The Henry Koerner Center is a remarkable, perhaps unique, part of Yale University, designed for the benefit of Emeriti faculty, who if they wish may become Fellows. Both a physical facility and a series of programs, the Center was made possible by a generous gift from Lisbet Rausing and Joseph Koerner ’80, who thereby honored Joseph’s father, the artist Henry Koerner. The Center, opened under the direction of Bernard Lytton in 2003, and currently headed by Gary Haller, and has been a huge success, the envy of other universities.
The Center is housed at 149 Elm Street, facing the Green, in an elegantly restored eighteenth-century building. Physically it consists of two floors of offices, including 12 for faculty use, a computer workshop, a spacious Library/Meeting Room, and a Seminar room, in which Fellows often teach undergraduate classes.
It was Joseph Koerner’s wish that the gift would enable Emeriti Professors who so wish to occasionally teach Yale undergraduates, and the Center provides generous stipends for such courses. These must be approved by the Provost and Departmental Chairs.
Intellectually the Center offers a rich program of self-generated lectures, lunchtime seminars, and autobiographical talks—the best building blocks of life-long learning. It also offers group visits to theaters, art galleries, museums, and important artistic events, in New York and locally.
The Center and its programs are administered by Gary Haller (Director and Professor of Engineering and Applied Science); an Advisory Board (appointed by Yale’s President and composed of emeriti from different disciplines); and an Executive Director, a position held since 2003 by Patricia Dallai. However, many of the intellectual events are generated by the Fellows themselves, which gives the Center an air of spontaneity. An atmosphere of loyal friendship prevails, and interdisciplinarity, usually so hard to achieve, is a living experience.
In addition, the Center provides small grants to support research and scholarly activity, such as delivering papers at conferences, or travel to distant libraries. There is on-site computer support (and rescue) available three afternoons a week, from ITS specialists.