After nearly 40 years at Yale (beginning with his time as a graduate student), President Peter Salovey says he is still impressed with the ways in which Yale and New Haven neighbors unite to improve their city.
“We bring different skills and viewpoints to our roles, and yet we are all engaged in improving lives today and building a better future,” he said during a keynote address at the annual meeting of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce (GNHCC) on May 3. The meeting, attended by some 500 business leaders, city officials, and others, celebrated the 225th year of the GNHCC.
Salovey outlined the benefits of Yale’s partnerships with its home city during the event; the theme of his speech is “Three Centuries of Partnership.”
He noted that Yale’s relationship with New Haven is older than the GNHCC itself, “built upon three centuries of shared history and commitment to improving our city and world in many different ways.”
Among one of the most important partnerships, he said, is the nearly decade-old New Haven Promise, which provides up to $4 million every year in college scholarships to students who graduate from a public school in New Haven to attend college in Connecticut.
“When Yale and New Haven citizens collaborate to develop new and creative ways to contribute to the growth of young people in our city, we are enriching all our lives and especially investing in our future,” commented Salovey.
The audience applauded especially vigorously when the Yale president described the university’s efforts to attract students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to its campus. He told how this year the university offered more than $160 million in financial aid to make a Yale College education affordable for every student, and noted that Yale is free for undergraduate students whose family income is below $65,000. Today, almost one in five Yale first-year students is the first in their families to attend college, he said.
“We know that affordability and access to higher education are among the most pressing issues we face as a society,” Salovey told the audience. “Opening our doors to talented students, regardless of their financial means, enriches our campus community and our home city. It’s going to make our country and our world a better place. It is my hope that many of these students will remain in New Haven after graduation.”
A healthy downtown also helps to attract more talented students and scholars, added Salovey.
“Your businesses — new retail, dining, and cultural attractions — help make our campus and surrounding neighborhoods exciting places to live and visit,” he told audience members. He cited the new arts incubator NXTHVN, co-founded by Yale School of Art alumni Titus Kaphar and Jonathan Brand, among others, as a new development that is “contributing to a vibrant and dynamic New Haven.”
Salovey emphasized the importance of arts and culture to the New Haven community and beyond, noting that the Yale Center for British Art and Yale University Art Gallery attract thousands of visitors each year. He relayed the university’s pride this year in receiving the Governor’s Patron of the Arts Award in recognition of its public arts programs and venues.
As an “economic anchor” in the City of New Haven — employing 15,000 faculty and staff — the university remains committed to hiring residents of the city, Salovey said. He also cited other university contributions to New Haven’s wellbeing, including over $40 million to economic development initiatives such as Start Community Bank, Market New Haven, and the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Indirectly, Yale contributes over $10.2 billion a year to the Connecticut economy, including for its construction and renovation projects and in purchasing, he noted.
Salovey expressed pride in the commitment of university staff members to their local neighbors; over three decades, Yale employees have contributed over $21 million to programs in New Haven via the yearly Yale United Way Campaign, he noted.
Most recently, Yale made a $250,000 leadership gift to the Willis K. Stetson Branch of the New Haven Free Public Library to support its move to a new home and increased community resources, Salovey said.
“There is nothing more important than literacy in giving our kids a great start,” Salovey told the audience.
The Yale president hailed the appointment by Governor Ned Lamont of rail systems expert Joe Giulietti as the state’s commissioner of transportation, and he commended the governor for legislation “to update the state’s authority to enter into public-private partnerships in transportation, which would help the state find the best and most efficient solutions to upgrading the New Haven line.”
With their applause, members of the audience expressed agreement with Salovey that an expanded runway at Tweed is vital for the future of New Haven and the region. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and other business leaders also spoke at the meeting about the importance of the Tweed expansion. Harp noted that Bloomberg rated New Haven the “#1 relocation destination for millennials” and the “4th most innovative economy in the nation,” and Salovey concurred that the airport expansion is necessary for both economic development and for creating jobs.
“It is time to get that done,” said Salovey about the expansion to the loud applause of his audience. “Let’s not relent in our advocacy.”
Improved transportation is especially vital as New Haven has become a hub of innovation, Salovey commented. He said 130 university-connected startups, such as the recently opened Quantum Circuits Inc., have been established in the city.
“Recent high-tech companies that call New Haven home are developing cancer therapies, antibiotics, and new green technologies — all based on Yale research,” the Yale president remarked. “I think this is key to the economic development of our city. [These companies] enrich our city and neighborhoods, and their discoveries are making a difference around the world.”
Salovey underscored Yale’s commitment to “celebrate and embrace newcomers around the world.” He noted that New Haven is home to nearly 3,000 international Yale students as well as a “robust immigrant population.” The transformation of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs into the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs will further help to “solidify New Haven’s role as a global city.”
“Our embrace of diversity is morally right and economically smart, and enriches our area’s academic institutions,” Salovey said. He added that Yale and New Haven “will continue to broaden and strengthen our global connections — a key to our future.”
Salovey concluded his keynote address by thanking the GNHCC for its 225 years of contributions to the Yale-New Haven partnership and said he looked forward to continuing to strengthen Yale’s home city. He received a standing ovation after his address.