Rebecca L. Davis, PhD, teaches and writes about U.S. history, with an emphasis on histories of religion, sex, and politics. Currently, she holds the Miller Family Endowed Early Career chair at the University of Delaware. She is the author of "Public Confessions: The Religious Conversions That Changed American Politics" (UNC Press, 2021) and is the recipient of an NEH Public Scholar Award for her forthcoming book, "Sex in America," under contract with Liveright Press. Here, she answers questions from the Yale Alumni Association, explains why she chose Yale, and shares how her peers inspire her.
My first visit to campus, the spring before my freshman year, assured me that Yale was a place where I could find my people – library nerds, queers, social activists, you name it. My host took me to the LGBT Coop dance that Saturday night, and I felt more at ease than I had ever been at a party! When someone else told me that the history department was "really, really good," that seemed like enough of a reason to attend despite the financial strain. (The decision to attend Yale for my PhD, two years after graduating with a history BA, was much less complicated, because of course by then I knew that the Yale history department was indeed really, really good.)
What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale?
I spent many years at Yale, between undergrad and the History PhD program, but among the many memories, I return to an evening in Woolsey Hall, listening to opera legend Frederica Von Stade mesmerize the audience with her voice. Equally memorable was the time Ray Charles brought down the house from that same stage.
What is your favorite place in New Haven, past or present?
I used to go for long, embarrassingly slow jogs up Prospect Avenue, past the Divinity School, into a residential neighborhood. I loved the quiet.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
The courtyard outside Sterling Library not only has the stunning Women's Table but is alive with memories of the teachers, mentors, friends, and loved ones I used to run into there.