Wednesday, October 30, 2013

AYA: A Tribute to Yale's Home Town

The Association of Yale Alumni Assembly (AYA) will examine the challenges and recent years of progress in Yale's home town, New Haven, Nov. 21-23. Selected YWAA board members will serve as Westchester's delegates. (Yale photo)

Once again Yale alumni delegates from all corners of the world, representing all classes, regions, schools and special interest groups, will head to New Haven for the 73rd AYA Assembly, Nov. 21-23.  The Assembly permits over 150 alumni representatives, including a handful of at-large delegates, to convene on campus and confer on alumni topics and issues. While sharing best practices among alumni groups and sharing views from the voices of alumni around the globe, they also learn more about what is happening on campus. Delegates meet and discuss some Yale issues with university officials and sometimes members of the Yale Corporation.

YWAA, as usual, will send delegates (selected board members) to New Haven as representatives of Yale-Westchester.

The AYA Board of Governors, now under the leadership of Chair Jimmy Lu '77, presides over three days of sessions, which this year culminate with an alumni tent gathering at the Alumni Village before the 130th Harvard-Game at the Yale Bowl.  Executive Director Mark Dollhopf '77 leads the busy AYA team that coordinates the activities, dinners, receptions, committee meetings, and panel discussions. Dollhopf also reviews AYA's strategic plan with delegates, emcees a spirited debate on AYA's vision and purpose and hands out awards to alumni groups that deserve attention for special service, achievements or projects.

This year's theme pays tribute to Yale's home town, New Haven, which itself is marking a 375th birthday. Each Assembly has a theme that shines on a particular or special aspect of Yale.  In recent years, the Assembly has focused on alumni initiatives in community service and the Yale Medical School.  It has encouraged the formation of special-interest groups, including, for example, alumni groups interested in Hollywood or alumni who are veterans.

The Assembly, until a few years ago, was held twice a year--in the spring and fall. The Assembly is now a once-a-year event in late November (to the disappointment of some, who relished the twice-a-year treks to New Haven to check on Woodbridge Hall affairs). The calendar, nonetheless, is a busy one for alumni who fly in from Europe or Asia or make the 60-minute drive from Westchester.

With the emphasis on New Haven, the schedule includes discussion sessions on its history, recent economic development, the Yale student's relationship with the city, and a bus tour of areas of New Haven beyond Yale neighborhoods.

The annual Yale Medal Dinner is held the first evening. Yale president Peter Salovey '86 Ph.d. will address alumni delegates at a lunch meeting on the second day.


Peekskill resident Melinda Hunt '85 MFA, who spearheads the Hart Island Project that pays tribute to those buried, unclaimed, in New York's Hart Island in the Bronx, will lead a discussion of the project at the Chappaqua Library Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 pm.There will also be a screening of her film, "Hart Island: An American Cemetery."
Melinda Hunt '85 MFA (NY Daily News)

She helped produce the film to chronicle the group's decades-long efforts to produce an online registry of those buried at Hart Island, a potter's field in the Bronx. Those buried include infants, unknown victims of crime, and victims of disease. Hunt started the project 22 years ago.

The presentation is co-sponsored by the Westchester Historical Society.  For more details about the lecture, click HART-CHAPPAQUA.

For more about Hunt's Hart activities, which now include a published book and art exhibitions where she, as artist, depicts the lost souls of those buried on the island, click HART-YWAA.

This week (Oct. 30, 2013), she writes on the opinion pages of the New York Times, "The time has come to rethink operations on Hart Island." The cemetery and the burial of unclaimed bodies are operated by the New York Department of Correction. Hunt has pushed for the cemetery to fall under the auspices of the Department of Parks and Recreation and wants it to be managed as a groomed, green city park in the way other potter's fields in the past have been transformed into green spaces (including Bryant Park in Manhattan).

Her latest goal, she writes for the Times, is for the city to migrate from hidden, untended burial grounds at Hart Island toward "restoring and reclaiming the landscape for public access and moving away from unseemly mass burials." The City Council is now reviewing a bill to transfer the operation to the Parks unit. Visitors to Hart Island, she hopes, will have an idyllic view of Long Island Sound.

New York Times editorial writer Francis X. Clines paid tribute to her perseverance when he wrote in Sept., 2013, of her efforts to challenge "the city's bureaucracy to open up its secret books" on the city's "nobodies, collected and ferried over to the island...."


(Click HART ISLAND to read another Nov. 17 New York Times account of the Hart Island Project and Hunt's leading advocate efforts.)

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