Yale for Life

Yale: Myth and Reality, Past and Present

June 9-15, 2019

This spectacular program will be an eclectic intellectual ramble through Yale itself:  a course that can only be taught here on-campus at Yale!  We will explore (literally, bring your walking shoes!) Yale’s social history, its stunning art and architecture, its maps, photos, literature and its many treasures, collections… and secrets.  This field-trip-centric, “movable feast” of Yale will dazzle you with Yale’s depth and scope, its immense impact, its romance and tumult, and the amazing richness that an institution can achieve over more than three centuries.  We will learn about relations between Yale and Yale people — from Ezra Stiles and Noah Webster to Cole Porter, Henry Roe Cloud, and Maya Lin.  And we will examine Yale’s (ongoing) centrality within American society and culture — Elihu Yale and the global eighteenth century; Benjamin Silliman and the emergence of American science; Walter Camp, Dink Stover, and the all-American boy; Henry Luce and the information age; faith and ideology in postwar Yale and America.  Until you spend this week with us, you really don’t know Yale!  We are delighted to have as our week-long lead faculty:  Edward (Ned) Cooke, Charles F. Montgomery Professor of the History of Art, Director of the Center of Study in American Decorative Arts and Material Culture, and Professor of American Studies; and Jay Gitlin, Senior Lecturer History & Associate Director Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers & Borders, who teaches the extremely popular, and always over-enrolled, undergraduate history seminar, “Yale and America.”  They will be joined by impressive slate of guest faculty and leaders of extraordinary field trips and special events.

Our Lead Faculty:

Jay Gitlin
Associate Director, the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers & Borders; Senior Lecturer in History; Chair, Committee on Canadian Studies, The MacMillan Center

Professor Jay Gitlin received his BA, M.Mus., and PhD at Yale. His work focuses on the history of the French in North America. His book, Country Acres and Cul-de-sacs: Connecticut Circle Magazine Reimagines the Nutmeg State, 1938-1952 has just been published. He is currently working on The Rise and Fall of Modern Shopping. The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders & American Expansion won the 2010 Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize for the best book in French colonial history. Prof. Gitlin is a faculty advisor to the Native American Cultural Center at Yale and is currently teaching a new course with Professor Paul Kennedy on “Cities of Empire.” He is also a gold card member of the American Federation of Musicians and started playing jazz and dance music before he arrived at Yale College.

Edward Cooke
Charles F Montgomery Professor of the History of Art, Director of the Center of Study in American Decorative Arts and Material Culture; Professor of American Studies

Professor Edward S. Cooke, Jr., focuses upon American material culture and decorative arts. He served as the Chair of History of Art from 2000 to 2006 and from 2012 to 2016. Since his arrival at Yale in 1992, he served as Director of the Yale Center for the Study of American Art and Material Culture, a group of interested Yale faculty, graduate students, and museum professionals who meet weekly during the semester for presentations on the theme of that academic year. The participants are drawn by a scholarly interest in the study, analysis, and interpretation of material culture. Among his many awards are the Iris Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Decorative Arts (2010), and the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teacher of Art History Award (2018).

Learn More About our Lead Faculty!

Guest Faculty

Our seminars with lead faculty are supplemented by additional seminars with amazing guest instructors.  These scholars bring a variety of different perspectives to our subject, from Yale’s architecture to the lore of the Secret Societies, and more.  Yale for Life continues its emphasis on interdisciplinary study, not only through the variety in the core syllabus, but through these world-class leaders of Yale’s intellectual portfolio.

Patrick Pinnell FAIA CNU APA NCARB
Former Head of Yale Environmental Design Graduate Research Program

Patrick Pinnell’s many publications include articles on the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright (using Taliesin Foundation archives), on Yale’s Beinecke Library, and on various issues in the history and theory of architecture and urbanism. The Campus Guide: Yale University, a book on the history and buildings of the campus and their place within New Haven, was published by Princeton Architectural Press. He is a former Elector of the Wadsworth Atheneum, the nation’s oldest art museum, and advises it on development and planning. He serves on the boards of Connecticut Landmarks, of the Burr-McManus Trust (which oversees Hartford’s Burr Mall and monumental Calder “Stegosaurus”), and is on the advisory board of Historic New England.

Rebecca Tannenbaum ’97PhD
Senior Lecturer, History;
Yale NUS Fellow International Affairs

Wesleyan University, B.A., 1984
Yale University, Ph.D., 1997

Rebecca Tannenbaum’s research is focused on Colonial America, especially women’s history and the history of medicine, history of women’s health, as well as history of the family. She is currently working on a cultural history of biological motherhood in America, from the Colonial period through the mid-nineteenth century. She has written a book, The Healer’s Calling: Women and Medicine in Colonial New England (Cornell University Press, 2002), as well as published numerous articles in scholarly publications.

David Alan Richards ’67, ’72LAW
President, Yale Library Associates

David Richards is the President of the Yale Library Associates, an associate Fellow of Davenport College, a member of the University Librarian’s Development Council, and the author of 2017’s Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale’s Secret Societies. He was an American Studies major at Yale, and holds a master’s degree in history from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Keasbey Scholar. He is also the author of the British Library-published Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliography (2010), and two other books on that Nobel Prize-winner, and his collection of first editions and manuscripts of that author has made Yale the world center of Kipling studies. He is now writing a history of the university library.

Kelly Fayard
Director, Native-American Cultural Center
Assistant Dean, Yale College

Kelly Fayard (Poarch Band of Creek Indians) is an assistant dean of Yale College and the director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale.  She earned her BA in cultural anthropology and religion from Duke University, and a certificate in museum studies as well as her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan. Before her current position, she was assistant professor of anthropology in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Bowdoin College.  She held the Anne Ray fellowship at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM in 2014-2015.  She is currently a member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, where she also serves as a member of the Beatrice Medicine Committee that awards a student funding to attend the annual meeting, and is on the ethics committee of the Association of American Anthropologists.

Dean Ryan André Brasseaux
Dean, Davenport College, Yale University

Dean Ryan André Brasseaux is the chief academic advisor for the almost 460 students comprising Davenport College. He helps students navigate academic regulations, Yale bureaucracy, and life in general. Dean Brasseaux earned the Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; the Master of Arts in Anthropology from Louisiana State University; and the Ph.D. in American Studies here at Yale. He specializes in vernacular American music, culture and politics in French North-America, and public humanities. He teaches courses on the history of country music, the American Gulf Coast, the history of Quebec and Canada, and a cross-listed undergraduate/graduate course called Intro to Public Humanities. He is the author of over forty articles, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews, and three books, including the Oxford University Press title, Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music.

Laura Wexler
Professor of Women’s Gender, & Sexuality Studies and American Studies

Laura Wexler served as Chair of the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program from 2003–2007 and Co-chair of the Yale Women’s Faculty Forum from 2008-2011.  She is a recipient of major research awards from the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. Professor Wexler’s many other publications on photography and American visual culture include recent studies of the writings of Frederic Douglass, and the photographs of La Toya Ruby Frazier. She is the author of “Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U. S. Imperialism,” which was awarded the Joan Kelley Memorial Prize of the American Historical Association for the best book in women’s history and/or feminist theory.

Vera F. Wells
Director of the Sylvia Ardyn Boone Memorial Project

Vera Wells was a member of Yale’s first undergraduate class to include women and was also among the first to enroll in its African American Studies courses in 1969. After graduating in 1971 with a BA degree in psychology, she studied organization management at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Vera then consulted on education programs and conducted field research in Africa in the 1970s. Most of her career, however, was spent during 20 years as an executive at the National Broadcasting Company where she began in promotional research for new TV programs, including HILL STREET BLUES, MIAMI VICE, THE COSBY SHOW and LAW & ORDER. She completed her tenure there as Director of Corporate and Philanthropic Initiatives and represented NBC on the Arts and Culture Committee of the GE Foundation.

During the spring term of 1970, Vera requested and wrote the proposal for the Yale residential college seminar on Black women that originally recruited Sylvia Ardyn Boone to teach it at TD in September 1970. After Vera’s graduation in 1971, Sylvia Boone continued to mentor and befriend Vera. When Prof. Boone died in 1993, Vera coordinated her funeral and memorial details at Yale and still continues as the Director of the Boone Memorial Project. She oversaw the court-approved donation of Boone’s papers for appropriate archiving so that they can be made available to scholars in the future. Vera used her own personal assets to endow both an undergraduate scholarship and a graduate student prize to honor her mentor at Yale, and she continues to fund this project to secure Boone’s literary estate and intellectual legacy. Vera is the recipient of a 2007 Yale Medal for her volunteer service to the University. She has helped to organize and raise funds for innumerable events for women and Black alumni. A preliminary founding committee member for YaleWomen Inc, Vera received a “YaleWomen Award for Excellence” in March 2019. She currently serves on five committees preparing for 50WomenAtYale150 Celebrations in 2019-20. As a TD Fellow, Vera has an office at Timothy Dwight College, where her Boone Project is based.

Learn More About our Guest Faculty!


All Yale for Life courses actually start months before our June meeting.  After registration, you will receive all books and scholarly articles for the course, and will immerse yourself in great works curated by our faculty.  “Yale: Myth and Reality, Past and Present” is no exception, with works ranging from contemporaneous writings to great books written by your own Yale for Life professors.  Primary sources will mix with authoritative texts to produce night after night of joy as you prepare for your return to the life of the mind.

See an excerpt from a Yale for Life Reading List

Special Events

One of Yale for Life’s unique and most beloved features are our Special Events; sessions at a number of Yale’s well-known (such as the Yale Art Gallery) or less-known (such as a 2012 session at the not-yet-processed Kissinger Papers) centers of collection and learning.  “Yale: Myth and Reality, Past and Present” continues this tradition.  Some examples:

Taking a few strokes in Yale’s Indoor Rowing Tanks.

For our class session on “Sports and the Idealized Yalie,” what could be more Yale than a turn in the rowing tanks in Paine Whitney Gymnasium. For those of us who didn’t row in college (who could even wake up so early?), we will develop a brief, but truly hands-on, feel for this sport so traditional to Yale. One goal for this course is to take you to special Yale places and experiences. Stroke!

Guided Tour of Yale’s Central Campus with its foremost authority.

For our class session on the built environment of Yale, we will take a special guided walking tour of Yale’s architectural history with Patrick Pinnell, author of Yale’s official “Campus Guide.” Pat also designed the sculptural iconography for Yale’s new colleges and will give us unique insights on how to find and decode those puzzling wonders.

Guided Tour of the “Westminster of Yale.”

Sure, you’ve walked by it a hundred times, but have you ever been inside this amazing memorial world of Yale and learned its stories and significance to Yale and New Haven? Our students will be conducted on a mesmerizing tour of Grove Street Cemetery, led by its Chief Docent, Patricia Illingowrth. Don’t worry, this tour will be conducted during the daylight hours.

Celebrating Yale’s Coastal Connection: Touring the Thimbles, Dining and Dancing Under The Stars

Once upon a time, before waves of grim industrialization and questionable development, Yale was tightly connected to New Haven’s harbor and Long Island Sound. We will spend an enjoyable afternoon and evening exploring Old Yale’s coastal connection with a cruise of the Thimble Islands and a delightful evening dinner dance on the water at the Owenego Inn in Branford, CT, entertained by our own master musician, Jay Gitlin ’71, and his band of renown playing the music of Cole Porter ’13 and other Yale songsters.

Learn more about Yale for Life special events

Beyond the Classroom

Everything that happens during the Yale for Life program is colored by the fact that it takes place at Yale.  Learn more about the experience!

Learn more about the living at Yale experience
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