Pierson College

Pierson College is a residential college at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Opened in 1933, it is named for Abraham Pierson, a founder and the first rector of the Collegiate School, the college later known as Yale. With just under 500 undergraduate members, Pierson is the largest of Yale's residential colleges by number of students.

Pierson College
Yale University
Coat of arms of Pierson College
Location261 Park Street
Coordinates41°18′35″N 72°55′57″W / 41.309735°N 72.932504°W / 41.309735; -72.932504Coordinates: 41°18′35″N 72°55′57″W / 41.309735°N 72.932504°W / 41.309735; -72.932504
MottoAd augusta per angusta (Latin)
Motto in EnglishThrough trial to triumph
Named forAbraham Pierson
ColorsBlack, gold
Sister collegeLowell House
HeadStephen Davis
DeanRiché J. Daniel Barnes
Undergraduates496 (2013-2014)
CalledPiersonites, Pierson-Knights


The college's building and grounds from above, with Davenport College (at top)

Yale built the Pierson College buildings in the Georgian or "Georgian Revival" architectural style. These include a prominent tower, inspired by that of Philadelphia's Independence Hall.[1] It is one of the eight original residential colleges bequeathed by Edward Harkness and designed by James Gamble Rogers.

In 2004, Yale completed a year long renovation of Pierson as part of a campaign to rehabilitate all twelve colleges. Major changes included the reconfiguration of existing suites and rooms, the move of the "Dean's" office, the addition of a new residential building, Upper Court. Most significantly, the renovation joined the basements of Pierson its adjacent and rival residential college, Davenport, giving the colleges common facilities.

The courtyard was home to George Rickey's kinetic sculpture, "Two Planes Vertical—Horizontal II" for many years, but the sculpture has now been moved to the courtyard of the Yale University Art Gallery.


Abraham Pierson was born in Southampton, Long Island in 1646 and was an early student at Harvard College. After many years as a Congregational minister in Newark, New Jersey, he assumed the pulpit in Killingworth, Connecticut in 1694. While presiding there, he and five other ministers established the third college in the American colonies, the Collegiate School, in 1701.[2] Pierson was elected its first rector, but unable to leave his position in Killingworth, he taught courses from his parsonage in present-day Clinton. Pierson died in his sixth year as Yale's rector, in 1707.

A statue of Pierson stands on Yale's Old Campus. Since there are no known portraits of Pierson, the statue is an "imaginative recreation."[2]

Student lifeEdit

Lanman-Wright Hall

Pierson freshmen are currently housed in Lanman-Wright Hall on Old Campus, along with freshmen from Berkeley College. Wright Hall represents the first half of the old Yale freshman saying: "Wright bites, Durfee sucks!"[3] Wright Hall was renamed Lanman-Wright Hall after William K. Lanman '28 donated renovation funds in 1993 and is now referred to by Piersonites as "L-Dub."[4][5][6]

Pierson has been traditionally renowned for its thriving social life and once had the reputation of consistently trailing other Yale residential colleges in academic rankings. In fact, Pierson's rallying cry at one time was, "Tyng, Tang, and GPA," reflecting Pierson's reputation for winning Yale intramural sports (Tyng), an annual drinking competition among the residential colleges (Tang), and having the lowest average GPA of all the residential colleges. In 2004 and 2018, however, Pierson has been awarded the Gimble Cup for highest average GPA at Yale. In light of new Connecticut alcohol laws, Dean Amerigo Fabbri has cracked down on events such as Tuesday Night Club (TNC), founded in 1981, restricting the event to Pierson seniors. However, in 2006, Pierson students were able to organize a successful Inferno, the traditional Pierson Halloween party. TNC was traditionally held in the "Lower Courtyard" of Pierson.[7] Lower Courtyard housing is generally occupied by seniors.[6]

Another Pierson tradition is Pierson Day, which typically falls on the last day of classes of the academic year. On Pierson Day, the Head of Pierson College wrestles another College Head, student, or other willing opponent in a ring filled with yellow jello.

Pierson achieved world renown in 1977 as a result of the still-famous television broadcast of its Bladderball 'victory'.[citation needed] Pierson's most storied tradition is the theft of Davenport College's gnome mascot. Pierson's famous "fight song," heard annually at "the Game" between the Yale and Harvard football teams, starts off with: "'P' is for the 'P' in Pierson College; 'I' is for the 'I' in Pierson College," and continues in predictable fashion.[8]

Among the activities for which Pierson is known is the Pierson Press, one of the most active of Yale's many traditional letterpress print shops. It was founded over half a century ago and nurtured by a succession of Pierson Heads including John Hersey, Quincy Porter, Gaddis Smith, and Harvey Goldblatt. For many years the Press was located in a converted squash court in Pierson Tower, designed by Charles Willard Moore of the Yale School of Architecture. During the renovation of the college in 2004, it was relocated to enhanced facilities in the basement, where it now shares space with the Davenport Press in a greatly expanded Book Arts Center that includes half a dozen presses, over 1000 cases of hand type, a book bindery, paper mill and more. Over 75 Pierson and Davenport students attended the college's rigorous Apprentice Course during the Fall of 2005.

The basement of Pierson is also home to the Pierson Buttery.[9] The Buttery is run by students and offers a variety of late night food options that can be ordered online. In the Spring of 2007, Pierson won the annual Freshmen Olympics, held on Old Campus. The Class of 2010 beat the eleven other residential colleges in Pierson's first ever Freshman Olympics victory. Since then, Pierson has won the Freshman Olympics several times, most recently in 2014.[10]

Pierson's Fellowship, consisting of both faculty members and distinguished outside Associate Fellows, is one of the most active at Yale. The Fellows meet twice monthly during the academic year, generously support undergraduate activities in the college, including social events such as the annual Pierson Inferno at Halloween. Throughout its history, the group has consisted of a diverse and dignified range of members, from poet Robert Frost to actor George Takei (Sulu of Star Trek fame) to G. D. Mostow the mathematician of Mostow rigidity theorem fame and Calvin Hill, NFL Rookie of the Year and multiple Pro Bowl selectee.[11]

Pierson was home to one of the longest serving Yale residential college deans, Dean Christa Dove '76MPhil. Within the Residential College system at Yale, deanships normally last only a few years. Dove, however, was Dean of Pierson College for 22 years, from 1983 to 2005.[12]

Pierson library after 2004 renovation

The renovation of 2003-04 was extensive, and included the reconfiguration of student suites, student activities areas, and dining facilities; new bathrooms, new interior finishes and lighting; additional student rooms in a new Upper Court building; complete replacement of all mechanical and electrical systems; new security, fire protection, and information technology systems; new elevators, ramps, and other enhancements to accessibility; and repairs to windows, masonry, roofs, and gutters.[13] The renovation also included enlarging the library and adding a mezzanine level computer cluster.[13] The completion of the additional building, called "Upper Court", increased Pierson College's dorm space capacity from 264 to 310.[13] During the renovation, students who would otherwise live in Pierson College, lived in what is called "Swing Space," dormitories located near Payne Whitney Gymnasium that resemble a cheap hotel and do not include a dining hall.[13]

A number of the songs from Dirty Projectors' Don Henley and Hernan Cortes infused glitch-opera, The Getty Address, were recorded in Pierson College, as Dave Longstreth was a student at Yale.

Pierson's sister college is Lowell House at Harvard University.

The inaugural Pierson College all-alumni reunion was recently held in New Haven from February 15–17, 2013, coinciding with the 80th year of the college's existence. Notable Pierson alumni in attendance included Howard Dean, PC '71, and George Pataki, PC '67. Also honored during the celebration were Head of College Harvey Goldblatt, who completed his 19th and final year as Head of Pierson College in May 2013, and Yale's then President-elect (now President) Peter Salovey.

Notable alumniEdit

Pierson courtyard in spring


  1. ^ Mills Brown, Elizabeth (1976). New Haven, a Guide to Architecture and Urban Design. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 126. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  2. ^ a b Mather Kelly, Brooks (1978). Yale: A History. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  3. ^ James L. Nuzzo. (1975-04-30). "Whitney To Renovate Old Campus". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
  4. ^ [1] Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Yale Office of Public Affairs & Communications". Yale.edu. Archived from the original on 2008-10-19. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  6. ^ a b "Florida Real Estate | Destin Hotel | Orlando Vacation Home at Piersoncollege.com". Pierson College. Archived from the original on 2011-10-04. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  7. ^ The Campus Guide: Yale University - Patrick Pinnell - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  8. ^ "Residential colleges: not just dorms, but microcosms of Yale's community | Summer 1999". Yaleherald.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  9. ^ "See What's Available and Place an Order". Piersonbuttery.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  10. ^ http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2014/04/07/pierson-freshmen-emerge-victorious-2/
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Yale Alumni Publications, Inc. "Milestones". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
  13. ^ a b c d [3] Archived November 11, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Chow, Janine (8 February 2012). "Sarah Stillman (PC '06): the search for truth as an Investigative Journalist". Retrieved 8 October 2012.

External linksEdit