News from Alumni House

Whiffenpoofs, you, and venomous toads

Mark Dollhopf ’77 is executive director of the Association of Yale Alumni.

  • A man and his wife were once sitting by the door of their house, and they had a roasted chicken set before them, and were about to eat it together. Then the man saw that his aged father was coming, and hastily took the chicken and hid it, for he would not permit him to have any of it. The old man came, took a drink, and went away. Now the son wanted to put the roasted chicken on the table again, but when he took it up, it had become a great toad, which jumped into his face and sat there and never went away again, and if any one wanted to take it off, it looked venomously at him as if it would jump in his face, so that no one would venture to touch it. And the ungrateful son was forced to feed the toad every day, or else it fed itself on his face; and thus he went about the world knowing no rest. —The Brothers Grimm, "The Ungrateful Son"


Venomous toads? Well, that's why these fairy tales are called "grim."

Here's the moral: if you hide your gifts, they will eat away at you for the rest of your life.

Although Yale alumni are certainly not shy about sharing their gifts, they now share them in ever more creative, collaborative, and profound ways through the work of the AYA—sharing them with each other, with other alumni organizations, and, yes, most importantly, with students.

In the summer of 2010, the Whiffenpoofs performed in Kenya at an Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation clinic. So moved were the students by their visit that they pledged to support this foundation's work with a benefit concert in New York. Recent alum Samuel Hafer '11 (Whiffenpoofs '10) immediately sprang into action, reaching out to the AYA as well as the Whiffenpoofs Alumni Association for support.

Both organizations were eager to help. The following December, the AYA and the Whiff alumni jointly sponsored a hugely successful benefit concert for the foundation at Lincoln Center with singer-songwriter and actress Deborah Cox.

Soon, other Yale alumni organizations joined the cause. Last March the Whiffenpoofs teamed up with Idina Menzel (Wicked, Glee) and Darren Criss (Glee) in a sold-out concert supporting P.S. Arts, an organization providing arts education throughout central and southern California public schools. The benefit concert, held at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, was presented by the AYA and Eli's Mishpacha (Yale's Jewish alumni group), and cosponsored by the Yale Club of Los Angeles, the Yale Black Alumni Association, the Yale Latino Alumni Association, Yale in Hollywood, and the Association of Asian American Yale Alumni. The pre-party reception was sponsored by Malissa and Bobby Shriver ('76, '81JD), of Santa Monica.

Darren Criss reprised his performance in San Francisco—this time joined by the Yale Glee Club and the Duke's Men—as part of Yale's Day of Service. The concert was a benefit for the local Bay Area anti-bullying programs No Bully and YouthAware. Alumni from many organizations came together to make the event happen, including the Yale Clubs of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Yale GALA (Yale's LGBT alumni association), Eli's Mishpacha, and YaleWomen (formerly the Yale Women's Alumni Association). Yale Professor George Chauncey '77, '89PhD, and Jewish chaplain James Ponet '68 spoke at the pre-party.

Many of you, in fact, more than 1,000 of you, were at Alice Tully Hall on December 17 to hear Darren Criss, Allison Williams '10, the Whiffs, the Harvard Krokodiloes, and the Princeton Nassoons perform for the Glaser Foundation and the Trevor Project, in New York.

Have you missed out on all the fun? If so, there is still time. Join us at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on March 10 when the AYA hosts Golden Globe nominee actress and singer Zooey Deschanel, along with the Whiffs and the Duke's Men, to once again benefit P.S. Arts. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 800-595-4849. And watch for details on the AYA website for our May concert in San Francisco, or contact Michael Dobbs '92 at

We're trying hard at the AYA, so you don't have to hide your gifts. It's about alumni coming together to share their gifts to change lives—for Yale, and on behalf of Yale.

And not a venomous toad to be found. 


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