The faculty adopted a revised curriculum requiring four full courses instead of five for underclassmen. Three full courses for seniors were supplemented by tutorials, a comprehensive examination and a long, independent paper. Hygiene and education courses for freshmen, the last compulsory courses in the Vassar curriculum, were abolished. In presenting the proposed plan to the faculty on January 15, 1933, President MacCracken explained that it was designed to allow students on concentrate more on individual work. "Its essential feature," he said, "is a simplification of the curriculum by reducing the number of courses and class hours. The present curriculum is effective but has become too complicated. It leaves no time for the most desirable work, advanced in quality and solid in quantity."
Studied and modified over the next two years by the faculty working as a committee of the whole, the curricular changes were adopted by the faculty on February 18, 1935, by a vote of 72 to 4. The Miscellany News hailed the day as "one of the most momentous days in the history of Vassar College," offering "a drastic reduction" in the courses required for the degree, and needed modification "in the proportioning of students' time and in techniques of work. Student dreams, long thought Utopian, for increased concentration and for more individual work, will finally become actualities. We find ourselves in the rosy-fingered dawn where faculty and students will take a collective responsibility in the process of education....
"But the work," the editors warned, "is still only half done. Old fashioned methods of teaching and of learning must go—along with the old curriculum. We are confident that they will, that the new plan will be put into practice with the same spirit in which it was made, for otherwise we should have the strange anomaly of a new framework covered by old shingles."
Professor Alice Belding ‘07, chairman of the physical education department, reported to President MacCracken the results of an analysis of the physical characteristics of the average Vassar freshman done in the new Helen Kenyon Sports Building.
“This hypothetical young woman,” The New York Times reported on January 5, “is five feet five inches tall, she weighs 126 and one-fifth pounds; her lung capacity is 205.67 cubic inches; the strength of the grip of her right hand is 69 pounds; she can run 80 yards on a circular unbaked track in 15 and four-fifths seconds; she can toss a one-pound weight 40 feet; in the standing broad jump event she can jump 5 feet 4 inches, and, finally, in striking a blow her strength is 74 pounds.”
400 alumnae celebrated the 20th anniversary of President MacCracken’s presidency at the annual luncheon of the New York Vassar Club, held at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City. In his remarks, MacCracken noted that enrollment in the college for the current academic year was the highest in 12 years.
“A bill is being proposed by a Mr. Nunan in Albany requiring every student in college…to take an oath to uphold the state and Federal constitution. On the surface, it is harmless enough, but actually it was suggested by Mr. [William Randolph] Hearst to wipe out all form of campus radicalism…. 500 girls were as a mass meeting last night…where Prexy and the president of students and Polit. and several professors talked. Eight hundred signed a petition demanding the defeat of the bill…85 of us went up [to Albany] today…. We disrupted the whole senate and got them to give us a general hearing this afternoon when 4 of our ‘leaders’ spoke from the floor of the senate chamber….” MS student letter
Eighty-five Vassar students were joined at the state capitol by a contingent from Skidmore to protest the bill sponsored by Senator Joseph Nunan. The Nunan Student Oath Bill required all students entering colleges and universities in the state that received any public funds to take an oath of loyalty to the state and federal constitutions. The students, insisting that the bill was an attack on freedom of thought and speech, demanded that the bill, already cleared by the education committee for advancement to the Senate, be recommitted so that it could be protested. A group of the protesters spoke of their concerns with Governor Herbert Lehman, and when asked by Senator Nunan and Senator A. Spencer Feld, chairman of the education committee, why students from Vassar, which received no public funds, should feel so strongly, the students, led by the president of the Political Association, Katherine McInerny ‘35, replied that the bill was a violation of a basic democratic principle.
The bill was hastily recommitted, and Miss McInerny—who claimed that 888 Vassar students had signed a petition against the bill and that most of the 50,000 New York members of the National Students Federation were against it—made the case for moderation in arguing against the bill. “We represent,” she said, “the conservative element of college students. We are willing to take this oath, but we question why we should be asked to take it…. It is directed at Reds and radicals, but it also withholds the right of criticism from the conservative element we represent…. The Constitution has been amended many times and there wouldn’t have been amendments if there had not been criticism…. Suppression works just the opposite to what you gentlemen think…. This bill can lead to such a régime as Germany has under Hitler.”
Jane Whitbread ’36 came at the matter from another angle. Claiming that the bill selected students as a special group from whom to demand a loyalty oath, she asked “Why not demand oaths on the same theory from motorists who derive obvious benefits from the State? This bill is an assault on academic freedom and it will defeat its own ends. It will bring on the clash we are so desperately trying to avert.” The New York Times
On March 2, a student wrote to her family about her reading of John Locke’s “philosophy of gov’t….he says that the Lord is the supreme judge of whether the legislative body is exceeding its authority! It is very interesting—I think my mind is beginning to sprout at last. Speaking of legislatures, the latest communication from Albany is that they are favorable to the passage of the Nunan bill. Have you seen any of the Hearst editorials? esp. the one saying that Vassar girls ought to be sent to bed on bread and water?” Ms student letter
The bill passed the Senate, but it failed in the Assembly. Subsequent attempts to raise it brought wider and more vocal criticism across the country from students and faculty members. In early December, Whitbread took part in a broadcast on New York radio station WABC sponsored by the National Student Federation of America (NSFA). Asked by NSFA commentator Shepard Stone whether groups supporting the oath such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the Liberty League, the American Legion and the Hearst press were threatening American freedom, she replied that the groups "composed essentially of those who hold the power and are in danger of losing that power, are fortifying themselves by depriving the citizenry of their right to govern themselves, to criticize, suggest and to progress. The history of Germany shows that Fascism starts in just this way." The Miscellany News
The Nunan bill languished, then disappeared.
President MacCracken announced the plan approved by the faculty on February 18 for a sweeping revision of the curriculum. Supported by The Miscellany News and 82 percent of the student body in a written ballot conducted by the student curriculum committee, the plan was arrived at after consultation with numerous recent graduates. A key element, the introduction in the sophomore year of “tutorial guidance”—individual oversight of students’ academic programs—led toward a new comprehensive examination in their last term in college. A reduction in required classes in each year provided faculty time for tutorial work and allowed more flexibility in class periods and more continuous working time, including laboratory time, for students outside of classes. The new curriculum also allowed for the completion of the bachelor's degree, with special permission, in three years.
The plan took effect in the 1935-36 academic year. “The majority of the seniors,” MacCracken said in announcing it, “who naturally did not look forward to taking the final comprehensive examination, warmly approved of its introduction, while the freshmen voted against it by an even larger majority.”
The Political Association was host to over 50 students from 26 colleges and universities who met in a “model senate” to consider three issues facing the country. Welcoming the delegates, Warden Eleanor Dodge ’25 said, “This model senate is entirely within the philosophy of the Vassar faculty. We believe this and similar activities will provide students with a more practical approach to an understanding of our political government, and will enable them to return to their communities…to take an active part in the conduct of government.”
The first day, students, acting as senators from 29 states, were lobbied by teams of Vassar students representing such groups as the Chamber of Commerce, the American Federation of Labor, the Communist Party and the American Legion. Meeting as a judiciary committee, a finance committee and a committee on foreign affairs, the "senators" discussed anti-lynching legislation, unemployment insurance and ratification of United States membership in the League of Nations. On the following morning, after committee meetings, bills were given a first reading, and the bills were voted on after lunch. The model senate brought the United States into the League of Nations, approved anti-lynching legislation and, after revisions and a 45-minute floor argument, voted for unemployment insurance.
A surprise visitor to the event was “Huey Long.” Stepping out of their roles as senators from Louisiana, Lehigh University students Harold K. Ellis and George D. Manson appeared as the flamboyant populist governor and his 180-pound bodyguard. After explaining his “share the wealth program”—“Put more tax on those big oil companies; pile it on heavy on the rich”—the governor referred to his ongoing battle with Postmaster General James A. Farley: “He can’t scare me. I ain’t no stamp collector.”
A Model Senate Association, formed at this meeting, met the following month in New Jersey to lay plans for another model senate meeting for 1936. The New York Times
In violation of the Versailles Treaty, Adolf Hitler ordered the establishment of the Luftwaffe, the German air force.
As part of Professor Joseph Folsom’s economics class, “The Community,” 28 juniors and seniors canvassed tenants and home-owners in Poughkeepsie, urging them to consider modernizing their homes with funds provided by local banks and guaranteed under the Better Housing program of the Federal Housing Administration.
The Vassar Experimental Theatre presented The Question Before the House, a play by Doris Yankauer ’35 and activist and chemical engineer Herbert Mayer from New York City. The play, directed by Hallie Flanagan Davis, centered around students at a women’s college, called Quinley College, who are encouraged to join the picket line at a plumbing supply factory. When one of the students falls in love with a striker, the college’s president withdraws the students’ permission to support the strikers.
Interviewed by The Miscellany News, Miss Yankauer said the play attempted "to get to the root of a certain unreality which I have always felt existed in the attempt of college students to relate themselves to the economic world outside.... It questions the possibility of a college remaining really liberal in a world in which opposing points of view are becoming increasingly sharply defined, as long as the college depends on the capitalistic system for its financial support."
The play opened in a twin bill at the Madison Playhouse in New York City on November 8, 1935, and Miss Yankauer and Mr. Mayer were married in 1936.
The New York Times combined a review of the Experimental Theatre's production of The Question Before the House, a play by Doris Yankauer ’35 and Herbert Mayer—identified in the review as "an unemployed chemical engineer of New York"—with a more general commentary on the college and politics. The play, the article said, "expresses an undergraduate attitude toward the political activity not only of Vassar women but of all students." Praising the "sympathetic and deftly turned performance" of Caroline Hoysradt '34 as the president of liberal "Quinley College," who withdraws college support of an industrial strike, and of Jane Voohees '35 as the student whose infatuation with one of the strikers provokes her decision, the review revealed the play's "conclusion": no individual students "are greater than the institution they attend."
"Incidentally," The Times continued, "political activities of college students were defended today by Dr. Henry N. MacCracken, president of Vassar, as a natural consequence of modern teaching." There followed a summary of recent political activities in which Vassar students had been involved, particularly their mass visit to Albany to protest the Nunan Student Oath Bill and the recent "model senate" in which over 50 students from a number of institutions met at Vassar to debate and "enact" legislation on lynching, unemployment insurance and U.S. membersthip in the League of Nations. The senate project, endorsed by President Roosevelt, had received criticism from some political leaders.
"Dr. MacCracken," The Times concluded, "when asked today to define the attitude of the faculty toward such activity made this statement: 'For many years American college students have been censured for being wholly indifferent to the realities of the political world in which they live. They are often today represented in novels and plays as mere children playing at life. The introduction of such studies as political science in the college course has changed the students’ academic reading. It is inevitable that these academic interests should be reflected in non-academic life.'
“'Every college with well-organized departments of economics, political science and history must expect its students to take a real interest and even to participate in the political movements of their day, just as every college that teaches music must expect to have a glee club that amounts to something in the way of serious music.... Under proper control and guided by teachers fully aware of the risks involved, the possible harm seems to be outweighed by the profit. This, however, is an open question, which only the future can determine.'”
“I went to Harvard to a conference on government. It was perfectly wonderful fun. Among the speakers were Felix Frankfurter, Leonard White, Gardner Jackson—all darn good. My round table was Bureaucracy, Pro & Con—it was super. I saw just about everybody I know there. They were all swell to me and really mixing business with pleasure was more fun than the unadulterated pleasure of a football game.” MS student letter
Nobel Prize physicist Dr. Robert A. Millikan from the California Institute of Technology spoke on "Some New Conceptions in Physics, and How They Are Arrived At." A pioneer in the fields of electricity, optics and molecular physics, Millikan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1923 "for his work on the elementary charge of electricity and on the photoelectric effect."
“Monday afternoon we took the train for Beacon—we talked to the strikers and employees…then, since the strikers were very, oh so very, obviously in the right, since the managers were violating every…rule in the NRA, we joined in the picketing.... Here, the public opinion is pretty stiff, and we’re not feeling too comfortable, but the faculty are nice to me, and my friends all understand…By the way, it wasn’t a radical group of girls that went down, most of them were very respectable. I’m not trying to offer any excuses, I did what I thought was right, and was very glad I had done it….” MS student letter
President MacCracken took steps to disengage students from the picketing by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America of the Werber Leather Coat factory at Beacon. The students, singing songs they had composed and carrying placards, had been joining the picket lines in rotating shifts.
Affirming at a special assembly that the college did not interfere with students’ activities when they were away from the campus, MacCracken said each student’s first obligation was “to do the best with the privileges she has and this obligation rests on all students…. The college therefore desires to place itself on record as disapproving organized and protracted activities which must inevitably result in detriment to academic work. This applies not only to participation in labor disputes, but to all other personal and social activities outside the college.” The New York Times
The annual seven-college conference opened at Vassar. Since being proposed by President MacCracken to the presidents of Smith, Wellesley and Mount Holyoke in 1915, the conference—augmented first by the addition of Bryn Mawr and, by the time of its official inauguration in 1926, of Radcliffe and Barnard—had regularized admissions procedures, sought philanthropic aid and strengthened many other aspects of women’s collegiate education.
College physician and professor of physiology and hygiene for over 40 years Elizabeth Burr Thelberg died at her home, "Green Pastures," on the campus. Joining the faculty in 1887, three years after receiving her M.D. degree from the Women's Medical College of the New York Infirmary, Dr. Thelberg seved as president of the Medical Women's National Association and the Medical Women's Medical Association of the New York State, a fellow of the American Medical Association and a charter member of the American Student Health Associatioin. She retired from Vassar in 1930 and was 74 years of age at the time of her death.
Several Vassar departments collaborated on a program of lectures, concerts and art exhibitions in a multidisciplinary study of Romantic music, art and literature. The head of the English department, Winifred Smith ’04, explained that the program was “arranged in the hope that students will…see important relationships between music, poetry and pictures and will carry further for themselves or in conference with visitors and members of the faculty, the suggestions made in the lectures.” She added, “Such explorations…as will be made are to be more frequent under the new curriculum. For in the future there will be more time free from class meetings.”
The program began with two lectures by an exchange professor at Yale University, the Anglo-Saxon philologist Max Foerster from the University of Munich, who spoke on literary periods and the psychological relations between English art and literature in the 18th century.
The following day Professor Paul H. Lang from Columbia lectured on grand opera as a product of French Romanticism, and Bruce Simonds of the Yale School of Music offered a piano recital. Columbia philosopher Irwin Edman offered, on the conference’s third day, “A Contemporary Grammar of the Arts,” and in Taylor Hall an exhibition gathered from colleges, museums and private collectors opened, displaying works by, among others, Magnasco, Laucret, Gainsborough, Delacroix, Corot, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rouault and Tchelitchew.
On the conference’s closing day, the curator of the Wadsworth Athenaeum, A. Everett Austin, spoke on “The Romantic Agony,” and for the gathering’s concluding event, the émigré German art historian and theorist, Erwin Panofsky—lecturing at New York University and Princeton and soon to join the new Princeton Institute for Advanced Study—offered a definition of the baroque influence. The New York Times
The Vassar Experimental Theatre offered two performances of “My Country, Right or Left,” written by four students: Muriel Fox ‘35, Suzette Telenga ‘36, Marie Reed ‘35 and Jane Whitbread ‘36. The musical score for the two-act play, a satiric allegory, was written by Clair Leonard, a member of the music department faculty, and included tunes in a number of genres, orchestrated for piano, trombone and percussion. In the allegory, a comedian representing Press Publicity, the identical twins Pro and Con, some Dead Debs, a chorus of Questioning Workers and another of Club-Women, sought to help or hinder the protagonist, Rugged Individuality, as he struggled, unsuccessfully, at the behest of Business Men and the Intellectual, to reconcile Production and Consumption in a capitalist planned economy.
"The groupings and movements were well planned," Jean Tatlock '35 observed in a review of the production, "to show the clockwork running down and the different social groups jittering and jerking and sinking accordingly. Red, white and blue were successfully faded to pale pink, blue and grey in the sets to make a suitable burial chamber for capitalism."
Hallie Flanagan Davis directed the production, and the red, white and blue constructivist sets were by Lester E. Lang. The Miscellany News, The New York Times
At the annual convention of the New York State Dietetic Association, Dr. Ruth Wheeler '99, director of the Vassar Institute of Euthenics, reported the results of an experiment by a group of 28 students that demonstrated it was possible to arrange a well-balanced diet without rigorous scientific controls.
Dr. Wheeler said that the students were able to maintain weight and good health, at a cost of 43 cents a day for meals that they planned, bought and prepared for themselves. “There were moderate quantities of meat, milk and vegetables in the menus and plain desserts, and less of candy and spinach.” The New York Times
A music critic in The New York Times wrote that the 80 “carefully trained” members of the Vassar College Choir “coped successfully and pleasurably with music of a wide variety of styles” at their Town Hall concert the previous evening. The program ranged from Palestrina and Bach to Honneger, Holst, Randall Thompson and Peter Warlock.
The results of the annual poll of the class were announced at Princeton’s senior class dinner. Kipling’s “If” received more than twice as many votes as Fitzgerald’s Rubáiyát and Grey’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” as the class’s favorite poem; Noel Coward came in ahead of William Shakespeare 135 to 107 as favorite playwright, and Eugene O’Neill trailed with 79 votes; for best-liked artist, magazine cover artist McClelland Barclay edged out Rembrandt, with The New Yorker’s James Thurber and Otto Soglow well behind; Yale was the best men’s college (after Princeton) and Vassar the best women’s college. The New York Times
One hundred students, 50 parents and 50 faculty members participated in a two-day Conference on Undergraduate Life co-directed by Professor Amy Reed ’92 and Ann Oliver ’35, president of the Student Association. President MacCracken and Dean C. Mildred Thompson ’03 addressed the opening dinner. Other speakers at the conference included: Warden Eleanor Dodge '25; Raymond A. Kent, president of the University of Louisville and father of Constance Kent '38; Professor of English Winifred Smith '04; Lieutenant Colonel Herman Beukema, professor of economics, government and history at West Point and father of Margery Beukema '37; Aline Bernstein '35, Martha Collins '35 and Betty Bliss '36. The conference was called to address three questions: What is the mature attitude in college life? To what lengths can freedom and personal responsibility be granted? What adjustments can be made between parents, students and faculty to make college life less exhausting?
A second, similar conference was held in 1936. The Miscellany News, The New York Times
The freshman class won the annual sports day with 40 ½ points to 19 ½ for the Class of ’37, 16 for ’35 and 5 for ’36. Members of the Dutchess County Golf and Country Club defeated a student golf team, the Class of ’38 won at field hockey and at swimming and the Class of ’37 won at squash. The faculty won the faculty-student baseball game 16-0. The New York Times
The college announced the names of 26 freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who were awarded summer scholarships for study in Germany. Eighteen of the students studied for eight weeks at the University of Heidelberg, and eight studied for four weeks at the University of Munich.
The summer scholarships were sponsored by the German government, and in October The Miscellany News asked several faculty members about the propriety of the college’s involvement in the program, given the evolving direction of the Third Reich:
Professor Lilian Stroebe, German department—“The German department…is interested chiefly in the German language, literature and other cultural subjects which have nothing to do with present-day politics. Goethe and Schiller will live long after Hitler.”
Professor Eloise Ellery, history department—“The more background students who are going abroad can have, certainly the better, but the degree of maturity of the individual is the most important qualification outside of the language.”
Professor Mable Newcomer, economics department— “I do not believe Vassar should refuse to accept the German scholarships, because I object to restricting freedom in any way…. I feel, however, that an intelligent girl who is really concerned can get both sides if she wants to and if converted to Nazism will regain her perspective when she returns to this country. If the student never bothers to reconsider her experiences and remains a Nazi sympathizer simply because she has pleasant memories of her trip, she will not be a menace to this country.”
Professor Vernon Venable, philosophy department— “I believe that a liberal institution should accept for its students any educational advantage which may be offered…. Where a confusion between education and propaganda presumably exists, as in the case of the German scholarships, the college should select only students who are thoroughly equipped to make for themselves the clear-cut distinction between the two.”
Professor Helen Lockwood ‘12, English department—“We need to understand Germany and should make opportunities to do so. But not everybody is ready to use such opportunities.”
At the last chapel service of the year, President MacCracken announced the winners of the individual prizes for graduating seniors. In addition he awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Silver Cup in athletics to the Class of 1938 for their performance in the annual sport day. Ahdel Reich ‘35, who composed the baccalaureate hymn, was awarded the silver cup for the best musical composition of the year, her Quartet in C Minor.
Heavy rain postponed the outdoor activities of Class Day. The trooping of the daisy chain—this year, with daisies picked at Springwood, the Hyde Park home of President Roosevelt’s mother—was put off until June 9. A puppet show depicting the life of Matthew Vassar was given by Joy MacCracken ’35, President MacCracken’s daughter, and the president and Mrs. MacCracken received seniors and their parents in Taylor Hall.
At their annual meeting, the Alumnae Association (AAVC) nominated Kathryn Starbuck ’11 as alumna trustee.
In his baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1935, Vassar trustee Dr. Arthur Lee Kinsolving, rector of Trinity Church, Boston, took his text from Luke, 15:31, the words of his father to the resentful elder brother of the prodical son: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” “The most important term,” Kinsolving told the class, “in the modern religious vocabulary is the little word share…. In the very idea of sharing there is something of God, as through it you learn the privilege of bringing to life all that you have, giving it all that you’ve got, and feeling that you are living to some purpose, and that as you seek to share your friendship with those you meet and those who need you, you progressively know the ineffable mystery of God’s willingness to share His love with us.”
In the afternoon, 26 sophomores carried the daisy chain during Class Day exercises in the Outdoor Theater. A satire of college life during the year in the form of a newsreel pointed up, among other events, the trip by 85 students to Albany to protest the “Nunan Bill” that would have required students entering college to take an oath of allegiance to the state and federal constitutions.
The third hall play, a production of Ben Jonson’s unfinished “The Sad Shepherd,” as completed by English professor Alan Porter and directed by Jane Vorhees ’35, concluded the day.
In his commencement address, President MacCracken described for the 229 members of the Class of 1935 the four great changes in collegiate education in the last 20 years: the increase in distinct fields of knowledge; the recognition of practice as “a method of learning” in conjunction with theory; the integration of educational purposes so as to make “educational experience a unity” and the increased ability and renown of the faculty as innovators in teaching. “To recapitulate,” he said, “We have enlarged our curriculum in subject-matter and in method of learning; we have striven to bring it into a comprehensive unity, the unity of the learning mind; we have improved the status of the teacher and the student. May equal gains be recorded by the speaker twenty years from now.” Six master’s degrees were conferred, and Aline Bernstein ’35 was awarded the Phi Beta Kappa prize as the senior with the best record at graduation.
At the meeting of the board of trustees in the afternoon, Richardson Pratt, Mason Trowbridge and William H. Edwards were elected to the board, as was Kathryn Starbuck ’11, who had been nominated by the alumnae association. The New York Times
Hallie Flanagan Davis and Lester E. Lang directed a summer session for men and women actively interested in writing, acting and producing for the modern theatre, under the auspices of the Experimental Theatre. Productions included Ladies Are Made, a satirical play by Mary Crapo '34 and the American première of W. H. Auden's Dance of Death, given as a musical comedy entitled Come Out into the Sun.
Federal Works Progress Administrator Harry Hopkins confirmed rumors circulating for months that Hallie Flanagan Davis, director of the Vassar Experimental Theatre, was to head a nationwide theater program, one of four “white collar” projects under the WPA. The other directors named were art historian and curator Holger Cahill to head the visual arts program, conductor Nikolai Sokoloff to head the music program and newspaperman and author Henry C. Alsberg to head the writers’ program.
The projected budget for the four programs was $300,000,000. However, by September Hopkins had winnowed some 5,500 applications for grants totaling nearly a billion dollars down, and President Roosevelt allotted $27,315, 217 to those accepted.
Hallie Flanagan’s Federal theatre project expected to employ 9,000 actors and 3,000 stage technicians. “The purpose of the drama program,” an announcement said, “aside from giving employment to needy workers, will be to establish standards of theatre production which will improve the skill of the artists and stimulate appreciation of the drama, and to develop methods by which the drama units may become self-supporting in whole or in part by providing entertainment to large audiences at low cost, through an educational and recreational program.” The New York Times
President MacCracken's annual report noted that "The work in Russian now recognized by the faculty for the degree is offered for two years." Vassar was the first woman's college to give instruction in Russian. Nikander Strelsky, who had taught non-credit Russian courses since 1932, taught the new courses in Russian from 1935 until his death in 1946.
Under a redefinition of laws governing German citizenship, relationships between Jews and Aryans were banned.
Mary Emily Cornell, the last surviving child of the founder of Cornell University and, in 1865, one of the first group of Vassar students, died in Ithaca, NY, at the age of 87. Although obliged eventually to leave the college because of her father's concern about her health, given Vassar's academic rigor, she retained her interest in its progress. On the ocassion of her 80th birthday, in 1927, she recalled that her father, a supporter of the college's original charter when a member of the New York State legislature, "was a firm believer in education for women, and the Vassar experiment interested him keenly."
Paying tribute to Mary E. Cornell at her death, President MacCracken called her, as a "member of Vassar's first class, a worthy representative of the great group of pioneers in education for women. Alert, broad-minded, intellectually vigorous to her last years and devoted to the cause of education for women.... I treasure a personal visit made to her last spring when she talked with affection of the beginning of both Vassar and Cornell. Her life united the two institutions in a bond of affectionate remembrance."
Opened in 1868, Cornell admitted its first woman students in 1879. Miss Cornell's great-neice and her namesake, Mary Emily Blair was a graduate in Vassar's Class of 1893. The New York Times, Cornell Alumni News, The Cornell Daily Sun
The college began its 71st year with 1,220 students, including 317 freshmen who, The New York Times reported, came from 34 states, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Canada, France and China. Forty-one of the freshmen were Vassar daughters, and seven were Vassar granddaughters.
Scholar of ancient philosophy Gregory Vlastos preached the year’s opening sermon, and President MacCracken and Professor of Economics and Sociology Mable Newcomer—returning after a year’s study of tax systems in England and Germany—spoke at Convocation on September 23.
“I am convinced,” she told students, “that democracy need not be bungling and can be made to work, but this demands the highest level of intelligence and education…. Do not fill up your leisure with meaningless activity or with causes. Have the courage to stand aside and watch for a little while. It is more important to know where we are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement.” The New York Times
Under the sponsorship of the Political Association, Italian historian and fervent anti-Fascist Dr. Gaetano Salvemini, Lauro de Bosis Lecturer on the History of Italian Civilization at Harvard University, spoke in Avery Hall on "Italy after Thirteen Years of Dictatorship." Active in Italian politics before his exile in 1925, Salvemini had debated heatedly with Vassar Professor of Italian Bruno Roselli about the policies and consequences of the Mussolini régime in 1926 before some 1,400 members of the Economics Club in New York City.
Addressing two questions: "What are the results of Italian Fascism?" and "Is Italian Fascism a Success?" Professor Salvemini declared since Mussolini came to power unemployment, monetary instability, the cost of living and the national debt had steadily increased, while wages had decreased. "The economic crisis in Italy," he claimed, "is not due to the Wall Street crash. When the crash came in 1929, Italy had already been weakened by three years of crisis as a result of Mussolini's economic policies." About the Italian invasion of Ethiopia—launched days before his Vassar appearance—Salvemini told his audience "this war is the most senseless war that ever took place. From the economic point of view this war is lunacy."
A visitor to Vassar in 1933, when he spoke on "Florence in the Time of Dante," Professor Salvemini visited the college again in December 1942, speaking on "The Italian Population Problem." The Miscellany News
Warden Eleanor Dodge ’25 stated a new and, among women’s colleges, unique position on undergraduate marriages: “Will Vassar allow a girl who marries to stay in college? May she stay on in her dormitory? May a girl whose secret marriage is discovered stay on in college? The answer to all the above questions is ‘Yes.’”
"We do not," she continued, "in general believe in long engagements becasue of the emotional strain involved.... Nor do we believe in secret marriages; if they are to be kept secret they are necessarily followed by deceptions and falsifications, which are ultimately a source of unhappiness to family and friends, but more particularly to the girl and man who continually make them a practise." The Miscellany News
Visiting American colleges and universities, the Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier lectured in French, to a packed house in Avery Hall, in conjunction with an exhibition of models and photographs of his architecture shown in Taylor Hall. Offered some of his hand-drafted drawings, a feature of his appearances, his auditors quickly returned them to him, in pieces, for his signature. "The Vassar drawings," he said, "were the consequences of an especially good mood. The amazons reduced them to shreds." The pioneer modernist designer turned away questions about world politics and economics, but "The Vassar audience," The Miscellany News reported him saying, "has been the most satisfactory audience encountered so far. 'You understand,' he said, but he added he found Vassar students 'effroyablement sériuses.'"
Returning to New York the following morning, he was joined in the smoking car by several Vassar students, mingling with the male commuters. "Democratic spirit," he wrote of the experience. "At Vassar I detected hints of communism in this wealthy circle. Its' a familiar experience: the 'good society' of the intelligenzia, rich and eager to spend money looks forward to the 'great revolution' with a touching ingenuousness." Nicholas Fox Weber, Le Corbusier: A Life
Hungarian virtuoso violinist Josef Szigeti gave a recital in Taylor Hall, offering a program that included works by Handel, Bach and—with accompianist Nikita de Magaloff—the Sonata in D Minor for violin and piano of Brahms.
Vassar, along with Bryn Mawr, Smith, Scripps and Sweet Briar, shared in grants from the Carnegie Foundation totaling $575,000, given in recognition of the “high quality of work of the colleges” and in “the hope that they would call attention to the desirability of more generous public support of similar institutions.” Vassar’s grant, $160,000,went to the library endowment. The New York Times
After some 40 years of service, electrified trolley cars of the Poughkeepsie & Wappingers Falls Railway Company made their last run. To mark the event, four of the trolleys, carrying, noted The Miscellany News, "a large official party including many of Poughkeepsie's notable citizens...left the station at 493 Main Street around 2:30 p.m. with a loud-speaker blaring forth popular tunes of the 1900s." Poughkeepsie Mayor George V. L Spratt and President MacCracken were among a train-full of passengers on the last run, whose conductors—two of the first employees when the electrified line began—were accompanied by their grandchildren.
"An extra thrill," reported The Misc., "was provided at the end of the line where a group of Vassar students were waiting, when the first car was derailed by continuing past the end of the track onto the pavement. The whistle of the car had been pulled so often by an enthusiastic rider that it had drained all the air out of the compression tanks and left the brakes without any holding power whatsoever." At a brief ceremony at Vassar the line's oldest operator, Ellsworth Rhodes, who had joined the company nearly 40 years ago "when the cars had wooden wheels and were drawn...by horses," was presented with a basket of flowers. "It's kind of a heart-breaker," said Mr. Rhodes.
After the the trolley cars' passengers posed for photographs, they boarded the new busses that were to replace the trolleys and returned to Poughkeepsie. The Poughkeepsie Journal, The Miscellany News
Charles M. Pratt, former officer of the Standard Oil Company and eldest son of the company’s co-founder, died at his home in Glen Cove, L.I. A Vassar trustee from 1896 until 1920, Mr. Pratt gave nearly a million dollars to the college for, among other things, Pratt House, the Outdoor Theater, Vassar Lake (briefly referred to as Pratt Lake) and—with his wife, Mary Morris Pratt '80—Taylor Hall. President MacCracken, noting Mr. Pratt's generosity and his modesty, said that his gifts were usually "given confidentially."
Pratt's gift to the million dollar campaign launched with MacCracken's inauguration was a typical example. "One morning," the president told The Miscellany News, "a chauffer entered Dr. MacCracken's office, handed him a box and asked him to sign a receipt. When the package was opened it was found to contain one hundred $1,000 bonds, given by Mr. Pratt, confidentially."
When college authorities decreed that Margarette Torbert ’39 could not leave campus before 3:30 pm to attend her coming-out party at the Country Club in Brookline, MA, she and two classmates, Denise Hyde ’39 and Alice Howe ’39, flew from Poughkeepsie to Boston in a chartered plane. The pilot reported that the students’ flying début “was uneventful, although…threatening clouds had bothered him at the outstart.” The New York Times
President MacCracken announced plans for a library addition that would double the present capacity of 200,000 books. The new building, connecting Taylor Hall with Thompson Memorial Library would contain conference rooms, administrative staff offices and the library for the art department.
The building—eventually called Van Ingen Library—cost some $200,000, and the recent grant from the Carnegie Corporation for library endowment allowed the college to draw $150,000 for its construction from a $300,000 gift functioning for that purpose bequeathed by Mary Clark Thompson in 1923. Additional funding for Van Ingen came from general college funds.
Dr. George E. Vincent, former President of the Rockefeller Foundation, lectured on "The Role of Humor" under the auspices of the Mark Twain Lectureship for the Advancement of Humor. "Laughter," he said, "is the great symbol and expression of genuine liberty." Distinguishing among wit, satire, irony, cynicism and humor, Vincent called wit verbal juggling, irony "unsympathetic" as it pleased only insiders by making others appear ignorant, satire—shunned by Twain—"caustic ridicule" and cynicism a bitter form of defeatism. Twain and Will Rogers, he said, exemplified humor, a typically American form which embodied a "sympathetic philosophy and expression of comradeship." The Miscellany News
The New York Times reported that, in response to both the return to fashion of long evening dresses and the increase of over an inch and a half in the average height of Vassar students, general manager Keene Richards had arranged to have the racks for hanging clothing raised in Cushing and Main.