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Jonathan Edwards College

Jonathan Edwards College
Residential college
University Yale University
Location 68 High Street
Nickname JE or J.E.[1]
Motto JE SUX[2]
Established 1933
Named for Jonathan Edwards
Colors Green and White
Sister college Eliot House (Harvard)
Master Penelope Laurans
Dean Joseph C. Spooner
Undergraduates 427 (2013-2014)
Mascot spider
Called Spiders
Fellows 257[3]
Website /

Jonathan Edwards College (informally JE) is a residential college at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. It is named for theologian and minister Jonathan Edwards, a 1720 graduate of Yale College.[4] Opened to undergraduates in 1933, JE is one of the original eight residential colleges donated by Edward Harkness. It is also among the smallest of Yale's residential colleges, by both footprint and undergraduate membership.

JE's residential quadrangle was the first to be completed in Yale's residential college system.[5] Because its design employed buildings finished before the Residential College Plan was adopted, it is stylistically eclectic, but predominantly in the Collegiate Gothic style popularized at Yale by the Memorial Quadrangle.


  • History 1
  • Namesake 2
  • Buildings 3
    • Design 3.1
    • Expansion and renovation 3.2
    • Facilities 3.3
      • Residences 3.3.1
      • Great Hall and common rooms 3.3.2
      • Libraries and seminar rooms 3.3.3
      • Basement 3.3.4
      • Courtyard and grounds 3.3.5
  • Art and artwork 4
    • Memorabilia 4.1
    • Sculpture 4.2
    • The JE Press 4.3
    • Exhibitions 4.4
  • Insignia 5
  • Student life 6
    • Student Activities 6.1
    • College traditions 6.2
      • Culture Draw 6.2.1
      • Dances 6.2.2
      • Annual Festivities 6.2.3
      • Men of JE 6.2.4
      • Branford College rivalry 6.2.5
    • Sister college 6.3
  • Fellows and affiliates 7
    • Fellowship 7.1
  • Fellowships 8
  • Notable alumni 9
  • Masters and Deans 10
  • References 11
    • Notes 11.1
    • Bibliography 11.2
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


Main entrance to Jonathan Edwards College

In 1930, Yale President James Rowland Angell announced a "Quadrangle Plan" for Yale College, establishing small collegiate communities in the style of Oxford and Cambridge in order to foster more social intimacy among students and faculty, relieve dormitory overcrowding, and reduce the influence of on-campus fraternities and societies. Professor Robert Dudley French was one of the earliest advocates of this plan and visited Oxford and Cambridge to study aspects of their college systems. In 1930, Angell appointed him Master of Jonathan Edwards College, the first such appointment at Yale.[6] French subsequently selected eight members of the faculty to be the first fellows of the college. These men were chosen because they combined distinction in both teaching and scholarship, and because of their individuality and diversity of interests.

James Gamble Rogers, Yale's campus planner and architect of eight of the residential colleges, selected the site for JE to incorporate two dormitories he had previously designed for Yale College. Construction on JE's original buildings was completed in 1932. In September 1933, JE opened to its first class of students.[6]

JE's early years saw a flourishing of political activity among students. In 1934 the John Lindsay, many of whom served as officers of the Political Union.

During World War II, JE was one of three residential colleges which remained open to civilian students.[8] During this time, it became a significant site of intelligence community activity. Master French, who remained at the college through 1953, and his successor, William Dunham, were conduits for undergraduate recruitment into intelligence positions.[9] Fellow and future dean Joseph Curtiss was extensively involved in CIA reconnaissance projects, including one known as the "Yale Library Project."[10][11]

Until the university abolished the practice 1962 and placed students in the colleges by lottery, the college admitted students by application after completion of their freshman year. During this time JE gained a reputation as a "middle caste" college; it was neither a wealthy, "white shoe" college nor a "scholarship" college.[12] During the 1960s, Master Beekman Cannon deepened a tradition of performing arts in the college, hosting operas, plays, recitals, and musical satire.[13][14]

Historically, the college enforced a coat and tie dress code for evening meals in the dining hall, and curfews and parietal rules in the dormitories. These rules were gradually relaxed after the advent of co-education in Yale College in 1969.


Jonathan Edwards matriculated at Yale College in 1716 near his 13th birthday. Four years later, he graduated as valedictorian of his class of about twenty. This was at a time when entrance into either Harvard or Yale required ability in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.[15] Edwards received his Masters of Arts from Yale in 1722. In 1724, he returned to the college as a tutor respected for his theological orthodoxy, anti-Arminianism, and devotion to Yale.[16] During his Yale teaching he began to write and recite a litany of self-improving resolutions, which became a lifelong practice. After leaving Yale in 1726, he went on to serve a number of pulpits, publish widely read sermons and essays, and lead the Great Awakening. Late in his life he co-founded the College of New Jersey and presided as its third president.

In 1938, in part due to the naming of the college, descendants of Edwards donated his papers to Yale. Today, The Jonathan Edwards Center contains many of these original writings.



Weir Hall, JE's oldest building, from the Art Gallery sculpture garden

The dominant architectural style of JE is Gothic Revival, and the campus consists of two- to four-story buildings surrounding an open courtyard. It is the only one of James Gamble Rogers' eight colleges to blend new and pre-existing buildings. Less ornate than the adjacentMemorial Quadrangle, JE became the template for Yale's gothic residential projects.[5] JE's immediate forerunner is in the York-Library dormitory, a short, L-shaped building completed in 1924 to complement the Memorial Quadrangle and complete the Gothic corridor along Library Street (now Library Walk).[5] When the college plan was approved several years later, Rogers reconfigured and expanded the dormitory, renaming its wings as Dickinson Hall and Wheelock Hall after early alumni who were the founding presidents of Princeton and Dartmouth. The construction of the dormitories also required the demolition of Kent Chemical Laboratory, replaced with Kent Hall, and the addition of a dining hall and Master's house that fully enclosed the quadrangle. [13]

Alumni Hall on Old Campus, from which Weir Hall's towers were salvaged

JE's final building, Weir Hall, was incorporated into the college several decades into the college's tenure. Its construction began in 1911 when George Douglas Miller decided to build a dormitory for Skull and Bones. Though Miller salvaged the castellated towers of Alumni Hall, a campus building originally constructed in 1851, the new dormitory was never completed and was purchased by the university in 1912.[17][18] It served as home to Yale's Department of Architecture from 1924 until 1965, when it was converted to a residential and library building for JE.[19][20]

Expansion and renovation

The Robert Taft Library, built in 1965

Though the basic architectural program of the college has remained unchanged since its opening, JE has undergone several significant renovations. In 1965, the annexation of Weir Hall allowed for the construction of the Robert Taft Library, faculty offices, and college seminar rooms, expanding the limited library space available in the original college.[21][22]

In 2007, as part of a twelve-year program to renovate all of Yale's residential colleges, Newman Architects led a major, yearlong renovation of JE. The renovation aimed to improve connectivity and accessibility, upgrade building systems, and restore and enhance building facilities.[23][24] Most residential suites were reconfigured, administrative offices were consolidated, and the college was retrofitted with elevators and lower-level staircases. Residences for upplerclassmen and graduate affiliates were added to Weir Hall, completing JE's multi-decade annexation of the building.[25] After several months of delays due to the complexity of the renovation, the college was rededicated in December 2008 in a ceremony commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the residential college system.[26]



Farnam Hall on Old Campus, JE's freshman residence hall

A Master's House was added to JE at the time of its conversion into a residential college. This three-story, single family home is the formal residence of the master of JE, who hosts dinners, teas, and other ceremonial events in the house.

Student housing consists of suites of two to eight, each with a common room and adjoining private rooms, as well as several dozen standalone rooms allocated to upperclassmen. The college can accommodate 212 undergraduate residents. In addition to student rooms, Kent Hall contains apartments for the dean of JE, resident fellows, and a suite for guests of the master.

The freshman class lives in Farnam Hall on the Old Campus, and approximately half of the junior class lives in McClellan Hall. Due to the small size of the college and the proximity of McClellan, more upperclassmen live in annex housing than any other college.[27]

Great Hall and common rooms

The Great Hall set for a class dinner

The Great Hall, the Rogers-designed dining hall in JE, is in the style of an Elizabethan banquet hall, with a high timber truss ceiling and oak-paneled walls. The style is unique among the residential colleges, but akin to that of the University Commons. Unlike the Commons, which is the largest dining venue on campus, the Great Hall was designed to be one of the smallest dining halls at Yale. On the hall's walls are portraits of former masters, usually commissioned at the end of their tenure.[28]

The college's three adjacent common rooms are intended for small gatherings and dinners. The main Common Room frequently hosts extracurricular activities and musical recitals. The Junior Common Room and Senior Common Room, each more formal spaces, are used for weekly dinners of the college's fellowship as well as senior class functions.

Libraries and seminar rooms

Beekman C. Cannon Reading Room

Both libraries in JE are located in Weir Hall. At the foot of Weir Hall is Curtis & Curtiss Library, a non-circulating library of JE memorabilia. It was designed by Rogers and features stained glass pieces produced by G. Owen Bonawit. The two-story Robert Taft Library, named for Senator Robert Taft, originally belonged to Weir Hall and was given over to the college in 1965.[29] An expansion in 2008 added study carrels and a computer cluster. The upper floor is the Beekman C. Canon Reading Room, informally known as "Upper Taft".

JE has two seminar rooms adjacent to its libraries. They are used primarily for the residential college seminar program at Yale, in which scholars apply to each college to teach undergraduate seminars. They are also used for study and meetings of student groups and secret societies.


Prior to 2007, the Jonathan Edwards basement was largely unfinished, though it contained a squash court, print shop and dark room. After the renovation, a buttery, dance studio, game room, gym, and student kitchen were installed, and a new shop was created for the JE Press. The renovation converted the squash court into a 60-seat theater and excavated under Weir Hall to add an art gallery. This also completed a subterranean circuit under the college quadrangle, allowing access to any part of the college through its basement.

Courtyard and grounds

Courtyard of Jonathan Edwards College, facing northeast

JE contains one of the smallest central college courtyards at Yale. At the college's founding, the courtyard comprised a lawn, sometimes referred to as the "Greensward," and an ellipitical pathway. Once an open expanse of grass, the courtyard was landscaped in 1989 and a gated Master's Courtyard was constructed at the courtyard's east end.

Three iron entryway gates were cast by blacksmith Samuel Yellin.[30] Yellin emblazoned the main gate with the dates "1720" and "1932", the year of Edwards' graduation from Yale and the year of the college's founding, respectively.

Art and artwork


Tributes to Jonathan Edwards are found throughout the college. Given to Yale by Edwards' descendants, original portraits by Joseph Badger of Edwards and his wife, Sarah Pierpont Edwards, hang in the Master's House dining room, and facisimilies hang in the Senior Common Room.[31]

A walnut slant top desk believed to have belonged to Edwards also resides in the Master's House.[32][33] The desk was discovered in the basement of the old Divinity School during its demolition in 1931 and moved to JE.[34]

In 2008, stone-cut replicas of the Edwards' tombstones, hand carved by The John Stevens Shop, were installed in the college's basement.[35]

Student project on display in the JE Art Gallery


Sculptures have adorned the courtyard since its opening. In the 1930s, the courtyard featured an early eighteenth-century bronze statue of a young slave holding a sundial, purported to have belonged to Elihu Yale.[36] It has since been transferred to the Yale University Art Gallery.[37] In 2012, a bronze sundial honoring Master Gary Haller was installed near the site of the original sundial, bearing the crest and badge of the college.

Since 1998, the Yale University Art Gallery has loaned a twelve-foot bronze sculpture by Dimitri Hadzi, entitled "Floating Helmets", to the Master's Courtyard.[38][39]

The JE Press

JE is one of two residential colleges which maintains active use of its print shop, the JE Press.[40] JE owns three manual press, one of which belonged to Frederic Goudy, and an automated Vandercook press. The JE Press is overseen by printer Richard Rose, who teaches classes each year in the printing arts.


The work of artists affiliated with the college are on rotating display their art in the college's basement art gallery. A permanent installation of prints by Walker Evans can also be found in the basement, as well as historical memorabilia and ephemera printed by the JE Press.


The official insignia of JE is its shield, described in heraldic terms as ermine, a lion rampant vert. Designed by Fritz Kredel, it is a simplified version of the coat of arms believed to have been used by the Edwards family.[41] A green, rearing heraldic lion symbolizes courage and purity of heart. Its crimson tongue and nails exhibit willingness to pursue its goals with passion both of speech and strength. The veil of white that surrounds the lion symbolizes the grace of God. This shield is used on formal decorations and college letterhead.

Other insignia have been informally adopted for the college. A red apple surrounded by a green serpent, a reference to the Book of Genesis, is used on blazers and other college apparel. It recalls the Reverend Jonathan Edwards' preoccupation with the doctrine of original sin. It was devised by the first Master and Fellows, and designed by H. Dillington Palmer. It forms the silver head of the ebony mace of the College.

The college's mascot is the Spider, derived from a line in Jonathan Edwards' early descriptive writings on the creatures as well as his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," in which Edwards opines that "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked."[13] Members of the college are called "Spiders."

The unofficial motto of the College is "JE SUX." In 1975, several JE students came up with a strategy for victory in the annual Bladderball game. The plan was to take possession of the giant bladderball with a meathook. The bladderball deflated after being punctured by the meathook, prematurely ending the game and causing students of other colleges to chant "JE Sucks!" That winter, the jeer was lightheartedly adopted by JE's intramural hockey team, who went on to claim the intramural title. Since then, JE students have adopted the phrase as their rallying cry, with a slight twist: "Sux" instead of "Sucks," a gesture to the university's motto, Lux et Veritas.[2]

Student life

Student Activities

Yale's residential colleges compete in an annual intramural competitions in several dozen events. Each year, the most winning college across all events receives the Tyng Cup. After clinching the cup only twice in the first seventy-five years of the competition, JE won three consecutive Tyng Cup championships in 2009-'10, 2010-'11, and 2011-'12.[42][43] It is currently tied for eighth in all-time Tyng victories.[44]

Like its counterparts in the other residential colleges, the Jonathan Edwards College Council (JECC) is the elected student council that governs student life in the college. In conjunction with the master and Dean, the JECC manages student facilities, capital purchases, and residential policies.[45] In addition, many college traditions are organized by the JECC. The Social Activities Committee is a volunteer student group which plans and hosts study breaks, dances, and miscellaneous college events.

College traditions

Culture Draw

In a tradition dating back to the 1960s, a raffle is held each semester for the students of the college to attend cultural and artistic performances in New York and New Haven.[13] Fellows of the college accompany groups of students to each performance, usually taking them to dinner beforehand. Culture Draw events usually include performances of the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet, Broadway musicals and plays, and symphony orchestra concerts.


The JE Screw is the college's iteration of the "screw" dances popular at Yale, during which suitemates will set up blind dates for each other and require pairs to find each other prior to the dance.[46] JE Screw customarily takes place in the fall semester and is open to members of the college and their dates.

Considered the most formal of residential college balls, the Spider Ball is traditionally held immediately before Reading Period.[47][48]

Annual Festivities

As a Fall semester in-gathering, students hold a "Great Awakening" courtyard picnic to commemorate the legacy of Jonathan Edwards and the American religious revival he inspired.

In October, students plant hundreds of tulip bulbs in courtyard planters, which bloom at the end of the spring semester. They also crown a Tulip Princess, a member of the college who most embodies the character or appearance of the flower.

Drawing on the Polish tradition of Dyngus Day, Wet Monday water fight occurs each year at midnight on Easter Monday. While freshmen blitz the college with water balloons and squirt guns, upperclassmen attempt to defend the college quadrangle with an arsenal of hoses, water balloons, and other creative deterrents.

Men of JE

Formed in the fall of 1990 as a parody of singing group culture at Yale, the Men of JE are an audition-only a cappella group with a semi-secret membership. Claiming to be "part a cappella group, part defender of Yale and JE ideals," the Men are known to pester and prank students in Branford and other residential colleges.[49] They traditionally perform original songs at JE events, whether or not they are invited to do so.

Branford College rivalry

Borne of their proximity, JE has a longstanding rivalry with Branford College. For decades, students from each college have caused mischief within their counterpart's buildings and grounds. Though most of the antics are spontaneous, every semester the Men of JE lead a late night brigade to Branford to disrupt last-minute studying at the end of Reading Period.[50]

Sister college

JE's sister college at Harvard is Eliot House, a relationship formalized in 1934.[51] The hospitality of each college is open to the fellows and students of the other; this primarily occurs during the The Game, when Eliot House and JE host students of the other college.

Fellows and affiliates


By nomination of the master and approval of the Council of Masters, any Yale faculty member or professional employee can be named a fellow of JE. The Master may also nominate associate fellows, defined broadly as any person who is not an employee or recent graduate of Yale College.[52] Fellows hold weekly fellows dinners in the college, teach college seminars, advise students on their course of study, and participate in the ceremonies and traditions of the college. The fellowship's most senior members appointed as president of the Junior Common Room and president of the Senior Common Room by order of seniority. Notable living fellows include Bob Alpern, Harold Bloom, David Bromwich, Shelly Kagan, Frank Rich, Herbert Scarf, Tom Steitz, and Robert Stern.[3]


The Alan S. Tetelman Fellowship, endowed in memory of a JE alumnus and professor of metellurgy at UCLA who was killed in a 1978 plane crash, supports lectures and research fellowships at Yale.[53] It is administered by the Master of JE, who invites distinguished scientists and science advocates to give the semesterly Tetelman Lecture. Past lecturers include Robert Ballard, Harry Blackmun, Ben Carson, Murray Gell-Mann, the Dalai Lama, David Lee, Amartya Sen, Maxine Singer, and James Watson. The Tetelman Fellowship also supports undergraduate research in the natural and applied sciences.

In 1962, JE received a large bequest in memory of Robert C. Bates, a fellow of the college and professor of French, by his sister Amy Bradish Groesbeck.[54] These funds are disbursed as teaching and undergraduate research fellowships.

Notable alumni

Masters and Deans



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  • Mather Kelly, Brooks (1999). Yale: A History. New Haven: Yale University Press. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  • Federal Writers' Project for the State of Connecticut (1938). Connecticut: A Guide To Its Roads, Lore, & People.  
  • Gorlin, Alexander (1990). Samuel Yellin Metalwork at Yale. New Haven, CT: Yale School of Architecture. 
  • Holden, Reuben A. (1967). Yale: A Pictorial History. The Yale Scene. New Haven: Yale University Press.  
  • Marsden, George M. (2003). Jonathan Edwards: A Life. New Haven: Yale University Press.  
  • Pinnell, Patrick L. (1999). The Campus Guide: Yale University. Princeton Architectural Press.  
  • Rudolph, Frederick (1990). The American College & University. University of Georgia Press. 
  • Ryan, Mark B. (2001). A Collegiate Way of Living (PDF). New Haven: Jonathan Edwards College.  
  • Tolles, Bryant Franklin (2011). Architecture and Academe: College Buildings in New England Before 1860. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England.  
  • Winks, Robin W. (1996). Cloak & Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961. Yale University Press. 

Further reading

  • Bergin, Thomas G. (1983). Yale's Residential Colleges: The First Fifty Years. Yale University. 

External links

  • Jonathan Edwards College, Yale

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