June 9, 1886
30 members of the Class of 1886 received the baccalaureate degree from Acting President J. Ryland Kendrick at Commencement, among ferns, palm leaves and hothouse plants in the Chapel. Among the student addresses, Carrie Borden ’86 spoke on “Conversation as a Fine Art,” Helen Culbertson ‘86 and Emma Nelson ’86 complementarily explored “Fair Treatment of the Indian a Point of Honor” and “Fair Treatment of the Negro a Necessity” and Margaret Sherwood ’86 investigated “Iago’s Opinion of Himself.” Opposing orations on the question “Should Religious Instruction be Given in the Public Schools” found Lillie Sweetser ’86 in the affirmative and Frances Southworth '86 in the negative.
Before concluding the ceremonies, Acting President Kendrick introduced President-elect James Monroe Taylor, wishing him every success and cautioning him, “nothing succeeds like success.” A representative of the alumnae assured the incoming president that they were ready and willing to help the new administration of the college, and a student representative welcomed Dr. Taylor to Vassar. In a substantial response, Taylor spoke of positions he expected the college to take on a range of questions facing education and declared that the college must not accept a merely high standard, but that there must be none higher than Vassar’s. The New York Times