Eliza Davison House, given at a cost of $110,000 by John D. Rockefeller in memory of his mother, was completed, Allen & Vance, architects.
The Students' Association received a charter from the faculty and relinquished the honor system in favor of student proctors, whose job it was to see that rules were obeyed.
The gift of the New England alumnae, The New England Building, designed for the departments of biology, physiology, geology and mineralogy, was completed, York & Sawyer, architects. Florence Cushing ‘74, alumna trustee from Boston, arranged for a piece of Plymouth Rock, recently broken off, to be installed over the entrance to the new building.
Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78 lectured on “Handicrafts of England.” The daughter of woman suffrage pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the wife of English businessman Harry Blatch, Harriot Blatch was a social activist in both England and America. Just prior to her marriage she had collaborated with her mother and Susan B. Anthony on a book, the History of Woman Suffrage. In England she had conducted a study of the condition of rural working women, for which she received the master's degree from Vassar in 1894. Returning to America in 1902, she helped restore the American woman suffrage movement, organizing working women in New York City and organizing and leading the 1910 New York suffrage parade.
In her illustrated talk, she discussed the damaging effect of mechanization on the several local and regional handicrafts.
President Taylor announced in the Chapel that trustee John D. Rockefeller had pledged to duplicate every gift made to the college before Commencement in 1904 up to a total of $200,000. A trustee of the college from 1888 until his resignation in 1905, Rockefeller was a generous donor, providing partial funding for Strong House, named in honor of his daughter, Bessie Rockefeller Strong, a special student between 1886 and 1888, and fully funding Rockefeller Hall (1898) and Eliza Davison House (1903), honoring his mother. At Rockefeller's death, in 1937, his gifts to Vassar, totalling $493,348.59, stood fifth among his philanthropies to colleges and universities, after The University of Chicago—which he helped found—Harvard, Yale and Brown. The New York Times.
Fire at the laundry building behind Main Building caused $15,000 damage. Fourteen maids, residents of the building, escaped harm, but the building was destroyed. It was insured for $10,000. The New York Times
Some 300 people heard Polish piano virtuoso Ignacy Jan Paderewski play in the Chapel. From his Paris musical debut in 1887 on, Paderewski's virtuosityu had invoked intense popular admiration, sometimes bordering on mania. After his American debut in 1891, his friend Helena Modjeska reported, "Women are crazy about him. Critics praise him without limits. The only two things they criticize is [sic] his performance of Beethoven and his too large of a mess of hair." Many in the audience came to Poughkeepsie on special trains.
The Vassar audience remained relatively calm until, near the end of his program, a student screamed out loudly, apparently setting off a minor craze. In its issue for March 6, 1902, under the title "Vassar Hysterics," the New York journal, The Independent, copied a note from The Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Snce the Vassar girl set the example it is the fashion now for young women to have hysterics when they attend Paderewski concerts." The informer, The New York Times
The French Club, restricted in membership to students in junior and senior French classes, presented La Fée, by Octave Feuillet. The play’s hero, Le Comte Henri de Comminges, was played by Rowena Beattie Uptegrove ’03, and Clare Allen ’03 was Mlle. Aurore de Kerdic , his spurned fiancée —“the fairy” who lures him to a fountain in Brittany.
All students studying French and guests of club members were invited to the production. “The music for the ballade, which had an important part in the play was composed by Miss E[mma] A[melia] Williams ’02. It was played with very pretty effect by mandolins behind the scenes.” The New York Times
Jane Addams, co-founder of the most well known settlement house in the United States, Hull House in Chicago, lectured on "The College Woman and the Social Claim." She visited the college in February 1893 and talked on her work at Hull House, which opened in 1889.
Bryn Mawr’s Mary E. Garrett Fellowship for study in Europe was awarded to Marie Reimer ’97, who had been a graduate student at Bryn Mawr for two years. In its account of the fellowship, The New York Times noted that Miss Reimer—whose work was “of unusual brilliancy”—had been “one of the graduate students living in Denbigh Hall, and lost all her property in the fire on Sunday [3/16], except her thesis for the doctor’s degree, which was rescued by a member of the faculty.”
After her fellowship year in Berlin, Dr. Reimer joined the Barnard faculty, where she taught organic chemistry until her retirement in 1945.
Vassar defeated Wellesley in the first intercollegiate debate between women's colleges. The Vassar debaters were: C. Mildred Thompson '03, Elizabeth Forrest Johnson '02 and Celia Arnold Spicer '03. Vassar argued the negative on the question: "Resolved, that the United States should subsidize a merchant marine"..
“Monday night we had a monster celebration and dragged the debaters all over the campus in a 3 wheeled parcel cart of the janitors with 65 feet of rope.” MS letter
At the Founder’s Day celebration, President Taylor announced that a donor, whose name he withheld, had pledged to fund a new library for Vassar. No set sum was specified, as the building was intended to meet the needs of the college far into the future.
At Commencement in June, Taylor revealed that the donor was Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson '93, widow of the popular and benevolent trustee, who had died in 1899. The Frederic Ferris Thompson Memorial Library was dedicated in 1905.
Professor Woodrow Wilson of Princeton gave the Founder's Day address on "Americanism."
Four new records were set at the annual Field Day. Fannie James ’04 ran the 100-yard dash in 0:13.1.5; Elsa Hillyer White put the shot 29 feet, 11 inches; Harriet J. MacCoy ’03 threw a basketball 72 feet, 5 inches and Jean Hooker ’03 threw a baseball 175 feet, 6 inches.
As was customary, no men were permitted at the games, with the exception of a few professors. The New York Times
The Philalethean Society presented The Birds of Aristophanes, in the original Greek and in an appropriate outdoor setting. Spectators, sitting on the grass of Sunset Hill with the players below them on a stage backed by evergreens, followed the action with the translation in their programs by Elsa Hillyer White ‘02 and Edna Laura Kibbe ‘03.
Professor George C. Gow composed the music for the choruses, who were accompanied by a flute player hidden behind a tree. The play was directed by Professor Abby Leach of the department of Greek.
The “deadening effect of pleasure-seeking” was, according to The New York Times, the theme of President Taylor’s baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1902. It was students’ tendency at the present time, he said, to think that the best thing to be had at college was a good time. This attitude was destructive to the soul, to physical vigor, to clear thinking and to spiritual insight.
Taylor told the class their “opportunities and training had given them a view over these tendencies as from a mountain top; that they now must descend into the plain and help in the battle against them.”
The Nassau Herald, a commencement publication at Princeton edited by the seniors, gave the results of a poll taken of the graduating class. Longfellow was the favorite poet, and Walter Scott slipped by Thackeray, Kipling and Dickens among the novelists. The class had 185 Republicans, 30 Democrats, 7 Gold Democrats and 7 Prohibitionists, and, as to women’s colleges, the class favored Vassar (67 votes) over Smith (51), Wellesley (43) and Bryn Mawr (39). The New York Times
After the alumnae luncheon, five alumnae spoke to those who returned for Class Day on women and occupations. Dr. Mary Sherwood ’93 discussed medicine, Helen Hoy ’99 discussed law, Maude Ray ’00 discussed journalism, Mary Root ’78 discussed agriculture and Nancy McClelland ’97 discussed advertising.
Class Day exercises were held out of doors in the afternoon. The juniors marched in, followed by the sophomores, nineteen of whom bore the daisy chain that announced the entry of the Class of 1902, led by Louise Sanford ’02. Class president Theodosia Hadley ’02 gave an address of welcome, and class historians Caroline Sperry ’02 and Nina Eldred ‘02 looked back over the class’s four years at the college.
At the class tree, Lucy Burns ’02 gave the senior charge and gave Matthew Vassar’s spade to Harriette Anderson ’03, who delivered the junior response. The day ended with a glee club concert and the president’s reception.
At Commencement, President Taylor identified the donor of the new library as Mary Clark Thompson and announced that ground would be broken for the new chapel immediately after the graduation ceremony. Two new trustees were elected: the Rev. W. T. E. P. Rhodes of Brooklyn and Daniel Smiley of Lake Mohonk, NY.
The first automobile appeared at Commencement. A member of the Class of 1902 recalled that is was a Ford, driven from Detroit by an alumna of ’00.
The College Inn was opened on Raymond Avenue, filling a long-felt need for the entertainment of guests. Later known as the Wagner Inn, it was established by Anne Edith Lapham ’96 and Mary Swain Wagner ex-’95 and was managed by Miss Wagner.
President Taylor conducted a short service for the laying of the cornerstone for the new chapel. Both of the donors, Mary Thaw Thompson ’77 and Mary Morris Pratt ’80, were present. They placed in the stone a box containing several Vassar publications and brief memoirs of Charles Pratt, Mrs. Pratt’s father-in-law, and William Thaw, Mrs. Thompson’s father. The New York Times
A college handy man was arrested for stealing students’ jewelry. Almost all of the items found in his possession at the time of his arrest were identified by students, and the total value of the jewelry was estimated at $2,000.
In the spring of 1902, the English actor and producer, Ben Greet and the Elizabethan Stage Society mounted a production in London of the 15th-century morality play, Everyman. That fall, the prominent Broadway producer Charles Frohman arranged with the society and Greet for an American production, as part of a plan, as he told The New York Times, “to bring to and lay before American audiences everything in the theatrical line that its citizens go to see [abroad].”
A performance of Frohman’s production in the Chapel, with the English actress Edith Wynne Matthison as Everyman, was the gift of an anonymous donor.