Hopper College’s new windows acknowledge the past and celebrate the present

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Twelve new decorative windows installed today at Grace Hopper College, Yale’s residential college formerly known as Calhoun College, celebrate the richness of the college community and take in the complex history behind its name.

The windows, to be revealed during an open house on September 12, replace panels that had commemorated the life of John C. Calhoun 1804 BA, 1822 LL.D, an influential champion of slavery for whom the house was originally named. university, and paid homage to a antebellum Southern society that was built on the backs of enslaved people. The removed windows are now housed in the Yale University Library Archives and Manuscripts Department, where they are available for his research.

Artist Faith Ringgold designed the six new windows installed in the university’s common room, which represent the full range of student life, from academics to extracurricular activities. Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas designed six new windows in the dining hall, illustrating key transitions in the university’s history, honoring the people who work in the dining hall, and depicting the upbeat music and community spirit that brighten the Yale undergraduate experience. .

These new windows are a wonderful gift to the students and staff of Hopper College and to the entire Yale community,” said President Peter Salovey. “They honor the strong sense of community that helps us grow and prosper together.

Window illustration showing a hummingbird carrying Grace Murray Hopper while a robin carries off John C. Calhoun
A hummingbird brings Grace Murray Hopper while a robin carries John C. Calhoun in this rendering of a new Hopper College dining room window designed by Barbara Earl Thomas.

I extend my gratitude to Faith Ringgold and Barbara Earl Thomas for their thoughtful and elegant designs and to the faculty and students who guided the project from start to finish.”

In addition to the windows, Thomas also designed metalwork and glass portraits of Grace Murray Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, and brilliant teacher, and a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, a college resident and Rhodes Scholar who died in a car accident. during his senior year, he will occupy two stone alcoves flanking the last flight of dining room windows. These works will be installed later this fall.

The residential college, which opened in 1933, was originally named for Calhoun, who served the country as Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and prominent United States Senator. However, his advocacy of slavery and white supremacy long made him a subject of controversy on campus.

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In 2016, Salovey established a panel, the Committee to establish principles on name change to ensure that any decision on the university’s name was based on scholarship and a set of guiding principles. Once the committee completed its work, an ad-hoc advisory group, consisting of a university alumnus and two distinguished faculty members, applied its principles to the university’s name and determined that neither was against the change in name. Name.

In 2017, Salovey and the Yale Corporation renamed the university in honor of Hopper ’30 MA ’34 Ph.D., one of Yale’s most distinguished graduates whose pioneering work as a software programmer helped make computers more accessible. for a broader range of users and expanded its applications, concluding that Calhoun’s fierce advocacy of slavery and white supremacy form his main legacy.

That spring, Hopper College’s newly formed Windows Commission Committee took it upon itself to recommend an artist or artists to create new windows for the common room and dining room. The committee was chaired by Anoka Faruqee, associate dean of the Yale School of Art, and included undergraduates from the university.

the new windows

Working in a variety of media, including painting, quilting, performing arts and sculpture, during an artistic career spanning more than 50 years, Ringgold focused her designs on capturing the full range of student life.

The panels he designed show students reading in a library, playing basketball, working on a pottery wheel, painting a canvas, and gathering at a table to eat. One of the panels shows Hopper, standing in front of a blackboard, which has lines of computer code written on it in chalk along with the acronym COBOL, a computer programming language for commercial use that she was instrumental in developing. (Hopper, a lifelong teacher, taught math on the faculty of Vassar College for 13 years.)

Personally, I love the delightful fun of Faith Ringgold’s allusions to everyday student life at the university in a way that could span decades, and her portrayal of Grace Hopper as a teacher in addition to her many other roles,” said Julia Adams, the director. from Hopper College and a member of the advisory committee. “This is perfect for our common room, which is the center of university life.”

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Thomas, a widely exhibited artist who has shared her work publicly since the 1980s, was tasked with integrating her designs into the existing Currier & Ives windows in the dining room, which depict the flora and fauna of the American South.

One of the windows symbolizes the university’s name change by depicting a hummingbird moving a Hopper name banner toward the foreground, while a robin carries a Calhoun banner toward the background. Another shows a young black man, who has been freed from chains, clutching a book to his chest below the words “Art”, “Science”, “Past History” and “Present History”. A third commemorating Yale College’s 1969 co-education shows female students outside of the residential college.

After accepting the brief, Thomas met twice with Hopper College students via Zoom to discuss possible concepts for the remaining windows. Dining room staff members interested in participating were invited to share their thoughts during a separate Zoom meeting with Thomas.

Students talked a lot about the importance of the staff to their lives as residents of the university,” said Thomas. “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to include staff members in the conversation.”

Those conversations contributed to the final three designs. One shows staff members standing in the dining room below the text “From kitchen to table,” a tribute to the people who work to provide the meals students enjoy. Another design features students making music, singing, and playing a tuba and other instruments.

That concept was drawn from my experience visiting Yale,” said Thomas, who visited the campus in 2019 while seeking the commission. “I was sleeping in college and had the windows open. I could hear people singing in the courtyard. It seemed like a lovely aspect of Yale life.”

Hopper College's new windows acknowledge the past and celebrate the present yale is broken mended
“Broken is Mended,” a new window in the Hopper College dining hall designed by Barbara Earl Thomas, acknowledges both past divisions and subsequent recovery that has allowed the campus community to move forward.

While on campus, Thomas was invited to a College Tea where she spoke with students and fellow college students about her art. During the visit, she also saw the broken window fragments, which are now on display as part of an exhibition on American glass at the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG). In June 2016, an employee working at the university used a broomstick to knock down a dining room window showing enslaved people working in a cotton field. Six windows in the central bay of the dining room and the six in the common room were soon replaced by temporary amber-tinted panels. Thomas’s experience seeing the shards inspired the sixth design, depicting the dining room’s window openings separated by an irregular bar. The words “Broken is Mended” appear in the crack with a pair of hands interlocked at index fingers running along the bottom of the panel.

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We are not denying that there was a fissure or an injury,” he said. “We are also not going to stop at injury as a way of life. We know it’s there and we can go back and examine it, but we’ve made our peace in a way that allows us to move forward with the knowledge that we’re all involved in the wound and we’re all involved in how it is. repaired.”

The complex path we have taken’

Thomas will discuss his designs and artistic practice on September 12 with Kymberly Pinder, Dean of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation at the Yale School of Art, during an event at YUAG following the open house.

Thomas’s work gracefully navigates a difficult history while capturing the university’s tight-knit community, Adams said.

Barbara Earl Thomas’s windows handle the impossible by, among other things, capturing the richness of some major college and university transitions, including the name change from Calhoun to Hopper and the historic advent of female undergraduates at Yale “, said. . “Both celebration and conflict appear, helping us to remember the complex path we have taken as we look to the future.”

Once installed, the metal portraits of Hopper and Thompson, currently being manufactured, will be placed opposite each other, placing the two figures: a world-renowned computer scientist, mathematician, teacher, and naval officer, and a brilliant young man with unlimited potential. whose life ended tragically, in one conversation, Faruqee said.

The niches are a new contribution to the space”, he said. “Unlike windows, they are located at eye level. They will be backlit and aesthetically integrated with the windows. I love how they will sit on the architecture of the bay.

Having these two people, who have probably never met, existing together in space provides a subtle artistic gesture towards mutual recognition and respect that sums up much of Barbara’s vision.”