The forerunner of the Student Handbook, the "freshman Bible," a compendium of general information about the college, was published by the Christian Association.
At the 25th annual meeting of the Boston alumnae, President Taylor announced that last June Caroline Swift Atwater ’77 had given the college $25,000 for a new infirmary, in memory of her father, Charles W. Swift, a charter trustee. Mrs. Atwater subsequently gave an additional $25,000, and the building, designed by York & Sawyer in the colonial revival style, was completed later in the year.
The president also thanked Mary Thaw Thompson ’77 and Mary Seymour Pratt ’80, for a gift of $100,000 for a new Chapel.
The Class of 1902 avoided last year’s debacle, when they had rudely interrupted the consecration of the sophomore’s class tree—a necessary preliminary to the “knighting” of the class. While this year’s freshmen slept, ’02 arose at 4 am, gathered around am elm between Strong and Main and “softly gave the class cheer,” according to The New York Times. As members of their “sister class,” ’00, also softly cheered, ’02 headed for the gymnasium for the “knighting” ceremony.
The Founder's Day address was given by President Arthur Twining Hadley of Yale, husband of Helen Morris Hadley '83. In his address, which focused on “political education,” President Hadley said that, to be effective, study in such disciplines as sociology and political economy must be broad and through enough to affect and develop character.
Inaugurated in 1899 as the first Yale president who was not a minister, Hadley was a eminent scholar of political science and political economy, a former dean of the university's graduate school and former commissioner of the Connecticut bureau of labor statisitics. His Railroad Transportation, its History and Laws (1885) was a standard textbook in the field.
Along with the presidents of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr, President Taylor was among the 25 college presidents named by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, chancellor of New York University, as one of the four groups of judges to nominate members for the university’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans. The other categories in the body were: 24 professors of history and science; 23 publicists, editors and authors; and most of the 27 state supreme court chief justices, along with the chief justice of the United States, Rufus Wheeler Peckham.
MacCracken’s project was the first “hall of fame,” and its home, a sweeping open-air colonnade designed by Stanford White, was the centerpiece for New York University’s new undergraduate campus.
Four of Taylor’s choices—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—were among the 11 initial inductees to the New York University hall. His unsuccessful nominees were American historian John Lothrop Motley and abolitionist and Native American rights advocate Wendell Phillips.
The French Club and the Choral Club sang the Mareseillaise as President Taylor escorted the French Ambassador, M. Jules Cambon, to the platform as the club's inaugural speaker. After remarks by the President and—in French—Gertrude Candler '00, M. Cambon, said the Vassar Miscellany, "spoke upon women in France, heroic in history and distinguished in literature, the arts and industries."
M. Cambon played a key role in the negotiations that ended the Spanish American War.
The college announced that a $50,000 fund for a biological laboratory had been completed. A friend of the college, resident in New England, had offered $25,000 for this purpose provided it could be matched by the college with other funds, preferably drawn from other New Englanders. The Boston branch of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College raised the additional amount for the New England Building within a year’s time. The New York Times
Completed in December 1901, the New England Building opened on January 8, 1902.
In his baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1900, President Taylor spoke of political matters and the decline of empires as a result of unchecked ambition. “Probably there has been no war,” he told the class, “which could not have been avoided had justice been permitted to temper lust; had charity and forbearance been permitted to subdue greed. Is there no lesson in the disasters of history for those who are reveling in this new outburst of war and who are making this an age of blood and iron?” The New York Times
Attendance at Class Day, held out of doors at the rear of Raymond House on a perfect June day, was the largest in Vassar history. Marching 1,000 yards along a path marked out in white muslin, the juniors led with the traditional daisy chain, followed by the seniors.
Class president Alice Prentice Barrows ’00 welcomed the attendees, and Eunice Oberly ’00 and Vilda Sauvage ’00 told the class history. The interlude between the two parts of the history was filled by Eleanor Kenrick Samson '00, who sang Bernborg’s “Nymphs and Fawns.” Moving to the class tree, the seniors buried their class records beneath the tree and, giving the senior charge, Maude Louise Ray ’00 passed Matthew Vassar’s spade to Annie Maria Crater ’01, who gave the junior response.
At the meeting of the board of trustees, Edward S. Atwater was elected to succeed the late Cyrus Swan, a charter trustee and close confidant of the Founder. Lewis Pilcher was appointed instructor in art, succeeding Henry Van Ingen, Vassar’s original professor of art, who died in 1898. A former lecturer in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Pilcher was later the architect of Jewett House and the Good Fellowship House at Vassar, and subsequently, as New York State Architect, the architect of the “new” Sing Sing prison (1919). In his later years, he founded of the School of Architecture at Pennsylvania State University.
At a new Class Day event, the Phi Beta Kappa lecture, Professor Franklin Giddings of Columbia interpreted the granting of Mu chapter as evidence that the last discrimination by sex in education had been removed. Women’s clubs were no longer needed, he told the class and their guests, and he advised the graduates not to squander their time with them or with other such organizations. The New York Times
Professor Gow’s organ voluntary opened Vassar’s 35th Commencement, as marshal of the day Emma Rice Richarson ’77, led the juniors and seniors into the Chapel. Topics of the senior essays exhibited their customary range: Isabel Bliss Trowbridge ’00 discussed “The Klephtic Ballads”; Mabel Pearson Schmidt ’00 traced “The Evolution of Peace”; Martha Grovenor Harmon ’00 revealed “The Educational Value of Nature Study”; Marie Thompson Perry ’00 traced “The Development of Darwin’s Idea of Natural Selectio”n; Gertrude Vaile ’00 plumbed “The Ethics of Retail Buying” and Frances Dorrance ’00 explored “The Impressionism of Shelley’s Nature Descriptions.”
President Taylor conferred bachelor’s degrees on 125 member of the Class of 1900, and Eda C. Bowman ’99, Augusta Choate ’99, Blanche Martin ’99 and Ruth Bartlett Mears ’99 received the second degree in arts (the master’s degree).
Graduate scholarships were awarded to: Laura Moriarity ’00 in history; Jennie Mackay Payne ’00 in English; Ruth Wells ’00 in Greek and Frances Dorrance ’00 in biology. The Richardson Babbott fellowship was awarded to Alice W. W. Wilcox ’94 for the study of biology at the University of Chicago.
After dinner, some 300 graduates and guests were entertained by an address by St. Clair McKelway, co-owner and editor of The Brooklyn Eagle.
Helen Reed ’86 was elected to the Rhinebeck, NY, school board, the first woman elected to a board of education in Dutchess County. Later, as Mrs. Theodore Delaporte, she founded the Chancellor Livingston chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Rhinebeck.
Vassar, along with Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, MIT, Harvard and Princeton, was one of 14 American institutions of higher education awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition.
Vassar received four papyri from the William Flinders Petrie excavations at Abydos in Egypt. This was the first of several gifts of papyri to the college from the Egyptian Exploration Fund over the next year or so.
As the presidential election drew near, political interest and discussion on campus increased. Five hundred ten votes were cast in an election-eve poll: Republican (incumbent William McKinley), 441; Democratic (William Jennings Bryan), 61; Independent, 2; Socialist, 2; Probition, 4. The New York Times
Vassar was one of a dozen colleges and universities whose representatives, meeting at Columbia, adopted the College Entrance Board plan for admitting students. The plan had been proposed the previous December at the annual meeting of the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools by Nicholas Murray Butler, the founder of Columbia’s Teachers College.
The new board’s chairman was Columbia’s president, Seth Low, and Vassar’s president Taylor was one of three members of the Executive Committee.
Lecturing in the Chapel on Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bliss Perry, editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a pioneer in the study of American literature, called Hawthorne, according to The Vassar Miscellany, "America's "greatest imaginative genius." Perry "followed a somewhat unusual plan," the reviewer noted, in seeing Hawthorne's stay in at the Whig Tavern in North Adams, MA, during the summer of 1838 as "the critical point in his mental and spiritual development. The Whig Tavern...was the gathering place for all the village worthies and convivial spirits, who gladly received the shy reluctant Hawthorne among them.... The North Adams period marks a new contract with actualities, a quickening of interests and a longing to share in the life of humanity."
The New York Times noted the first publication of the Vassar Observatory, Catalogue of the Stars Within One Degree of the North Pole and Optical Distortion of Helsingfors Astro-Photographic Telescope, Deduced from Photographic Measures, by Caroline E. Furness ’91. In 1889, one of Maria Mitchell’s first group of six astronomy students—known as “the Hexagon”—Mary Watson Whitney ’68, succeeded Mitchell as professor of astronomy and director of the observatory. Having studied with mathematician Benjamin Peirce at Harvard, done research at the Dearborn Observatory at the original University of Chicago and studied celestial mechanics at the University of Zürich before returning to Vassar in 1881 as Mitchell’s assistant, Whitney was more acquainted than her mentor with the wider world of scholarship and scholarly publication, and this publication marked her expansion of the observatory's mission.
Caroline Furness was Watson's assistant at the Vassar Observatory in 1894, and the following year Watson had arranged for her to study at Columbia with the recently appointed acting professor of astronomy and director of the observatory, Harold Jacoby. She was the first woman admitted for PhD studies in astronomy at Columbia. In collaboration with Jacoby and with financial support from Vassar trustee Frederic Ferris Thompson and philanthropist Catherine Bruce, Whitney acquired equipment necessary for Furness's work. The results of this joint study, of which the first volume was Furness's doctoral thesis, were published in four volumes, two from Vassar and two from Columbia. With Whitney's retirement in 1915, Caroline Furness became director of the observatory, and the following year she was appointed Alumna Maria Mitchell Professor of Astronomy.
The nascent College Entrance Examination Board of the Middle States and Maryland announced the selection of Professor Lucy Maynard Salmon as the chief examiner for history. Her colleagues in the history examination were Swarthmore Professor William I Hull and Henry P. Warren from the Albany Academy.