President's Letter

An investment in the future

Mark Ostow

Mark Ostow

The Yale Alumni Magazine publishes a letter from President Peter Salovey ’86PhD in every issue. In this letter, the president discusses the importance of mentorship. View full image

Dear Friends,

This year, in my remarks to Yale graduates, I spoke about the lasting influence of teachers in my life. And I shared the belief, beautifully expressed by poet, Nobel laureate, and Yale faculty member Louise Glück, that we can thank our teachers by sharing our gifts with future generations. Little did I know that these words would take on new meaning with the death in May of Yale’s chief investment officer, David Swensen ’80PhD.

David was a natural teacher and, as I wrote in my message to the Yale community, a “beloved mentor.” Those he taught and encouraged are now leaders at institutions across the United States. His own career was a study in the importance of mentorship. As a graduate student in economics at Yale, David worked closely with two giants in the field, James Tobin and William Brainard ’62PhD. Tobin, whose Nobel Prize–winning research shaped David’s thinking about endowment investing, was also an adviser to my friend and predecessor as president of Yale, Richard C. Levin ’74PhD; to the US Secretary of the Treasury and former Yale trustee Janet Yellen ’71PhD; and to scores of other leading economists.

So often, it is difficult to calculate the true significance of a mentor; their impact quietly ripples outward, influencing more people, organizations, and communities. In 2008, David spearheaded the creation of an endowed professorship in Professor Brainard’s name, writing, “Without Bill’s many important interventions in my life, my personal direction, and, perhaps, Yale’s financial direction, would have been quite different.” We know the same is true of so many Yale faculty mentors: their influence continues to be felt in the lives of students and alumni and across the university today.

All of us, as members of the Yale community, have witnessed the power of mentorship in our lives and professions. As a graduate student in psychology at Yale, I was fortunate to have not one but four mentors, including Judith Rodin, my primary academic adviser. I conducted research and published with these four faculty members, as well as with fellow graduate students, and I learned from their distinctive strengths and areas of expertise. Then, as now, Yale was known for encouraging such collaborations among students and faculty. This model of mentorship was one of the reasons I chose Yale for graduate study, and it made all the difference to my path as a scholar.

Today, that same spirit of mentorship continues—both on campus and in the Yale alumni community. First-Year Counselors (“FroCos”) help new students in their residential colleges to transition to college life. Faculty advisers teach and mentor undergraduates as well as graduate and professional students. And the pandemic, by disrupting so many relationships, has reminded us of the critical need for these human connections. Last year, the Yale Alumni Association (YAA) launched a new online platform, Cross Campus, that promotes mentorship and networking by connecting alumni and students.

My friend David—one of the world’s greatest investors—understood that mentorship pays the greatest dividends. I know that you, as members of the Yale alumni community, continue to honor the great legacy of mentorship at our university by guiding and inspiring the leaders, innovators, and scholars of tomorrow.

With my warmest wishes,

Peter Salovey ’86PhD
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

The comment period has expired.