Alumni Come Together for Faculty Excellence

Inspired by the professors who mentored them, a group of alumni have joined to ensure Yale remains competitive in recruiting the very best faculty members.

Ask a Yale alumnus about the transformative aspects of their education, and they are likely to tell you about a professor who had a profound impact on them. They may recall a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian deep in conversation with undergraduates or a Nobel Laureate guiding a PhD student through an experiment.

Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is composed of nearly 1,000 leading scholars who teach and mentor students in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences across more than forty departments and programs in the humanities, social sciences, and science.

For Tamar Gendler ’87, dean of the FAS, recruiting outstanding faculty is a top priority. “Our goal is to recruit world-class researchers and teachers who can step into the FAS’s uniquely collaborative environment and do their best work—and in turn, we work hard to help them flourish.”

As Gendler explains, fostering faculty excellence has an impact that extends far beyond Yale: “When we create a climate where these extraordinary faculty can pursue creative, innovative, and boundary-breaking work, the world benefits.” Providing resources that enable faculty to thrive is more critical now than ever. As Gendler notes, “Yale is regularly in competition for top-tier faculty talent. The academic hiring landscape is wholly different than it was only a decade ago.”

A Competitive Market

As co-chair of his class’s twenty-fifth reunion gift committee, Nikolay Stoytchev ’96 was considering a reunion gift that would reflect the central role of faculty members at the university. A conversation with Gendler solidified his thinking. After Gendler explained the importance of having flexible funds to immediately deploy in service of recruiting top talent to Yale, Nikolay decided to support the FAS Dean’s Faculty Excellence Fund.

The Faculty Excellence Fund provides Gendler—and future FAS deans—with the resources to be nimble in recruiting new faculty to the FAS. Often, a prospective faculty member may be entertaining offers from several universities—Yale’s Ivy League peers, as well as other institutions making concentrated investments in specific areas. Prospective faculty members in certain fields may also have offers from the public and private sectors.

To compete, the FAS may need to offer additional support to make a transition to Yale more viable. For some prospective faculty, support may take the form of specialized lab equipment or other research resources. For others, it might include resources and arrangements to enable their families to build careers and communities in New Haven. This support helps prospective faculty members see the FAS as a place where they can thrive—and it can be the deciding factor in recruiting them to Yale.

Creating a Movement

Since making his own gift, Nikolay has championed faculty excellence, sharing his passion with his fellow reunion gift co-chairs, classmates, and other alumni. He has taken on new roles as a For Humanity campaign ambassador and a Faculty of Arts and Sciences campaign partner.

“Now is the time to act,” he says. “Today’s investments to bring the best faculty to Yale uphold a proud tradition and will lay a strong foundation for the future. And recruiting more alumni to give to this fund has value beyond dollars. Our support also affirms faculty excellence as a core value at Yale.”

For Faculty Excellence

Several alumni share their thoughts on giving to the Dean’s Faculty Excellence Fund.

Robert Kinderman ’98
“It is meaningful that we’re speaking unabashedly about excellence. Excellence matters, for the university and for the student experience. The difference between getting the best and the second tier matters. We can’t take for granted that Yale, just because it’s Yale, is always going to always be on top. Investing in faculty couldn’t be more important.”

John Meeks ’95
“It’s so exciting to see alumni come together to put their dollars to work to something so immediate. These gifts are structured so that a portion goes to the endowment and the rest is available to be used immediately, as needed. That allows the dean to be proactive and address timely and urgent needs.”

Meredith Meeks ’96
“Professors played a major role in my undergraduate experience. It is remarkable that these people at the forefront of their fields would take the time to engage with undergraduates. So many were so generous and approachable. The experiences I had at Yale and the people I met were influential to me and instrumental in my growth.”

Nikolay Stoytchev ’96
“During their time at Yale, each faculty member can inspire and shape the lives of hundreds of students. For example, for me and several of my peers, John Geanakoplos ’75 has been a lifelong mentor. For this reason, by investing in faculty members, we are investing in a core part of the Yale undergraduate experience. The return on investment is immeasurable.”

Beatrice Wilderman ’96
“We were looking for something particularly meaningful to direct our giving toward. When Nikolay proposed the idea of faculty excellence, we knew it was the perfect fit. We have had a chance to get to know Dean Gendler and always come away from our conversations with her inspired by her passion for learning and her vision for Yale.”

Sam Wilderman ’96
“I’ve been a co-chair for our class reunion gift for the past three reunions. I was really excited that it was the reunion gift process that brought us together to support the Faculty Excellence Fund and that the Class of 1996 was able to play a role in getting something so important off the ground.”

Image: William Nordhaus ’63, the Sterling Professor of Economics, taught his Monday morning class just after it was announced that he had been awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

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