Selecting the student body

Worth David '56 shaped 20 years of Yale College classes.

Courtesy Penelope Laurans

Courtesy Penelope Laurans

Worth David ’56 at his desk in the admissions office in the early 1980s. View full image

“It is a great pleasure to inform you . . . ”

So began more than 40,000 letters of admittance signed by longtime Yale College dean of admissions Worth David ’56, who died of heart failure at Yale New Haven Hospital on June 1, at the age of 87. In his two decades as dean, 1972 to 1992, David presided over fundamental changes in the admissions office, from restructuring the day-to-day operations of the office to bringing in more students from underrepresented groups.

David arrived in the wake of the seismic shifts of the late sixties, on and off campus. His predecessor as dean of undergraduate admissions, R. Inslee (Inky) Clark Jr. ’57, had implemented dramatic changes in the admissions process in a very short period. “Worth’s mission, given him by President Brewster, was, I believe, to produce change in a more gradual and transitional (but no less definite) way, using slower movement and suasion to make people understand and accept the progress to a broader, more inclusive student body,” says Penelope Laurans, longtime Yale administrator, faculty member, and currently a senior adviser at the university.

After he graduated from Yale College, David completed an MS in mathematics at Wesleyan and received a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from Harvard. He then spent ten years as a teacher and administrator at Suffield Academy, followed by four years as principal of Clayton High School—a public school in Missouri—before returning to Yale as dean of undergraduate admissions in 1972. In addition to his role as dean, he also served as master of Branford College from 1991 to 1996, alongside his wife, Nina Glickson ’73, who survives him. Glickson, who is now retired, worked at Yale for decades, including 19 years as assistant to the president.

When David stepped down as dean of admissions, he told the Yale Daily News that his successor would likely place more emphasis on recruitment than he had. “That’s important,” David told the News, “but it’s not something that interests me as much as selection, putting the class together.”

The students David admitted rarely forgot the admissions dean with the distinctive name. Eva Ostrum ’86, who worked in the admissions office during David’s tenure as an undergraduate and as an alumna, says he also remembered many of his admittees. In a tribute posted on Facebook, she wrote about how he would regale friends and family with anecdotes: “Worth’s stories were always complimentary and never indiscreet. He never revealed something that felt like a betrayal of a confidence. If anything, he reveled in sharing people’s strengths, what had made their folder jump out of the pile.” 

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