What is it about our YDS experience that makes us distinctive?

By Jerry Henry ’80 M.Div.
Chair, YDS Alumni Board

How is your community different because Yale Divinity School alumni live there? [I’m paraphrasing a question that is a theme for the annual Yale Day of Service sponsored by the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA).  You’ll be hearing more about YDS’s part in the Yale Day of Service in the future.]

HenryFor those of us who attended YDS, this question prompts another: What is it about our YDS experience that makes us distinctive in our work, our relationships, our worldview?

At Convocation this year, I overheard a number of conversations during which those returning for a reunion or simply gathering with friends talked about how “unique” their experience at YDS was, how it has shaped their lives in this way or that, and how what they learned at YDS has influenced them—be it in the church, academia, or another profession.

YDS Alumni Board member Jeff Oak and I represented YDS as delegates at the AYA Assembly on Nov. 11-13 in New Haven. We attended a number of breakout sessions but focused on meeting with and listening to volunteers from the Yale graduate and professional schools.  Our goal was to learn from other Yale professional school alumni groups in order to strengthen our alumni experience of YDS.  And, I must say, I think the YDS experience is a unique one!   It is unique because of the relationships we had while at 409 Prospect Street.

One thing the YDS Alumni Board hopes to do in the coming year is to explore ways of renewing and strengthening the bonds of relationships among our alumni:  How might we communicate with alumni in more effective and meaningful ways? How do we bring groups of alumni together when we are literally scattered around the world? How do we enhance opportunities for gathering on the Quad or in regional settings? How might we, as alumni, help recent graduates transition from the Quad to their work in the world?

And so, I invite you to think about the original question in a very personal way as we say goodbye to 2010: how is my community different because I, as a YDS alum, live there?

In doing so, I hope you will recall those meaningful experiences and relationships that helped make YDS the special place that it is.