Friday, April 20th, 2012
When I first got to Yale, I was struck that our motto LUX ET VERITAS was an extension of Harvard’s Veritas. I used to kid people that Yale was obviously twice as good—you got all the same Veritas, with the 100% added bonus of the Lux. Whatever that was.
Later I came to see this as a marketing strategy on Yale’s part—pure product differentiation. Harvard was the first colonial university in 1636, and claimed the all-time killer motto, Latin for “truth”. Coming along in 1701, Yale had to differentiate its ‘brand’ somehow. It did that by anchoring with the “et Veritas” part, and adding the “Lux” (light) up front — kind of a new improved ingredient for the upstart rival.
It wasn’t until years later that I gave much thought to what the words mean. I still believe that Yale has the better motto—but for much different reasons than I did then.