Ellis Jones '79
Wasserstein & Co.
A gift toward the construction of the new campus
"People who attended SOM with me feel a deep allegiance to the school, although it means different things to different people. To me, it means learning how to make not just the right decision in a business context, but the right decision for the broadest of constituencies, and the right decisions in a broader social context. I find that with the rapidly advancing years, I think back more and more to my time at Yale, and what I learned there.
"I was interested, originally, in the not-for-profit side, particularly politics. My summer job was at the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York in the late 1970s, at the height of New York’s financial distress. Watching the process, I made the observation that at all the crucial meetings, and at all the crucial decision points, the people who controlled the flow of capital were in the room. And since being in the room was part of the fun, I decided that Wall Street would be an interesting place to work.
"In my life as a private equity investor, we deal with local political, sometimes national political issues. Certainly our investor base includes a constituency of public institutions and private institutions, and we have to be mindful of their objectives. And at the same time, we’re operating in a highly, highly competitive context, with extraordinarily smart people to our left and to our right who are trying to generate superior returns. But, nevertheless, if you become singularly focused on just one thing, like superior returns, you can get into trouble chasing investment bubbles or making quick fixes to long-term problems. People who go to Yale aren’t just unafraid of such complexity, they actually thirst for it. What distinguishes SOM is how its mission is an attempt to make you more aware of the different constituencies in making your decisions, so that you can get to the optimal result.
"It might seem odd at first to see a new building as crucial to the extension of that mission. But the building is more than a great opportunity for SOM — it’s an absolute necessity. It is essential for SOM to be able to compete on all levels, and that includes the physical level. The school needs the forum and the context and the community that comes from an integrated building, with the integrated services, classroom, connectivity, all the stuff that a modern building can give a school. And a real sense of place. The Hillhouse mansions are fabulous, but they don’t really provide the right forum for a modern management school.
"The school’s new curriculum almost demands a new building. The curriculum pulls together various disciplines and forces them to deal with the connection points between them. I think it’s harder to do that if the disciplines are siloed. And it’s easier for them to be siloed if the people aren’t physically together. The university made a threshold decision to answer in the affirmative to the question of whether SOM will be a world-class, if not the world-class business school. It signals the importance of the school to the overall university and states emphatically that SOM is fated for success."