June 8, 1934
Over 500 alumnae returned to Vassar for the end-of-year celebrations. Twelve classes had reunions, including the Class of 1874, with three members, and the Class of 1884, with four. The alumnae attended class dinners in the residence halls, and the glee club gave a concert in the evening.
The next morning, June 9th, the three members of ’74 acted as judges for the alumnae parade, awarding first prize to the Class of 1900, with honorable mention to ’18 and ’84. Recalling the fire in Main that briefly threatened to destroy the building in their senior year, ’18 wore red fire helmets and carried fire axes and water buckets.
At the alumnae luncheon, Herbert E. Mills, professor emeritus of economics, spoke both of American women’s greatly increased social mobility and of the starkly different situation of their contemporaries in Germany, Italy and Russia, where war and revolution had impeded or reversed women’s progress. “Women,” he said, “have entered every profession in this country, even those of kidnapping and bootlegging. Preserve the freedom of action which you enjoy.”
Under threatening clouds and accompanied by students, alumnae and visitors, 24 members of the Class of ’36 carried the traditional daisy chain to the base of ‘34’s class tree, where it was to remain until after commencement. Breaking tradition, before the procession students presented a brief parody of Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts, in which they portrayed Vassar’s “saints”—President MacCracken, Dean Mildred Thompson ‘03, Warden Eleanor Dodge ’25 and college physician Dr. Jane Baldwin.
In the evening, André Obey’s modernist biblical drama, Noah, was presented in the Outdoor Theater. Later on, when the alumnae and visitors had retired, the seniors and the sophomores took part in the passing on of college songs at Vassar Lake, in the light of brightly colored Chinese lanterns.
At Sunday’s baccalaureate, the Rev. C. Leslie Glenn, rector of Christ Church, Cambridge, MA, spoke on “The Pain of Having One’s Eyes Opened.” Wary that college graduates may expect more than the world has for them, Rev. Glenn observed, “A hard but necessary lesson is to accept the inevitable, for some things are inevitable. It takes courage to face that fact, but life is easier when we do.”
President MacCracken, styling himself as a “social philosopher” at the conferring of degrees on Monday, June 11th, told the 251 graduating seniors and their guests of his idea of Utopia, where all work would be performed by people from 45 to 60 years of age, the period before work being devoted to education, travel and creative work. Wars, in his perfect society, would also be fought by those over 45: “Those who have fewer years to live would die, and those who apparently want war the most would have it most. Meanwhile young people could enjoy the parade and not be in it.”
More realistically, MacCracken addressed critics of the relative youth and solid intellectualism of President Roosevelt’s government, particularly his “brain trust.” MacCracken exemplifed these critics in the Indiana school principal, William Wirt, who publicly attacked all elements of the government’s programs and who had recently told Congress that the New Deal was essentially a communist plot. “The talk,” MacCracken said, “about the ‘brain trust’ is all blather…. People have always wanted brains in their rulers, when they could find them. It is not the brain trust that was the bugaboo. It is youth. What frightened Dr. Wirt was the discovery that he was 60 years old, and that his young secretary had more to do with government than he had…. It’s not the professors that politicians are afraid of in Washington. It’s the assistant professors.”
In her annual report of gifts to the college, board chairman Helen Kenyon ’05 announced that the $124,478 included several gifts to the new sports building, Kenyon Hall. A new endowed prize, the Leo M. Prince Prize for the student demonstrating the greatest academic improvement during her four years at Vassar was awarded to Josephine Azzolina '34. The New York Times