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Calhoun College


Calhoun College

Calhoun College
Residential college
University Yale University
Location 189 Elm Street
Nickname Hounies, HounDogs, The Inferno
Motto E Pluribus Hounum
Motto in English Out of many, one Houn.
Established 1933
Named for John C. Calhoun
Colors Black, navy blue, gold
Sister college Kirkland House, Harvard
Pembroke College, Oxford
Master Julia Adams [1]
Dean April Ruiz
Undergraduates 425 (2013-2014)
Website /

Calhoun College is a residential college of Yale University. Opened to undergraduates in 1933, Calhoun is one of the original eight residential colleges donated by Edward Harkness, and the only one designed by John Russell Pope. It is among the most compact of Yale's residential colleges.

The college is named for American politician John C. Calhoun, an 1804 graduate of Yale College. This name is now controversial due to Calhoun's white supremacist views and slaveownership.


  • History 1
  • Recent events 2
  • Namesake and controversy 3
    • Calhoun at Yale and after 3.1
    • Selection as college namesake 3.2
    • Modern controversy 3.3
  • Unique features 4
  • Notable alumni 5
  • Masters and deans 6
  • References 7
    • Bibliography 7.1
  • External links 8


Calhoun College courtyard, Winter 2011

In 1641, John Brockston established a farm on the plot of land that is now Calhoun 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.[2] 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.

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.[3] The new dormitory became known as Calhoun College.

Like all other residential colleges at their inception, Calhoun 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, Calhoun 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 of Calhoun 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 combines the university arms, set atop the Cross of St. Andrew. The college colors are black, navy blue, and gold.

Recent events

Calhoun College 2011
Calhoun College
Calhoun College

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. 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 of Calhoun. 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 Calhoun's controversial exclusion from the most recent campus-wide renovation effort.

Though partially renovated in 1989, Calhoun College was fully renovated over the 2008-09 school-year.

Stephen Lassonde stepped down as the Calhoun Dean in June 2007 thus ending one of the longest tenures as dean 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.[4] In late April 2007, he made the official announcement that he would be leaving Calhoun to serve as Deputy Dean of the College at Brown University in nearby Providence. The most recent dean of Calhoun was Leslie Woodard, who died unexpectedly at her home in Calhoun in October 2013.[5] 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 Calhoun's mighty elm—host of the college's famous tire swing and shade provider for literally every Calhoun student since the college's founding—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 Calhoun (itself a five and six story building in different places), the tree posed a real danger to the college structure and Calhoun students.

Namesake and controversy

Calhoun at Yale and after

Having grown up on a plantation in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun entered Yale College in November 1802.[6] He lived in a dorm on the college's Old Campus, Union Hall, and was taught by chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman, Jeremiah Day, and Yale President Timothy Dwight.[7] He did well academically, was selected as a member of the Linonia literary society, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1804.[8] He subsequently received a Juris Doctor from Litchfield Law School in Connecticut, and thereafter returned to South Carolina. After his student years, Calhoun never again had significant involvement in Yale and was never a benefactor.

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 1925 and served two terms before resigning to fight for South Carolina's nullification of federal treaties as a Senator. During his political career, Calhoun gained a reputation as a great rhetorician and intellectual. In addition to his advocacy of state's rights, Calhoun was an 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 growing cotton trade.

Selection as college namesake

Because of his political, military, and intellectual achievements, Calhoun was venerated as an illustrious Yale alumni 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.[9]

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.[10] Of these, only Calhoun and Jonathan Edwards were selected as namesakes of the eight original residential colleges when they were named around 1931.

Modern controversy

A debate over the appropriateness of the college's name has waxed and waned, as John C. Calhoun's involvement in protection of the institution of 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.[11] 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.[12] In June 2015, the Charleston church shooting prompted radio commetators Colin McEnroe and Ray Hardman to question whether the preservation of the college's name was an inappropriate legacy of white supremacy.[13][14]

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 slaveowners.[11] In 2009, a student group protested the connection by posting alternative names for slaveowner-named colleges near the college entrances.[15]

Unique features

The courtyard used to have a popular tire swing, which stood in stark contrast to the stunning Neo-Gothic architecture. In the Fall of 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.

Calhoun used to be the only residential college with its own sauna.[16] The sauna was removed from Entryway B/C during the 2005-06 school year.

The Calhoun 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 called, Calhoun Screw, and Trolley Night, an annual dance party.[17]

Notable alumni

Masters and deans


  1. ^ "Master Julia Adams". Calhoun College. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Before Calhoun College: The Old Yale Divinity School". Road to Parnassus. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Bedford, Steven (1998). John Russell Popoe: Architect of Empire. New York: Random House. pp. 166–168.  
  4. ^ Yale Alumni Magazine: Milestones Archived 13 February 2011 at WebCite
  5. ^ "Calhoun dean, Leslie Woodard, dies at 53". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 16.
  7. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 16–20.
  8. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 17,20.
  9. ^ Sotkes, Anson Phelps (1914). Memorials of Eminent Yale Men 2. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 196–205. 
  10. ^ Yamasaki, Tritia. "The Character of Harkness Tower". Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs. Yale University. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Dugdale, Antony; Fueser, J.J.; Celso de Castro Alves, J. (2001). "Yale, Slavery, and Abolition". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Bass, Carole. "What's in a name? Looking for answers at Calhoun College". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Hardman, Ray (23 June 2015). "Yale's Calhoun College: History Lesson or Institutional Racism?". WNPR. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  14. ^ McEnroe, Colin (24 June 2015). "The Ivy League’s "Confederate flag" problem: Why is a Yale college still named after John C. Calhoun?". Salon. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  15. ^ Wang, Rachel (14 October 2009). "Anonymous campaign 'renames' colleges with slave past". The Yale Daily News. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Calhoun College Council". Yale University. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Scholastic Prizes". Yale Bulletin & Calendar 26 (33) (Yale Office of Public Affairs & Communications). 1998. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 


  • Niven, John (1993). John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union (2nd ed.). Louisiana State University Press.  

External links

  • Calhoun College, Yale
  • The Beginning of Yale Residential Colleges
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