From the Editor

A century’s worth of Yale College

Kathrin Lassila ’81 is editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine.

Richard Nash Gould ’68, ’72MArch, Whiffenpoof alumnus, spent five unpaid years working on his two books, Yale College, Twentieth Century: A History in Present Time and Whiffenpoofs, Twentieth Century. He worked on them part-time starting in 1999 and full-time after 2001. He took 254 day trips to New Haven from his home in New York City. He had a workstation in the basement of Sterling Library—a privilege probably never before extended to any non–staff member—so he could scan original photographs to his own exacting specifications. He put his architectural business on hold.

All this, in Gould, is almost unsurprising. I’ve known him slightly since 2003, and he is intense about Yale and the Whiffenpoofs the way serious sports fans are intense about their teams and avid collectors are intense about their fields. He’s also impressively determined, with impressively strong opinions. (When we reviewed the Yale College book in this magazine in 2006, our reviewer said it would “delight and disturb almost anyone who ever came of age at Yale,” that it has “peculiar power,” and that within it, “the century unfolds like real life.” But he made some criticisms, and Gould has maintained ever since that it was a terrible review.) Once having taken on a Herculean task, Gould would keep going.

Gould didn’t ask me to write about his books. But Yale University Press, which has taken over the books’ marketing, sent me a set recently, and I remembered how stunning they are. To produce the Yale College book, Gould went through a century’s worth of yearbooks and Yale Daily News issues, picking out photos and news items that he felt spoke to the pivotal experiences of each era. Then he combined them into a book he designed himself: 410 pages of original-source material on events and issues that shaped Yale undergrads, 1900–2001. The pages are crammed with photos and quotes. (The Whiff book is much shorter, with indexes of names, songs, and recordings, and comes with four CDs.)

1902: a photo of Yale men in top hats running in the snow. 1932, a headline from the News: “The Problem of Starvation.” 1957: a poster for a New Haven concert by performers including Fats Domino and Chuck Berry. 1969: two pages of yearbook photos of Yale graduates who died in the Vietnam War. 1984: “Membership in the Yale Gay and Lesbian Alumni (GALA) Has Grown to 500.” 2000: “On Battell Altar, Nader Blasts Yale.” Periodically, the pages open up to huge photographs—the Old Campus in 1939; an anti–Vietnam War rally. The final, splendid image of New Haven’s elms in the late 1800s is spread over five pages, including a back-cover gatefold.

There are quirks. Locating the right caption for each image can be baffling. Every year in the Yale College book begins with photos of that year’s Whiffs. And Gould ends the century with a gatefold on the 9/11 “Tribute in Light,” which he worked on personally.

But the overall effect—as you flip through pages filled with what Duke president Richard Brodhead ’68, ’72PhD, calls in the foreword “bursts of recovered vitality”—is riveting. The idea for the book came to Gould when, reading News issues and yearbooks from his father’s and grandfather’s years at Yale College, he found that he knew them both better for having studied the culture of their youth. He created the book to evoke for others that same “sense of connectedness” with the past. It won’t have that particular effect for everyone. But it will have a powerful impact. (And I know he’ll consider this a terrible review.)

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