Light & Verity

New colleges get heads—and arms

Coats of arms and heads of college are announced—and coats of arms unveiled—for Franklin and Murray.

Yale University

Yale University

Tina Lu (left, above her college’s coat of arms) will be head of Murray College. Charles Bailyn (right) will lead Franklin. View full image

Each of Yale’s two new residential colleges, set to open in the fall of 2017, now has someone in charge. Astronomy professor Charles Bailyn ’81 will be the head of Benjamin Franklin College, and Tina Lu, professor of East Asian languages and literatures, will be head of Pauli Murray College. (This spring the university replaced the title “master” with “head of college.”) Bailyn and Lu were chosen with the help of a 14-person search advisory committee made up of faculty members, staff members, Yale College students, and alumni.

Bailyn, the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy and Physics, has taught at Yale since 1990. For the past five years, he served as the inaugural dean of faculty at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. His wife, Rebecca Tannenbaum, a colonial historian and senior lecturer in the history department, will be the associate head of college; their 14-year-old daughter will also join them in Franklin.

Bailyn says the new colleges hold the promise of a much closer integration of science and the rest of undergraduate life, given their proximity to Science Hill. “That’s been a goal of mine for almost 40 years, since I first arrived at Yale as a freshman,” he says. “So it’s exciting to have this chance to help make it happen.”

Lu is a specialist in Chinese literature that dates from 1550 to 1750. A graduate of Harvard, she has taught at Yale since 2008. She has served as her department’s director of graduate studies, its director of undergraduate studies, and, currently, its chair. Her husband, associate head of college Stuart Semmel, is a senior lecturer in history who teaches in the Directed Studies program.

Lu says she has always wanted to lead a residential college. “In the classroom, you participate in students’ lives in such a narrow way,” she says. “The idea that you can have a multidimensional relationship with them is something my husband and I really like.” Lu and Semmel have five children, ranging in age from 5 to 14, all of whom she says are “really, really jazzed” to move into their new home next fall. “My eight-year-old cannot wait to have her own Yale ID.”

When Yale announced the two heads of college in June, it also unveiled the coats of arms for both colleges, which were designed by University Printer John Gambell. Franklin’s shield features lightning bolts to represent Benjamin Franklin’s scientific experiments and fleurs-de-lys as a reminder of his diplomatic service in France. Murray’s features a blue-and-white circle design that appeared on Pauli Murray’s personal stationery, along with spurs that allude to her efforts to spur social and political change.

Both shields have a red, white, and blue color scheme. “Both of these people made really substantial contributions to American culture—very different contributions at different times and in different ways,” says Gambell. “The idea of pulling those together to lead an audience to think about how each of them has contributed to our national character is what I thought interesting.”


  • Chevalier Daniel C. Boyer
    Chevalier Daniel C. Boyer, 10:56pm September 01 2016 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Leaving aside how utterly absurd is the adoption of the title "Head of College," the arms of Franklin most assuredly does not feature any lightning bolt. If they would simply blazon the arms in these sorts of articles rather than vaguely and inaccurately describing them these sorts of ridiculous errors would not occur.

  • Alexander Liptak
    Alexander Liptak, 6:48am September 02 2016 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    The arms of Benjamin Franklin could have provided inspiration for the college's own. Rather, Gambell preferred to represent a Founding Father by alluding to a dubious kite experiment and usurping the symbol of French kings, in the wrong colours at that.

    Also, when I saw the arms for Murray College under Professor Lu's photo I thought it was a joke. The coat of arms looks like ninja stars and a yin and yang taijitu.

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