In his more than 30 years at Yale, Peter Salovey, Ph.D. ’86, has been a student, scholar, psychologist, and scientist. Over those years he has risen through the university hierarchy—serving as chair of psychology, Yale College dean, provost, and now, president.
His tenure became official on October 13 with his inauguration as Yale’s 23rd president. In the week leading up to the ceremony, Yale celebrated with a reception for faculty and staff, a parade of dogs including Yale mascot Handsome Dan, an open house, and a panel of university presidents who offered their cumulative wisdom. Salovey, the Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, also visited 27 schools and departments across Yale. His penultimate visit brought him to the medical school, where he has longstanding collaborations in research in cancer and HIV/AIDS. As a social psychologist, he is best known for developing the concept of emotional intelligence with colleague John D. Mayer, Ph.D.
The roles he has filled throughout the university have given him a sense of community that infused his inaugural address, in which he vowed to continue to “bring Yale to the world and the world to Yale.” On the stage in Woolsey Hall, flanked by his predecessor Richard C. Levin and dignitaries including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Salovey noted the achievements of Levin’s 20-year tenure. Many reflect engagement with the broader world: a strong partnership with the city of New Haven, more than 900 faculty members engaged in overseas projects, and Yale’s emerging status as a global institution.
Salovey said that he would develop a university that is both more unified and more global and ensure that Yale remains accessible to “brilliant, hard-working, and committed applicants who would invigorate our campus and improve our world.” He promised to “support, expand, and celebrate basic and problem-driven research in the fields of today and those of tomorrow.
“Our task,” he said, “even while we grow in size, even while we commit to being a more diverse faculty, staff, and student body; more cross disciplinary; and more global, is to retain Yale’s focus on the ties that bind us together, the sense of being a small, interdependent community, but one with an impressively broad scope. This intimacy and shared sense of purpose is what generates Yale’s distinctive spirit.”
Glad tidings added to that sense of unity in the days leading up to his inauguration: A 1954 Yale College alumnus gave Yale College the largest gift in its history—$250 million; James Rothman, Ph.D., chair of cell biology and an alumnus of Yale College, shared in the 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, and the football team kicked off the season with a 3-0 winning streak. (The day after his inauguration Salovey had more good news to share: Robert J. Shiller, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Economics, had won the Nobel Prize in economic science.)
But being part of a larger community allowed him to birg, a term from social psychology that stands for bask in reflected glory. “You identify with something bigger than yourself, like Yale; then, when something good happens to someone else in that organization, your self-esteem goes up. Jim Rothman won the Nobel Prize—that reflects on me!” Salovey said. “If you can identify with something bigger than yourself and ‘bask in reflected glory,’ you can feel pretty good about other people’s successes. This is the key to happiness. … This is what makes this place so wonderful.”