on his mind. He cited YWAA secretary and dinner organizer Bill Nightingale '53. Nightingale was the Westchester alumnus who had invited Salovey to dinner, who was unaware Salovey was in his interview, but who all along was confident Salovey would come through.

To the AYA audience, in his first bit of oratory as president-designate, Salovey proclaimed in no way would he have let Bill down.


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