June 27, 1876
Class Day was extremely hot, with temperatures in the 90s, as the Class of ’76 and about 100 alumnae—with strong representations from New York, Boston and Cincinnati— gathered on campus. Members of all nine previous graduating classes were in attendance, and reunions were held by the Classes of 1869 and 1873.
In their meetings, the trustees elected Col. Fred Townsend to the board, replacing the late founding trustee Ira Harris, and according to The New York Times, a group of trustees were “agitating the subject of erecting a colossal bronze statue of Matthew Vassar in the centre of the circle in front of the main entrance to the college.” A statue of the Founder, derived from a maquette done from life by Poughkeepsie sculptor Laura Skeel Hofmann, was dedicated on the south lawn of Main Building on June 9, 2006.
At 2:30, the Chapel doors were opened. Floral and evergreen decorations adorned the room, along with a banner bearing the motto of the Class of 1876, “Mens agitat molem, arranged in a semi-circle against a large American flag. Shortly before 3, as Downer’s Orchestra played Operti’s “March of the Amazons,” the senior and junior classes entered and took their seats.
Class speakers included class orator Eliza Greene Metcalf ’76, whose remarks touched on the national centennial, class historian Elizabeth Gifford ’76 and Zenobia West Brigham ‘76, the class poet, whose poem “treated of heroes from the time of the siege of Troy down to the closing days of this century” and ended by “enjoining the Class of ’76 to do battle bravely for the future.”
A sudden thunderstorm cut short the dedication of the class tree (a 3-year-old elm), postponed the burying of the class records and drove the assembly back to the Chapel, where class prophesies were posed by Catharine Talcott Hale ’76 and where Matthew Vassar’s spade was exchanged, along with “pleasant sarcasm” between Martha Clark, ’76 and Abbie Dana ’77.
Inclement weather continued into the evening, cancelling plans for a promenade, dancing and merriment on the lawns west of Main Building, all illuminated by Chinese lanterns. Instead, “the promenading and flirting and chatting went on in the main corridors.” The New York Times