President's Letter

Challenge and change

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 Opening Assembly and the impact of studying at Yale. View full image

Dear Friends,

The beginning of a new academic year is always an opportunity to reaffirm Yale’s mission and celebrate the excellence and diversity of our remarkable community. That is why, on a clear day in late August, I was delighted to welcome new Yale College students in an Opening Assembly ceremony on Cross Campus. In past years, hundreds of students, parents, and their loved ones have gathered in Woolsey Hall to mark this rite of passage and the official start of a new academic year. This year, in light of public health concerns, we decided an outdoor, masked event (for students only) would be just as meaningful and, at the same time, help safeguard the well-being of our community. Despite a sprinkling of rain, these accommodations were deeply appreciated by the Class of 2025.

Indeed, Opening Assembly set the stage for what promises to be an extraordinary year on campus. The heads of Yale’s 14 residential colleges, members of the Yale College dean’s office, and other faculty and university leaders, including Dean Marvin Chun and myself, processed behind the Yale College banner. The Yale Glee Club’s beautiful performance reminded us of the power of live music, and we felt the unmistakable energy of being together again.

In my first remarks to the Yale College Class of 2025, which have been reprinted in this issue starting on page 64, I encouraged our newest students to use their time at Yale to prepare for the great challenges ahead by seeking to improve themselves, morally and intellectually. A global pandemic, climate change, war, and extremism—this generation of young people faces complex and urgent problems. Yet I asked them to look inward, to nurture their intellects and develop their distinctive strengths and talents, so they will be equipped to change the world. As I told them, we “are here to make an impact on our communities and our world. But first we must start by improving ourselves. . . . Here at Yale, you will encounter new ideas and engage with people from different backgrounds and walks of life. You will take intellectual risks and ask questions about everything from the structure of the cosmos to the structure of a novel.” There is no better place to learn, explore, and discover than Yale.

The transformative power of Yale begins in small but significant moments. Across the university—in Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the 12 professional schools—our students are engaged in the promising and important work of learning about themselves, one another, and the world. They interact with classmates and professors from all over the globe and hear from speakers, classmates, and teachers with diverse viewpoints. They take part in artistic performances, compete in athletics, and discover new areas of study and new realms of creativity. The words I spoke apply to all our students: “You will not leave Yale the same person you are today. You will be changed, transformed, by Yale.”
At the Opening Assembly, I looked out at the rows of new undergraduates and felt a tremendous sense of excitement about the opportunities awaiting all of us—students, faculty, and staff. We have encountered many challenges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but our university’s strength, resilience, and purpose have allowed us to accomplish so much. As I listened to the Yale Glee Club sing the hymn composed by Mark Miller, Yale College Class of 1989, it seemed as if the words had been written expressly for this day and this occasion:

From this bright hour and days to come,
     as we have gathered into one,
Open the gates and light will shine, all around,
     let there be light!
All are welcome, all invited to open hearts
     and open minds!
In our living, in our learning may we always be
     searching for truth and light!

These words remind us that, as members of the Yale community, we share a responsibility to something greater than ourselves and our individual vocations: we are part of a university family dedicated to the enduring search for lux et veritas. Each year, as we welcome new students to campus, we not only expand our community of living and learning, but also renew our own commitment to Yale and its mission. Please join me in wishing our new students the best on their journey as we, too, celebrate the transformative power of Yale.

With my warmest wishes,

Peter Salovey ’86PhD
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

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