Mary K. Goodman, a laundry woman in New Haven, Connecticut, died in 1872. She left her life savings of $5,000 to Yale University to support the education of African American divinity students. The gift is believed to the be first donation ever given to Yale by a Black person.
Yale honored Goodman by having her buried in the Yale portion of the Grove Street Cemetery and a scholarship in her name was established at the Divinity School.
Immediately after Goodman’s death and bequest, Yale recruited a Black student to enroll at the Divinity School. Since 1872 nearly every entering class at the Divinity School has included at least one Black student. In 2015, the largest class of African American scholars in the divinity school’s history earned degrees.
Now the university is honoring Goodman once again. Any person who gives more than $50,000 to Yale Divinity School over the course of his or her lifetime will become a member of the Mary Goodman Circle of Yale Divinity School. And the honors may not stop there. In 2017, two new residential colleges at Yale will open. An alumni group is urging the university to name one of the new residential colleges after Mary Goodman.