Grace Hopper College

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Grace Hopper College
Residential college
Yale University
Hopper College shield 2017.png
Coat of arms of Grace Hopper College
Location189 Elm Street
Coordinates41°18′36″N 72°55′38″W / 41.309974°N 72.927241°W / 41.309974; -72.927241Coordinates: 41°18′36″N 72°55′38″W / 41.309974°N 72.927241°W / 41.309974; -72.927241
Established1933 (as Calhoun College)
Named forGrace Murray Hopper
formerly, John C. Calhoun
Previous namesCalhoun College
ArchitectJames Gamble Rogers
Sister college Kirkland House, Harvard
Pembroke College, Oxford
King's College, Cambridge
HeadJulia Adams[1]
DeanDavid Francis
Undergraduates425 (2013–2014)

Grace Hopper College is a residential college of Yale University, opened in 1933 as one of the original eight undergraduate residential colleges endowed by Edward Harkness. It was originally named Calhoun College after US Vice President John C. Calhoun, but renamed in 2017 in honor of computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper.[2][3][4] The building was designed by John Russell Pope.

From the 1960s onward, Calhoun's white supremacist beliefs and pro-slavery leadership[5][6][7][8] had prompted calls to rename the college and remove its tributes to Calhoun. In 2016, the Yale Corporation chose to retain the Calhoun name,[9][10] but in 2017 it reversed its decision and renamed the college after Hopper.[2][3]


Before the college[edit]

Divinity Hall, demolished in 1931 to build the college, from New Haven Green

In 1641, John Brockston established a farm on the plot of land that is now Grace Hopper College. After the Revolutionary War an inn was constructed that would later become the meeting place of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. From 1863 until 1931 the land was home to the Yale Divinity School, which was housed in three buildings known as West Divinity Hall, Marquand Chapel, and East Divinity Hall.[11] After Yale President James Rowland Angell announced the residential college plan in 1930, the Divinity School campus was demolished and a new campus built at the top of Prospect Hill, where it currently stands.

Construction and early history[edit]

Arms of Calhoun College

Although all the other Collegiate Gothic-style colleges at Yale were conceived by James Gamble Rogers, the commission for the new college at the corner of College and Elm Streets was given to John Russell Pope, a campus planner who concurrently designed the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.[12] The new dormitory was named Calhoun College.

Like all other residential colleges at their inception, the college had twenty-four-hour guard service and the gates were never locked. Jacket and tie was the necessary attire in the dining hall and meals were served at the table.

At first, it was considered an undesirable college because of its location at the corner of College and Elm, where trolleys frequently ran screeching around the corner. This perception changed under the popular Master Charles Schroeder, who once remarked that if the despicable trolley service were ever removed he would purchase a trolley car, put it in the courtyard, and hold a celebration to commemorate the event. The trolley system was indeed removed in 1949, and though a whole car proved unfeasible, Master Schroder secured the fare collecting machine from a trolley and made good on his promise to celebrate. Thus was born Trolley Night, a proud tradition of the college.

The coat of arms designed for Calhoun College combined the university arms, set atop the Calhoun arms (a saltire engrailed sable on a field argent). The college colors were black, navy blue, and gold.

College courtyard, Spring 2015.

Later events[edit]

The college from Elm Street
The College Street frontage
College courtyard, Winter 2011.

In 1989, Calhoun was the first residential college to be renovated. The renovations, mostly funded by alumnus Roger Horchow, were done quickly and over the summer to minimize disruption to student life, and by 2000, the physical plant began to show wear and tear again.

2005 saw the retirement of William and Betsy Sledge as Master and Associate Master. They were succeeded by Dr. Jonathan Holloway (PhD '95) and his wife Aisling Colón. In 2014, Holloway became the Dean of Yale College, the first African-American to hold that position. He was succeeded as Master by Julia Adams, Professor of Sociology and International and Area Studies. In the same year a limited window replacement was commissioned amid controversy over the college's exclusion from the most recent campus-wide renovation effort.

Stephen Lassonde stepped down as dean in June 2007 thus ending one of the longest tenures in the college's history. Within the Residential College system at Yale, deanships normally last only a few years, but Stephen Lassonde served as Calhoun Dean for fourteen years.[13] In late April 2007, he made the official announcement that he would be leaving the college to serve as Deputy Dean of the College at Brown University in nearby Providence, Rhode Island. He was succeeded by Leslie Woodard, who died unexpectedly at her home at the college in October 2013.[14] Until June 2007 Dean Woodard was the director of the undergraduate creative writing program at Columbia University. A published author of short stories, Dean Woodard also had a history in the performing arts; she was a professional dancer in the Dance Theater of Harlem for a decade.

In late June 2007 the college's mighty elm, which had provided shade since the college's foundation and also supported the college's famous tire swing, was felled. The tree was rotting from the ground up and was beginning to lean dangerously. Given the fact that the tree was actually taller than the college (itself a five- and six-story building in different places), the tree posed a real danger to the college structure and students.

The college was eventually fully renovated over the 2008-09 school-year.

Namesakes and Calhoun controversy[edit]

John C. Calhoun[edit]

John C. Calhoun grew up on a plantation in South Carolina. He entered Yale College in November 1802 [15] and lived in Union Hall, a dorm on Yale's Old Campus.[citation needed] His professors included Benjamin Silliman, and Yale Presidents Jeremiah Day and Timothy Dwight.[16] Calhoun was socially ostricized at Yale and wrote to his cousin that he found “a considerable prejudice here against both the southern states and students.”[17] He did well academically, was selected as a member of the Linonia literary society, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1804.[18] He was selected to give his commencement address, but was prevented from doing so by illness.[17]

Calhoun remained in Connecticut for several years to obtain a law degree from Litchfield Law School, then returned to South Carolina. After his student years, Calhoun never again had significant involvement in Yale and was never a benefactor. Calhoun's plantation estate later became the campus of Clemson University.

Elected to the United States Congress in 1810, he made his name as a War Hawk before the War of 1812, then became Secretary of War under President James Monroe. He was elected Vice President in 1825 and served two terms before resigning to fight for South Carolina's nullification of federal tariffs as a Senator. During his political career, Calhoun gained a reputation as a great rhetorician and intellectual. In addition to his advocacy of states' rights, Calhoun was a proponent of slaveholder rights and believed that slavery was justified by white supremacy. Inheriting his father's farm, Calhoun remained a slaveholder his entire life and profited from the cotton trade.[citation needed]

Naming of Calhoun College[edit]

Because of his political, military, and intellectual achievements, Calhoun was venerated as an illustrious Yale alumnus beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. He was the only Yale graduate to be elected to a federal executive office in the school's first two centuries, until the election of U.S. President William Howard Taft in 1909. A 1914 biography of Calhoun by Yale Secretary Anson Phelps Stokes details his accomplishments as an "eminent Yale man" without once mentioning his slaveholdings or pro-slavery leadership.[19]

Already holding some of Calhoun's papers, Yale offered its first commemoration of Calhoun during the construction of the Memorial Quadrangle in 1917. Statues of eight pre-20th century "Yale worthies" were placed on Harkness Tower, including an eight-foot statue of Calhoun.[20] Of these, only Calhoun and Jonathan Edwards were selected as namesakes of the eight original residential colleges when they were named around 1931.

Re-naming debates[edit]

A debate over the appropriateness of the college's name has waxed and waned, as John C. Calhoun's involvement in defending slavery has been reconsidered. In 1992, the graduating seniors commissioned a plaque noting the unfortunate reality of John C. Calhoun's legacy, but at the same time supported the notion that the college retain its name for historical purposes.[21] Around the same time, a pane of stained glass in the college's common room depicting a shackled black man kneeling before Calhoun was altered to depict Calhoun alone.[22]

After the June 2015 Charleston church shooting, radio commentators Colin McEnroe and Ray Hardman questioned whether the preservation of the college's name was an inappropriate legacy of white supremacy.[23][24] The events, which instigated student protests and alumni petitions in the same year,[6] caused administrators to consider renaming the college. In their petition students argued that—while Calhoun was respected in the 19th century as an "extraordinary American statesman"—he was "one of the most prolific defenders of slavery and white supremacy" in the history of the United States.[6][7] In August 2015 Yale President Peter Salovey addressed the Freshman Class of 2019 in which he responded to the racial tensions but explained why the college would not be renamed.[8] He described Calhoun as a "a notable political theorist, a vice president to two different U.S. presidents, a secretary of war and of state, and a congressman and senator representing South Carolina."[8] He acknowledged that Calhoun also "believed that the highest forms of civilization depend on involuntary servitude. Not only that, but he also believed that the races he thought to be inferior, black people in particular, ought to be subjected to it for the sake of their own best interests."[5][25]

In April 2016 Salovey announced that "despite decades of vigorous alumni and student protests," Calhoun's name would remain on the Yale residential college.[9] Salovey argued that it was preferable for Yale students to live in Calhoun's "shadow" so they will be "better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future." He claimed that if they removed Calhoun's name, it would "obscure" his "legacy of slavery rather than addressing it."[9] "Yale is part of that history" and "We cannot erase American history, but we can confront it, teach it and learn from it." At the same time, Salovey announced that the title of “master” would be changed to “head of college” because of the title's freighted use by American slaveowners.[10][26][27]

Artistic depictions of antebellum slavery[edit]

Stained glass window panels in the college depicted images of slavery. One showed a black man in shackles kneeling before Calhoun. Temple University professor and co-founder of the Yale Black Alumni Network Chris Rabb advocated for that panel to be altered.[28][29] The alterations replaced the black man with blank white pieces of glass.[30] The university had plans to change some additional stained glass windows in the dining hall in 2016, but, before that was done, Corey Menafee, an African-American dishwasher who worked there, knocked out the pane that showed black slaves harvesting cotton in the fields, because, as he related, he no longer wanted to be subjected to seeing the "racist, very degrading" image at his place of work, but also added: "There's always better ways of doing things like that than just destroying things." Menafee was initially arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges.[31][32] Yale chose not to press charges which were then dropped and, after initially accepting Menafee's resignation, rehired him to work at a different location.[33]

Calhoun's name has been tied up in larger controversies about the associations of the colleges with slavery. A 2001 report revealed that at least seven of the colleges' namesakes were slave owners.[21] In 2009, a student group protested the connection by posting alternative names for slaveowner-named colleges near the college entrances.[34] Commenting for the Wall Street Journal, Roger Kimball pointed out that Yale's namesake, Elihu Yale, was a slave trader, and questioned how Yale can defend the name of the university against similar moral arguments.[35]


Partly because of the controversy surrounding the 2016 decision not to rename Calhoun College, Yale put in place a policy on the potential renaming of buildings and other institutions around the university. One of the first items of business the consequent task force addressed was the renaming of Calhoun College, and in February 2017 it recommended to the Yale Corporation that the college's name be changed.[36] The Corporation accepted that recommendation, and voted at its February 2017 meeting to change the name of Calhoun to Grace Hopper College, effective July 1, 2017.[2]

The college's new namesake has a tie to Yale, having received her Ph.D. from there under the direction of Øystein Ore in 1934.[37]

The college's new arms, designed in 2017, were intended to represent Admiral Hopper's history, as well as to create a tie to the college's past. The heraldic dolphin represents both leadership and Hopper's career in the United States Navy. The rectangles and circles represent her contributions to mathematics and computer science. The scalloped (engrailed) bar is evocative of waves—and also incorporates a design element of the Calhoun College arms, which featured an engrailed saltire.[38]

Unique features[edit]

The courtyard used to have a popular tire swing, which stood in stark contrast to the Neo-Gothic architecture. In fall 1990, newly appointed master Turan Onat made it his first priority to remove the tire swing as he sought "to restore the courtyard to a grassier state." The seniors immediately reinstalled the swing overnight and Onat quickly reversed his policy.

The college used to be the only residential college with its own sauna.[39] The sauna was removed from Entryway B/C during the 2005–06 school year.[citation needed]

The College Council is a student governing organization that coordinates activities and social life for the residential college. Throughout the year, the Council organizes numerous activities including: Study Breaks, a dorm-wide dance, and Trolley Night, an annual dance party.[40]

Notable alumni[edit]

Masters/Heads of College and Deans[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c "Yale to change Calhoun College's name to honor Grace Murray Hopper". YaleNews. February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Hamid, Zainab (February 11, 2017). "Calhoun College to be Renamed for Grace Hopper GRD '34". Yale Daily News. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  4. ^ "Welcome | Grace Hopper College". Retrieved 2017-07-06.
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  16. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 16–20.
  17. ^ a b Williams, R. Owen (2005). "Honoring the Dishonorable: Calhoun College at Yale University". Yale MacMillan Center. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  18. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 17,20.
  19. ^ Sotkes, Anson Phelps (1914). Memorials of Eminent Yale Men. 2. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 196–205.
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  21. ^ a b Dugdale, Antony; Fueser, J.J.; Celso de Castro Alves, J. (2001). "Yale, Slavery, and Abolition". Retrieved 24 June 2015.
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  31. ^ Zamudio-Suaréz, Fernanda (11 July 2016). "Yale Worker Purposely Breaks Stained-Glass Window Over 'Racist' Imagery". The Chronicle of Higher Education blog. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
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  33. ^ Ed Stannard (July 26, 2016). "Criminal charges against Yale worker who broke window effectively dismissed". New Haven Register. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
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  39. ^ Shinzong Lee, Yale Daily News, 30 June 2002. Retrieved 12 Feb 2017.
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  • Niven, John (1993). John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union (2nd ed.). Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 9780807118580.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Hopper College at Wikimedia Commons