A Reading Room was established in the library for newspapers and periodicals. Some furnishings from the Art Gallery remained in the Reading Room, including folio tables and an oil portrait and a marble bust of Matthew Vassar.
Thomas A. Edison patented the incandescent lamp.
"This is [a] progressive age!" proclaimed The Vassar Miscellany, as the college welcomed the telephone. "We no longer telegraph, we telephone. The presiding genius of the little table sacred to 'The Western Union Telegraph Company' has gone to another and a fairer clime than the College office. Dust gathers on the brass keys, while Mr. Deane talks confidentially to the responsive orifice beside his desk. He has sole charge of this new connection to the outer world, and is ready to sen messages with all possible secrecy and despatch. The telephone connects with the houses of Messrs. Vassar, Van Vliet and Deane, wand with the general telephone office, which is in turn connected with about eighty telephones in the city."
The Rutgers Glee Club sang in the college chapel in the afternoon, and in the evening in the Senior Parlor, after their concert in Poughkeepsie.
Vassar Brothers Laboratory was dedicated. Since joining the faculty in 1874 as professor of chemistry, LeRoy C. Cooley had voiced his concern about the poor lighting and ventilation in the chemistry laboratory, Room C on the "basment" [first] floor of Main Building, urging that it was not only inadequate but also dangerous. When an accidental fire in the chemistry laboratory of the monumental Pardee Hall at Lafayette College leveled the $300,000 building on June 4, 1879, Cooley’s concerns were acted upon. By the following spring, a completely up-to-date laboratory building was available to him and his students.
Speaking at the building's dedication, Cooley compared Room C—"a little room, never intended for such purpose, supplied with narrow tables which had already seen service in some shop or counting room," containing a "little shelf room for chemicals, and in proportion still less floor room for the crowded students"—to the splendid new hall. Containing "Good light, good air, and the most convenient arrangement of funiture and apparatus for the use of students," he said, the new facility supplied, "the prime necessitites in a working laboratory...a new laboratory...opened primarily for the undergraduate instruction of women in the regular course in Arts."
The building’s architect, Benjamin Silliman, Jr., the son and namesake of a pioneer in American science, had followed his father both as chemistry professor at Yale and as an independent researcher, becoming in the 1850's the first petroleum geologist in the United States. Silliman, Jr., was also a principal, with James M. Farnsworth, in Silliman & Farnsworth, a New York architectural firm.
The first separate laboratory building at a college for women and the gift of Matthew Vassar, Jr. and John Guy Vassar, charter trustees and nephews of the Founder, the $10,000 building was dedicated on April 16, 1880. The Vassar Miscellany
At the Founder's Day exercises in the chapel, speakers included Harriot Stanton '78, and Mrs. Mary A. Livermore, reformer, journalist and the first president of the American Association for the Advancement of Women. Mary A. Livermore had lectured at the college in 1877.
"The custom introduced last year of having speakers from abroad, is surely an improvement upon the old style of employing exclusively home talent, when we can have speakers like Mrs. Livermore and the Rev. Robert Collyer..." Vassar Miscellany, May 1881.
The English-born Unitarian minister and orator, Robert Collyer, spoke at the Founder’s Day exercises in 1872.
The trustees ruled that students and faculty might have steak for breakfast if desired.
As part of their ongoing study of sunspots during the academic terms and using a method she had devised and equipment obtained with her personal funds, Maria Mitchell and her students photographed the sun on most clear days between 1877 and her retirement in 1888. Meticulously annotating, as was her custom, a photograph of sunspots taken on May 29, 1880, Mitchell noted, "No photographs have been taken since May 24 on account of the intense heat, the thermometer being 90º and 92º."
More that 100 years after Mitchell's death in 1889, over 800 of her glass negatives were found, along with her notations, on hand-dated shelves in a shallow closet in the Observatory. They are now preserved in Vassar's Special Collections Library.
The Associate Alumnae presented the first full scholarship, given in memory of Hannah Lyman, lady principal from 1865 until her death in 1871.
For his Baccalaureate Sermon, President Caldwell took his text from Saint Paul’s words in Acts xxvi: 19: “Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.” “Obedience to the highest and best thing you see,” he told the Class of 1880, “is the word for this parting hour. Seeing the unseen—this is the paradox of religion; this is the mystery of faith, as it is the perplexity of unbelief…. Your visions, many of them, will fade. But there are visions which may be reached. They will not be if you do not have them. Have them, cherish them…. Vision and action must go together.” The New York Times