Yale : A Short History

by George W. Pierson

Larned Professor of History, Emeritus Historian of the University
Published on the occasion of the United States Bicentennial and of Yale's 275th anniversary
by the Office of the Secretary, Yale University

Second edition

Copyright 1976, 1979 by Yale University.
Library of Congress catalogue card number: 79-64146
Designed by Alvin Eisenman.
Printed by the Meriden Gravure Company.
The Yale Scene: University Series IV
Reprinted 1991 by the Stinehour Press.

Text digitized in 2004 by Yale University Library, Department of Manuscripts and Archives*


The beginnings
Church and state, 15
The government of the faculty, 27
Teaching and great teachers, 31
Course of study, 35
The college system, 41
The breed of students, 51
Residential colleges-and coeducation, 61
The making of the university, 65
Recent developments, 79
Yale's graduates and the nation, 90
Rectors and Presidents, 97
Books about Yale, 99
Factual and statistical data, 101

Front and back covers: Connecticut Hall in 1975

Preface to the second edition

This second edition is a reprinting, with very modest improvements. The opportunity has been used to correct three dates, to add several pictures and titles, and to clarify certain disputes at or about the beginnings. Also to moderate one judgment on the recent curriculum; and finally to identify more clearly both the indispensable ingredients and the presidential stages in the making of the University. Essentially, however, YALE:A SHORT HISTORY remains the story and the historical portrait of the first 275 years, as seen from the author's perspective at the time of the National Bicentennial in 1976. In the three years since 1976 many things have happened to as yet uncertain historical effect. A chronicler might record that in May 1977 Kingman Brewster jr. resigned the Yale Presidency and was sworn in as US. Ambassador to Great Britain by Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, B.A. 1939, LL.B. 1942. For the next thirteen months Provost Hanna Holborn Gray, daughter of the former German historian and Sterling Professor, Hajo Holborn, served also as Acting President, while being herself elected President of the University of Chicago. Her administration knew the rugged experience of a blue-collar strike, further deficits and budgetary cutbacks, slow progress in the endowment campaign, and an anxious wait through a long, thorough, and sometimes hazardous Corporation search for a new President. Finally, in December 1977, a member of the Yale Faculty in English, Professor A. Bartlett Giamatti, was elected Yale's nineteenth leader. The formal inaugural in October 1978 proved a reassuring occasion. For the new President had already demonstrated his personal warmth, his eloquent devotion to the liberal arts, his concern for the welfare of the younger faculty, his desire for friendly and mutually helpful relations with New Haven, and his determination to strengthen the financial side of Yale's management by the appointment of a new officer, a Vice President for Finance and Administration. What the new State law on retirements might do to the Faculty or what the replacement of Robert Brustein as Dean of the Drama School and Director of the Repertory Theatre might portend was not immediately clear. But in 1978 the School of Organization and Management graduated its first class of 47 Masters of Public and Private Management. The College Faculty undertook to reaffirm requirements for a liberal education. There was promise of a long-needed extension and storage building for Yale's overcrowded Library. And on 11 December 1978, as if in omen of better times to come, The Campaign for Yale, now moving more confidently toward its $370 million goal, passed the figure of $304,250,000 and so became the most substantial university fundraising drive in history. Given the talents enlisted by the University, and the loyalty and devotion this place inspires, one senses that Yale may have a future to match its by no means inconsiderable past.
G. W. P.

Elihu Yale, 1649-1721
Born in America,
in Europe bred,
In Afric Travell'd,
and in Asia wed,
Where long he liv'd,
and thriv'd;
at London dead.
Much good, some ill, he did;
so hope all's even,
and that his soul,
through mercy's gone to heal
You that survive,
and read, take care
For this most certain
exit to prepare:
For only the actions
of the just
Smell sweet
and blossom in the dust

Elihu Yale's own Epitaph at
Wrexham, Wales.

Yale is at once a tradition, a company of scholars, a society of friends. No one man made it. A London Yankee, who had been a nabob in India, provided the name. Many men through 275 years have labored to create it. Here ministers and laymen, governors and plain citizens, teachers and students, old graduates and benevolent strangers have worked, planned, sacrificed, and built. And with each generation the tradition has grown. Faith in God, belief in man, and search for the truth were the goals. Team-play and loyalty: these also became the hallmarks of the place.
So by slow degrees, from the most humble, prayerful beginnings, Yale has grown into one of the oldest and most celebrated universities in the country. About its famous college now cluster a massive battery of professional schools and laboratories, and a small city of libraries and museums. Here character is made. Here the heritage of civilization is studied and handed on. And here, in almost any field of thought, you will find scholars quietly pushing beyond the frontiers of knowledge to enlarge man's command of his world.

*This text has been created from a scan of the paper copy of the second edition of Yale: A short history - spelling, capitalization and other peculiarities have been left as they were in the print edition.

Back to Resources on Yale History

Contents | The Beginnings | Church and State | The Government of the Faculty | Teaching and Great Teachers | Course of Study
The College System | The Breed of Students | Residential Colleges-and Coeducation | The Making of the University | Recent Developments
Yale's Graduates and the Nation | Rectors and Presidents | Books about Yale | Factual and Statistical Data