Last year when the name of Cardinal Farrell Hall was first announced, President Keefe said that “Each great campus features an iconic building that holds special significance to all who pass through its gates … Ours will be Cardinal Farrell Hall — an enduring reminder of Bishop Farrell’s dedication to and inspiring support of UD.”
With all due respect to our president, I find two things surprising about his statement: firstly that the “iconic building” that is to represent our campus is not a library or another traditionally necessary structure; and secondly that this building will be named after someone who has less connection to the university than any of the other buildings to date. A more appropriate namesake might be Dr. Robert Yale.
Consider the names of other buildings on campus: Madonna, Haggerty, Clark, Jerome — each of these buildings is named after someone who is significant to Catholicism at large (such as Mary or Jerome) or someone significant to UD in particular (such as Cowan-Blakley or Clark). By naming our buildings after such figures, not only do we preserve the memory of great men and women who might otherwise be forgotten — such as Zachary Clark — but we also signal the kinds of men and women we expect our students to aspire to be.
It’s harder to understand Cardinal Farrell’s contribution to the university. According to the UD website, “Farrell, an ardent supporter of the University of Dallas, has played a significant role in the recent growth and revitalization of North Texas’ only Catholic university.” But what does that mean?
The university’s press releases, which are often unsparing with self-congratulation, are stingy with particulars regarding Farrell’s contributions to the university. Farrell is admittedly responsible for leading the diocese out of debt, but are financial contributions to Catholic education in general enough to constitute the naming of a building at our university in particular? Board membership constitutes campus involvement, but is it enough to warrant the naming of an entire building? But if the choice of “Farrell Hall” for our new building seems merely random when considered by itself, it makes even less sense when we measure Cardinal Farrell’s place in our community against Dr. Yale’s.
In 2014, Dr. Yale was named by Student Programming as the “Most Interesting Professor at UD”; in 2017, he was nominated for the Piper Professor Award, which, according to UD’s website, “is given annually by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation to 10 educators in the state of Texas in recognition of their superior teaching at the college level.”
In addition to official recognition, Dr. Yale was beloved by students and colleagues alike; the school was devastated when in April of 2017 he died from stomach cancer. Even I, who never took a single one of Dr. Yale’s classes, can attest to this; I don’t believe I ever will forget the day when Dr. Crider, in the middle of presenting a class on Shakespeare’s comedies, asked us to pray for Dr. Yale, and wept. Judging by the blog he kept as he battled his cancer, Dr. Yale faced the pain and indignity forced upon him by his disease with strength, hope, good cheer and godliness. A model teacher, a model husband, a model father, and a model Christian, Dr. Yale is a man to be remembered, and our new “front door” could do worse than be graced by his good name.
Note: This post has been edited since its posting to properly include Dr. Robert Yale’s religion.