A Brief History
On October 9, 1701, the town of Saybrook, Connecticut was the setting for the founding of The Collegiate School of Connecticut, the institution of higher learning that became Yale University, one of if not the most esteemed colleges or universities in the United States and the world. Today look at this venerable institution by listing 10 facts about the place and its people. (Note: We have a special place in our hearts for educational facilities and would like to recognize ALL the people that go into making Yale and other schools what they are, from not only the teachers/instructors/professors and administrators, but also to include the many secretaries, maintenance crew, audio visual and tech support types, grounds crews, medical staff, dietary staff and the many others that go into making a great school. Thank you for your wonderful work!)
1. Mother of Presidents
Yale has produced 5 American presidents, including some quite recently. These esteemed graduates include William Howard Taft (BA from Yale, law degree from the University of Cincinnati), Gerald Ford (undergrad degree from the University of Michigan, JD law degree from Yale), George HW Bush, William Jefferson Clinton (BS from Georgetown University, later studied at Oxford and earned JD at Yale), and George W. Bush (BA from Yale, MBA from Harvard). (Harvard, arch rival of Yale, has produced 8 US presidents.)
2. Educated World Leaders
A total of 7 world leaders, either head of state or head of government are products of a Yale education, including from such diverse places as Germany, Italy, Turkey, Malawi, and Mexico, as well as 2 Filipino leaders (president and Governor-General).
3. Location and Name
Yale moved to its present location in New Haven, Connecticut in 1716, and around the same time was renamed Yale after benefactor Elihu Yale, the governor of the East India Company. The namesake of the school is why Yale students are sometimes called “Eli’s,” a common crossword puzzle fact! The mascot and name of the sports teams are Bulldogs.
4. Founded for Religious Purposes
Like many private colleges and universities in the United States, Yale’s origin stems from a religious affiliation. The school was founded originally by clergymen to provide education for Congregational ministers. Subjects taught and studied at Yale were originally only those pertaining to religious studies, such as sacred languages and theology. In the late 18th Century other areas of study began to be introduced, and during the 19th Century the curriculum was expanded to reflect a more general educational experience. Yale is the third oldest college/university in the United States.
5. Yale consists of 14 component schools and vast facilities
Yale is made up of the original undergraduate college and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, along with 12 separate professional schools. The main library is enormous, containing 15 million works, making it the third largest academic library in America. A campus of over 1000 acres is supplemented by many other nature preserves and other properties off the main campus.
6. Part of the Ivy League
Yale is a member of the 8 schools of higher learning known as the Ivy League, a moniker deriving from the ivy-covered stone and brick walls of the original buildings at these schools. Consisting of Yale, Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. The Ivy League is virtually synonymous with meaning “elite” colleges. The term, “Ivy League,” referred to the collection of Northeastern institutions as early as the 1930’s but was only made official in 1954 when the schools formed an athletic league. The Ivy League schools are old, with 7 members going back to the Colonial era of American history, with only Cornell founded after the Colonial era (1865). (Note: A total of 9 colleges/universities were founded in what is now the Untied States during the Colonial era, the other 2 being Rutgers and the College of William & Mary, both of which were transformed into public institutions while the other 7 schools remained privately controlled.)
7. A lot of money at Yale!
Yale boasts the second largest endowment of any educational institution in the entire world, around $29.4 billion! (Only Harvard beats Yale, with an endowment of over $32 billion. Drat! Foiled again by the arch rival!) At least 31 billionaires (currently alive) call Yale their alma mater. Tuition at Yale is a whopping $51,000+ per year, nearly double the national average for private colleges/universities. When other expenses are included, you can expect to pay around $71,290 for each year of undergraduate education at Yale, making Yale #52 on the list of most expensive US colleges and universities. Non-residents of Connecticut pay the same as Connecticut residents. Columbia University comes in as the most expensive institute of higher learning in the US, with tuition and fees of $61,850 each year (not counting room and board).
8. Other alumni of note
Yale has produced not only US presidents and leaders of other countries, but also an incredible 19 US Supreme Court Justices, including 4 currently serving. Yale students have earned numerous other scholarships and fellowships along the way, including a stunning 247 Rhodes Scholarships (ranking #2 in the US behind rival Harvard). Yale also boasts 62 Nobel Laureates (though once again, Harvard bests that number by boasting 150!), as well as numerous US cabinet secretaries and other high officials and legislators. Foreign royals have attended Yale, and numerous famous business people, researchers, entertainers and writers hail from the New Haven womb. Just a few names to drop, include Sigourney Weaver, Thornton Wilder, Sinclair Lewis, Paul Newman, Vincent Price, Henry Winkler, Angela Basset, Claire Danes, Oliver Stone, Cole Porter, Sam Waterston, Henry Luce, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Harold Stanley, William Boeing, Frederick Smith, Edward Norton, Ben Siberman, Russell Chittenden, Grace Hopper and too many others to list here. Even American football is well represented by Yale, in spite of the long standing status of Ivy League football as less than competitive at the highest levels, including Amos Alonzo Stagg, Walter Camp and Calvin Hill. Skater Sarah Hughes won Olympic Gold in 2002, while Ron Darling excelled at major league baseball and Chris Dudley patrolled the key in NBA basketball.
9. High praise and ranking for Yale academics
Yale University consistently ranks among the most prestigious and “best” colleges/universities (many various factors are considered by the ranking authorities) in the United States, and of course, in the world. The Daily Beast ranked Yale #3 in the US, trailing Stanford and Harvard (damn those Harvard kids!), but ahead of MIT, Columbia and Princeton. Forbes also ranked Yale #3 in the US, behind (you guessed it!) Harvard and Stanford. Another quite often quoted college ranking source, US News, also ranked Yale #3 (tied), behind Princeton and Harvard. The Wall Street Journal keeps the trend going by ranking Yale #3, though it ranks MIT #1 and Harvard #2.
10. Yale Football
Ok, we all know the real reason colleges and universities exist is so that this author has something to watch on television on Saturdays in the Fall and Winter! Yale football goes back, way back to 1872 at the very origin of college football. In the years since, Yale has compiled a stellar record of 907 wins, 379 losses and 55 tie games. This year (2019), the Bulldogs are currently enjoying a record of 3 wins and O losses (having beaten Holy Cross, Cornell and Fordham). Yale also lays claim to 27 “National Championships,” although that title is kind of nebulous. Despite the long history of football excellence at Yale, only 2 football players claimed the selection as Heisman Trophy winners, though those 2 gridiron stars were 2 of the first 3 winners. A total of 100 players have been named consensus All-Americans. While the first college football game was played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton, Yale was right behind in adopting the sport at a collegiate level.
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For more information, please see…
Kelley, Brooks. Yale: A History. Yale University Press, 1999.
Richards, David. Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale’s Secret Societies. Pegasus Books, 2017.
Thelin, John. A History of American Higher Education. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of the charter creating Collegiate School, which became Yale College, October 9, 1701, is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1924, and if not then due to lack of notice or renewal. See this page for further explanation.