The Yale Whiffenpoofs

A white-knuckle drive through a snow storm. Car accidents. A winter wonderland. The Yale Whiffenpoofs. That was a day in my life.

I went back for my college’s annual alumni assembly. It was my first time to this event, as I was asked only recently to represent my class. Man, what a tough drive over. Lots of snow, limited visibility, treacherous. Cars wiping out and stuck in ditches.

But, I made it safely to New Haven and then walked from the hotel to a restaurant. It was closed due to the storm. A FREEZING walk. Wind whipping by and through me. I walked a bit further and escaped the wind and snow after I entered another restaurant nearby. “Union League” the sign said. Fine with me, I’m just cold and need a warm meal.

A nice place. Great service, not too stuffy. As I was eating my dinner, I noticed a large table of young men a few tables over. They wore blazers and ties and talked animatedly.

“Who are they?” I asked the waitress. “The Yale Whiffenpoofs,” she answered. I smiled.

The “Whiffs” are an old Yale tradition. They’re an a capella group comprised of seniors. It’s tough to belong: many try out, and few are chosen. They sing every week at a place called Mory’s. They tour around the world. Most of the men take a year off from school to devote their energies to the group. They now also sing at the Union League, which I didn’t know when I walked through the doors.

When people buy them “chalices” (large silver trophy cups loaded with alcohol), they come over and sing a song. I sent over a chalice. I recorded their singing (video is below). It’s in honor of my college class.

Afterwards, and grateful, I sent over another chalice and chatted with some of the guys. I was struck by how humble they were. Seriously. Really down-to-earth and thoughtful, even though they’re at the pinnacle of their college careers.

I guess I don’t really have any major points to this blog post. I could write about the theme of “Volunteerism” at the alumni assembly, and how hundreds of people traveled to talk about how to better “give back” to the world. I could write about the nostalgia I felt as I walked around campus, and how a college accepted me and then changed the life of a kid from Indonesia. I could write about how you can never truly, truly go back–the college buildings and vibe are the same, but you’ve changed.

But, I’ll just end here. This post is really about nothing other than great singing, a meal that re-energized me, and an authentic connection with a college to which I’m forever loyal.

After such a long drive, The Whiffs really made my day.

(Photo: from Andrew Leu, Yale 2013; Hillhouse Ave.)

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