The Payne Whitney Gym basketball courts were a special place. After class, Andy Szebenyi and I used to go to the gym to play basketball and rejuvenate ourselves for post dinner studies. From Morse, the gym was a huge presence of a building. There was so much history there to take in.
Since there were usually many people waiting to play 5 on 5, when a group of 5 lost those on the sidelines would shoot free throws to determine the next 5. On a bad free throw afternoon, you could do a lot of watching and not much playing. I remember one game when a varsity player, Jim Morgan, was on the opposing 5, and we scrubs found it impossible to guard him. Still, to be in a gym where so many great athletes played and trained gave us a boost and a break from academics.
– Alan Mandl
Four years at Yale leave many indelible memories of persons, places and times. Among the places, my favorite was the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The immense building seemed immutable, frozen in time. Entry lights were low, the ceiling was high and everybody kept their voices down, as if entering a temple. However, here the religion was shaping the body, not the mind.
Certain memories and events stand out: the mandatory freshman 100 meter swim followed by nude posture pictures on a pedestal; watching our undefeated freshman basketball team or the indefatigable swimming teams; winning some and losing some as a member of the wrestling team; and, of course, working out. Whether lifting weights or running up and down the wide smooth stairways or doing laps on the running track high above the competition pool, Payne Whitney Gymnasium was a steady companion helping me maintain sanity throughout my college years.
– Buzz Potts
Heading between Stiles and Morse to Payne Whitney for daily basketball practice is a lasting memory. The great bulk of PW loomed as you headed up the stairs to the gym and the return trip into the heart of the campus had a very different feel. In retrospect, it was a transition from the site of intense outside competition within the context of a team to the warmer, cozier, but often lonelier world of the campus and academic life. I am sure there are other analogies that can be drawn which I will leave to the more poetic.
– Terry Finn
I always loved looking at Payne Whitney Gym. It was 9 stories tall, large and stone and proud, with spires going up to the sky. Across Tower Parkway, a multilane street, it seemed quite separated from the campus. The way it stood there let me know it did not care and was comfortable within its own skin. It was not diminished by its location. To the contrary, it was a force to be reckoned with wherever it might be found. I used to think how nice it would be to feel like Payne Whitney, to be that secure and comfortable with myself.
– Matt Epstein
The jagged walkway between Morse and Stiles is non-descript as you approach it from York Street. But once you mount a series of steps and follow the jog to the right, you come upon a vista that’s as surprising as it is majestic — the tower of Payne Whitney, framed perfectly between the adobe-like concrete walls of the two colleges. Morse and Stiles look nothing like the rest of Yale. Payne Whitney looks like no other gym in the world. And yet the space exudes harmony. To steal a line that my old Morse master, Vincent Scully, used about the skyline of Chicago, the buildings “talk to each other.” Fifty years ago, it was my favorite spot on our eclectic campus. Today, it’s my favorite lesson for our divided times.
– Paul Taylor
Holy temple of sweat and basketball. Walls were so close that I injured both wrists after being undercut going up for a layup. Lots of trash talk and great competition. Many of the best athletes in the College would show up in their off seasons for pick up games, shirts versus skins. Again later in Law School I would go over after my seminar in Secured Transactions and Negotiable Instruments and play with one of my classmates, another son of the South. Bill Clinton was not bad in the post. He knew how to use that bottom to block out.
– Tap Taplin