Yale’s relationship with Brazil extends almost to the Brazilian War of Independence. From the time that João Francisco Lima entered the Yale School of Medicine in 1833, Yale has proved an exceptional training ground for Brazilian leaders. The first Brazilian to graduate from Yale, Carlos Fernando Ribeiro of Alcantara, graduated from Yale College in 1838 and from the School of Medicine in 1841. Ribeiro became the Secretary to the President of the Province of Maranhão, before eventually serving in the Chamber of Deputies in the General Assembly of Brazil. His case was certainly no isolated incident – Pompeo Ascenço de Sá graduated from Yale College with a B.A. in 1840, and by 1848 he was a Liberal member of the House of Representatives of the Maranhão Province.
Yale’s strong academic programs brought increasing numbers of Brazilians to Yale in the 20th century. In the early 1900s, Yale continued to train leaders of Brazilian society, such as notable businessman Jayme Lopes Villas-Boas (Ph.D. 1917). By the 1918/19 school year, Brazilians represented the fourth largest block of Yale’s international student body.
Brazil’s role in Yale’s history has not been restricted to the students who matriculate; historically, the nation and its language and culture have been a subject of study unto themselves. The teaching of Portuguese at Yale began in the early days of World War II, the presence of Portuguese at Yale can be traced to the Department of Romance Languages, headed by Henry Roseman Lang. Although there is no evidence that Professor Lang taught Portuguese, he did work with Portuguese medieval poetry and corresponded with Carolina Michaela de Vasconcellos, Adolfo Coelho, and other famous Portuguese linguists and philologists of the time. In 1908, he received Joaquim Nabuco, then the first Brazilian ambassador to the United States.
When Yale began instituting Area Studies programs in the mid-20th century, one of the first such programs to be created was the Latin American Studies major, introduced in 1953. Less than a decade later, Yale began offering Portuguese as an elective class, and in 1996 Yale introduced the Portuguese major.
Yale’s renewed emphasis on Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s paid dividends, and the University received an influx of talented and ambitious Brazilians eager to obtain the training they needed to make their mark on the world.
People of Note:
Malcolm Batchelor - Yale’s first professor of Portuguese
Professor Malcolm Batchelor taught Portuguese language and literature classes at Yale for 38 years, from 1943 through the 1981-82 academic year. Upon retirement, he created a fund for Portuguese at Yale, which supported visitors, lectures, and especially student fellowships. Since 1995, more than 35 undergraduate and graduate students received Batchelor fellowships for summer study in Brazil or Portugal. Currently, the Malcolm C. Batchelor Fund of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese sponsors one major conference annually on Luso-Brazilian literature and culture.
Emilia Viotti da Costa - Professor Emeritus History
A native of Brazil, Professor Emilia Viotti da Costa is a distinguished scholar of Latin American History, with a focus on Brazilian slavery. After the military takeover in 1964, she joined the Yale faculty in 1973 and taught at Yale for about 20 years. Professor da Costa trained many of the leading American specialists in Brazilian history. She was also director of Yale’s Women’s Studies Program and of the Council on Latin American Studies.
Richard McGee Morse (1922-2001) - Latin American historian and specialist on Brazil
Richard McGee Morse was a senior Latin American historian and specialist on Brazil. Professor Morse taught at Yale from 1962 to 1978. He was president of the Conference on Latin American History and served as the Ford Foundation director of its Brazilian fellowship program in the Social Sciences that had a major impact on Brazilian academic life. In 1993, professor Morse was awarded the Order of the Southern Cross for contributions to Brazilian culture (Comendador da Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul), the nation’s highest honor for non-Brazilians.
Joaquim Nabuco (1849-1910) - First Brazilian ambassador to US and “friend of Yale”
Joaquim Nabuco is revered in Brazil for the abolition of slavery and considered as one of the most distinguished political and intellectual figures of his age. Nabuco’s tenure as Brazilian ambassador to the United States, during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, belongs to a period of the first pan-American conferences. In 1906, he arranged for Elihu Root to visit Brazil—the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to Latin America. Nabuco’s lectures at Yale were the first of a series that he delivered at six U.S. universities in 1908–1909. In 2008, Professor K.David Jackson organized a two-day conference commemorating the centenary of Nubuco’s lectures at Yale, which members of the Nuabuco family, Brazilian diplomatic corps, and officials of the Brazilian government attended.
Universia Conference and Visit to Rio & São Paulo. President Peter Salovey was one of the plenary speakers for the third Universia International Presidents Meeting, where he spoke before the presidents and other leaders of more than 1,100 universities mostly from Latin America although universities from around the globe were also well represented. During this weeklong trip to Brazil in July 2014, President Salovey developed relationships and formalized partnerships with leading universities and institutions including USP, UESC, and Fiocruz. He met with academic and government leaders to discuss collaborations between Brazilian and Yale researchers. President Salovey also had an opportunity to connect with Yale alumni and affiliates at a reception hosted by the Yale Club of Brazil.
Rio+20 Yale Delegation. In June 2012, more than 40 Yale students and professors traveled to Rio de Janeiro for Rio+20, the U.N.-led conference, where world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, and NGOs came together to discuss how to best pursue collectively a green economy and sustainable development. Members of the Yale contingent, predominantly from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, engaged in a wide variety of activities at the conference, supporting official delegations, leading workshops, and blogging about events.
Yale Weeks in Brazil (2007, 2008, and 2010). Yale Week in Brazil events promote Yale throughout the Brazilian business, civic, and educational sectors, as well as to prospective students and the general public. The Yale Office of International Affairs, in conjunction with the Yale Club of Brazil and the Brazilian Business School (BBS), organized lectures by Yale faculty, media interviews, school visits and presentations made by admissions officers, music concerts and alumni events. Faculty lectures and panels have been led by Garry Brewer, Frederick K. Weyerhaeuser Professor of Resource Policy and Management; Nayan Chanda, Editor of YaleGlobal Online; Zhiwu Chen, Professor of Finance; K. David Jackson, Professor of Portuguese; Paul Kennedy, J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History; Robert Shiller, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Economics; Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean for Executive Programs at the School of Management; Robert Storr, Dean of the School of Art; Edward Martenson, Professor of Theater Management; and Tom Masse, Associate Provost for the Arts.
Yale-Brazil Leadership Program. Reforming Brazil’s educational system was the focus of a leadership program, titled “Leading Educational Reforms: Empowering Brazil for the 21st Century,” held at Yale in April 2013 at the invitation of Lemann Foundation, a Brazilian non-profit organization focused on education. The 35 participants in the program included members of Brazil’s National Congress, state and municipal secretaries of education, officials from foundations and civil society organizations, and representatives of other stakeholders in Brazil’s education system.