Meet Weili Cheng ’77, a distinguished Yale Medal recipient, Executive Director of the Yale Alumni Association, and an accomplished professional with a passion for service and leadership.

In this Asian American and Pacific Islander Month Alumni Identity Spotlight, Cheng shares how a thread of optimism unites the alumni community and reminds us that the Yale experience is about so much more than time spent at a physical location.    

This feature is part of a series focused on amplifying the voices of alumni who are making an impact today and illuminating how the identities we bring to Yale transform both our community and the world. 

What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale?

For me, the most enduring part of Yale is not a memory but a feeling. The feeling that anything is possible. Other alumni have told me about this. In 2016, when I was new to the YAA executive director position, I received an email from Konrad Perlman ’60 MCP, that said: “A short anecdote from a Yale Law School graduate I met at the cleaners. After an exchange of what year, what school, and what do you dos, I asked him what he got out of his Yale experience. And he replied: ‘Anything is possible.’ I agreed that that was the same belief I took with me as well. It’s the kind of optimism that... is a viewpoint that considers limitations temporary... optimism of that sort, I believe, is a gift of viewpoint and curiosity that is unique to Yale, where a community of commitment to the highest and, at the same time, most practical ideas lives and breathes every day.”

Yale instilled in me an optimism, a positivity – anything is possible.  

How has your identity shaped your Yale experience?

I am an extrovert. I love people and building relationships and connections. Yale, for me, was a wonderful experience because there were so many interesting, smart, and engaging people from backgrounds and with experiences so different from mine. I am fortunate that I can still build relationships and connections with interesting, smart, and engaging alumni!

What is your hope for the future of the Yale alumni community?

I would love for every alum to feel like they belong in the alumni community. Our mission is to enhance and renew the lifelong Yale experience for all alumni, whoever they are and wherever they may be.

What advice would you give to fellow or future Yalies? 

When I was on campus, I thought that Yale was a place for learning. In retrospect, it is so much more. Yale is more than a place and more than an experience. I may have left the campus but Yale came with me. Yale for me is part of who I am.

Weili Cheng graduated from Yale with a BA in philosophy then earned her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and embarked on a career as a litigation attorney in private practice and at the United States Department of Justice. From there, she moved on to the Law Department of Marriott International, where she worked for 22 years in a variety of capacities, including as vice president and assistant general counsel for the international lodging operations division. In 2007, Weili became senior vice president and deputy general counsel of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. In 2016, she became the executive director of the Yale Alumni Association.

Weili has a long history of service to Yale. Shortly after graduating, she became actively involved as a volunteer, and has served on and chaired the YAA Board of Governors, the board and as president of the Yale Club of Washington, D.C., as chair of her Class Council, as an Alumni Schools Committee volunteer, a trustee of the Yale Library Associates, and on a number of university committees. Since 1994, she has served on the board of directors of Yale Alumni Publications, Inc., which publishes Yale Alumni Magazine. In 1997, Weili was awarded the Yale Medal, the YAA’s highest honor.

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