The Pittsburgh Vassar committee announced that Mrs. and Mrs. Paul Mellon had given $180,000 to the college’s 75th anniversary fund. Mary Conover Mellon was a member of the Class of 1926.
The first results of the summer work of the Hudson Valley Archaeological Survey under the direction of Dr. Mary Butler ’25 went on display in Blodgett Hall. The artifacts discovered included tools and ornaments from “Woodland Indians,” inhabitants of the valley just prior to the coming of white settlers in the early 17th century. Also on display were earlier artifacts—arrowheads and chipped red slate and gray quartzite knives and scrapers. The project was conducted under a five-year grant to Vassar from the Carnegie Corporation.
The New York Times noted the publication by the Vassar art department of the first catalogue of the art gallery’s collection since 1869. Designed by Monroe Wheeler of the Museum of Modern Art, the volume included a historical introduction by the chairman of the department, Professor Oliver Tonks, a reproduction of the Report of the Committee on the Art Gallery of Vassar Female College (1864) and an essay on the uses of the collection by Professor Agnes Rindge.
“The importance of the Vassar Art Gallery,” she explained, “lies in its function as a teaching agent in the Department of Art…. It is very gratifying to us to note that the initial policy of acquisition, set forth in the 1864 report…declared for the educational value of originals and, even more radically, demanded the inclusion of works by living Americans…. The greater part of the Vassar collection is actually employed every year in our courses.”
Dr. Florence R. Sabin, pioneering researcher in tuberculosis and the lymphatic system and the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences, gave the first Helen Kenyon lecture on "The Beginnings of Modern Medicine in America." The Helen Kenyon Lectureship Fund was established June 7, 1939 by the Associate Alumnae, the Class of 1905 and other friends of Helen Kenyon, '05, as a contribution to the 75th anniversary fund. Miss Kenyon was an alumnae trustee from 1923 until 1928 and chairman of the board from 1929 until 1939. Kenyon Hall was named in her honor.
Over 300 people attended a surprise dinner party given in Main Building for President MacCracken to mark his 25 years at Vassar. The chairman of the board of trustees, Morris Hadley, distinguished faculty of all ranks including the emeriti and student leaders spoke of his leadership and accomplishments. The president used the occasion to announce that the college was a bit over half way to the goal of raising $2 million by June to strengthen the salary and general endowments. The 75th anniversary fund, he said, stood at $1,004,000. MacCracken also announced an anonymous gift of $50,000 for a low-cost faculty housing project that would give preference to faculty members in the lower income ranks.
Afterwards, the diners joined a large group of students and college employees for an evening of songs, skits and refreshments.
Student government had gone about as far as it could go, President MacCracken told the alumnae. “The faculty have conferred on the students through their grant of powers full autonomy over the conduct of their affairs, with but two reservations. The first of these is the enforcement of the requirement for the bachelor’s degree, the chief goal of the student life at Vassar, and the second is the right of the faculty to revoke the grant of power at any time if the faculty so deemed best.” Vassar Alumnae Magazine
The art department mounted a show of original drawings by cartoonist and illustrator James Thurber.
Enrico Fermi, Italian Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Physics at Columbia University, lectured on "The Transmutation of the Elements."
A frequent visitor to Vassar, the eminent typographer Frederick W. Goudy, spoke to a student assembly on the occasion of his 75th birthday.
President MacCracken announced the gift to the Vassar Art Gallery of 15 oil paintings and four etchings from Mrs. Lloyd Williams. Given to her over the years by her father, the New York artist and art dealer, Daniel Cottier, and to be known as the Cottier-Williams collection, the works ranged in period from the 16th to the 20th centuries and included paintings by Pieter Claesz, Joris van der Haagen, Anthony van Dyck, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Albert Pinkham Ryder and the American impressionist J. Alden Weir.
The chairman of the art department, Professor Oliver Tonks, expressed particular pleasure with the “two fine paintings by Ryder, whose works are difficult to obtain.” The paintings were “The Lovers,” given to Mrs Williams by the painter as a wedding gift, and “The Stable,” on the back of which was inscribed “To my friend, Lloyd Williams. A. P. Ryder.” Mrs. Williams, whose father was also a friend and early supporter of Ryder, gave the works to Vassar at the suggestion of her friend, Mary Turlay Robinson ‘10, whose father, Rev. Ezekiel G. Robinson, was a founding trustee of the college. The New York Times
Vassar’s 75th anniversary fund received help from the Hasty Pudding Club of Harvard University, which presented its current production, “Assorted Nuts,” in the Students’ Building. Dancing followed the performance, and many of the Harvard visitors and other guests stayed for the weekend events, which included roller-skating in Poughkeepsie, a tea dance at Cushing House and square dancing in Kenyon Hall.
About 150 students from 18 colleges and universities in the state attended the first annual New York State Student Scientific Conference at Vassar. The 1934 Nobel prize-winner in chemistry, Dr. Harold C. Urey of Columbia University, spoke to students of botany, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geology, physiology, psychology, eugenics, anthropology and zoology on “Chemical Uses of Isotopic Tracers.”
The young scientists then adjourned to section meetings in the several science facilities where 10-minute papers were read and discussed. One highlight of these sessions was a motion picture made by students in the descriptive geometry class of Assistant Professor of Mathematics Grace Hopper ’28. Using the animation technique recently perfected by Walt Disney, the class was able to show the behavior of the bicircular quartics known as Cartesians. To demonstrate a particular theorem, “the envelope of a variable circle whose center moves on a given circle and which passes through a given point is a Cartesian,” the students made a series of drawings. The drawings used equally spaced points on a given circle as centers for the variable circles but moved the given point through which the variable circle was to pass 3/32 inch to the right between each two drawings. In the complete series of drawings, moving the given point from the left of the given circle to its right produced the predicted formations. The class called upon members of other departments familiar with photography and film for help in making the demonstration of the theorem move in a similar fashion to that of Disney’s animated characters. Professor Hopper said that never had her students understood the generation of curves as they did through the making of the motion picture.
At the conference’s conclusion, faculty leaders from the colleges met to discuss plans for making the conference an annual event. The New York Times
The college announced that Kansas City bibliophile Dr. Matthew W. Pickard had given the Library more than 400 volumes on Russian literature and history from his collection of rare books in the Russian language. Many of these volumes were thought to be unique among American collections, and several were thought to be unique in the world. Included in the gift were 59 numbers of Kolokol, the journal edited by Alexander Hertzen, the founder of Russian socialism.
Dr. Pickard had given nearly 500 rare Russian volumes to the Vassar library in 1934.
The Vassar College Glee Club gave a 15-minute concert on WABC in New York City.
The Germans invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain.
As part of Vassar’s 75th anniversary celebration, the art department presented an exhibition of 38 rare Chinese paintings, including two of the four known paintings from the Han period, assembled by Dr. Alfred Salmony.
Baldwin House, an infirmary with a capacity of thirty-five beds and modern hospital equipment, was completed, Faulkner & Kingsbury, architects. It was named in honor of Dr. Jane North Baldwin, chief college physician. Decorations and furnishings of the patients' lounge were presented to the college by Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. Thomas in memory of their daughter, Mary, of the Class of 1926.
Germany bombed Paris.
In conjunction with Commencement, some 2,500 alumnae and over 1,000 guests helped Vassar celebrate President MacCracken’s 25th year as president and the college’s 75th Anniversary.
On Sunday, June 2, Dr. William Lyon Phelps, emeritus professor of English at Yale, delivered the baccalaureate address, and on June 7 alumnae, graduates and their guests celebrated Class Day for the Class of 1940. A member of the college’s first graduating class, Harriet Warner Bishop ’67, welcomed ’40 into the company of Vassar alumnae, and alumnae trustee Jean Ellis Poletti ’25 praised and thanked President MacCracken. “We are grateful,” she said, “that the president has a deep and sympathetic feeling for larger problems of humanity while retaining interest in the specific welfare of each student. We, the Associate Alumnae, hail our president who is both a rare scholar and rare gentleman and wish him well for his future years at Vassar.” Alice Campbell Klein ’17 reported that the 75th anniversary fund stood at $1,933,429.37, just short of its $2 million goal. Exclusive of contributions to the anniversary fund, gifts to the college for the year totaled $106,000.
In the afternoon, the alumnae, led by a brass band, marched from the Library to the Outdoor Theater for Class Day exercises. Mrs. Bishop ’67 received a thunderous cheer as she entered on President MacCracken’s arm. A play, “Twenty-five—Fifty—Seventy-Five,” compared and contrasted recollections of Vassar life twenty-five and fifty years ago with the present. At the play’s conclusion, the daisy chain, walking on each side of the seniors, escorted them to their class tree.
On June 8, a symposium, led by Professor of English Helen D. Lockwood ’12, addressed the question of the day,” What Should a Woman’s College Do Today?” Progressive education innovator Dr. Marjorie Page Schauffler '19, spoke on “A College Graduate and Her Family”; engineer, physicist and inventor Dr. Edith Clarke '08 discussed “College Women in Professions: the Experience of an Engineer” and community leader Ethel Cohen Phillips '30 spoke on “College Women as Members of the Community.” Following the addresses, participants were invited by Professor Lockwood to disperse into symposia addressing nine relevant topics: “Community or Conglomerations of People,” “the Nature of Peace,” “the Ideal Community for Public Health,” “Economic Responsibilities for Women,” “Women in Professions,” “Volunteer Work in Social Welfare and Politics,” “Bringing Up Children in a Thinking Family and Community,” “Religion in a Thinking Family and Community” and “the Arts and the People.” The symposia were led by alumnae prominent in the relevant fields.
In the afternoon Marjorie Hope Nicolson, dean of the faculty at Smith College and national president of Phi Beta Kappa gave the Phi Beta Kappa address in the Chapel. She drew sharp distinctions between education in the liberal arts and what she termed “craft” education. Admitting that the former sometimes taught the useless and the impractical, she claimed that in the end a liberal arts education taught freedom. “Freedom,” she said, “is something internal, something within the individual. No matter how much men may be deprived of ‘outward freedom’ by superior force, no man or woman can be deprived of inward freedom—save by himself. If the liberal arts college is to continue to exist it can only be upon this basis.”
Also in the afternoon students welcomed visitors to 29 exhibits of “The College at Work Today,” explaining and demonstrating their academic work. Nine teas in Main Building refreshed the gathering, garden tours and a tour of “a community plant at work” were given and, in what The New York Times referred to as “a chatty tour,” President MacCracken led a large group of visitors through the campus, explaining various features and traditions.
The Experimental Theatre presented several performances of Vassar’s Folly: a Chronicle, a history of the college rendered in its “living newspaper” style. Originally written by the 1937-38 play-writing class as a study of the college’s founding, the anniversary version was in two parts. The first part, "In His Lifetime," presented Matthew Vassar's life and his founding of the College. Part two, "Permit Us to Resume,"written by Mary St. John Villard '34, focused on the growth of the college, its influence and the influence of its graduates. The play's closing song engaged the audience in a call to action:
The problems ahead are so great.
We must work together
Men and women together--
Freedom for women a small part in a great pattern--
Freedom, never won and always in danger....
Addresses by two presidents, a trustee, an alumna, a faculty member and a student were given at the Anniversary Convocation and the following garden party on June 9. President MacCracken, the main speaker, spoke of Vassar’s past and of its accomplishments, saying that, at this point in its history “Vassar learning makes the world its goal.” The effective cessation of free inquiry in many of the world’s institutions of learning made, he continued, the engagement of Vassar with and in the world all that more important. “Finally,” he concluded, “we must dedicate ourselves to peace, since war means the end of true liberal learning.” Other speakers at the occasion were the chairman of Vassar’s board of trustees, New York lawyer Morris Hadley, prominent alumna Martha Hillard MacLeigh ’78, Professor of Classics Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94 and Barbara Austin ’40, who read the speech of the Students Association president Priscilla Lamb ’40.
President Roosevelt, an honorary trustee of the college since his resignation from the board in 1932, had intended to deliver an address but he was, as he put it in a letter to President MacCracken, forced to withdraw by “circumstances beyond my control…. The ominous days in which we live afford the reason for an action which causes me keen personal disappointment.” At his garden party—at which the President’s mother, Mrs. James Roosevelt—was the guest of honor, President MacCracken read Roosevelt’s remarks “It is of the highest significance,” he wrote, “that this celebration takes place at this time. In fact, this hemisphere is now almost the only part of the earth in which time and thought and effort can be devoted to that paramount pursuit of peace, education. Elsewhere, war or politics has compelled teachers and scholars to leave their great calling and to become agents of destruction.”
Praising the college’s historic demonstration “that women have capacities for all types of intellectual life which were once thought to be the exclusive provinces of men,” the President said, “During my ten-year term as a Trustee of Vassar, I came to value certain definite contributions to education made by the college. The social equality that prevails in all plans for student life, and its system of student self-government, are in themselves fundamental courses in democracy. The free play of ideas between scholar and teacher, an institutional tradition, is the achievement in academic practice of the principles of democracy. The nation-wide scope of student enrollment at Vassar is a potent corrective for the few ills of sectionalism that remain to us.”
“I am glad,” President Roosevelt concluded, “to send greetings to Vassar and to express on this seventy-fifth anniversary the feeling of gratitude which the American people have for the services which the college so ably renders. I hope that this first seventy-five years is but the prelude to a long life in the service of education in America.”
The 75th anniversary of the college continued and expanded a practice established at the 50th anniversary celebration in 1915, the publication of various volumes of scholarship. 16 books and four pamphlets appeared, bearing the inscription “Published in Celebration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Vassar College and in Honor of Henry Noble MacCracken in the Twenty-fifth Year of His Presidency.” Among the books was Hawaiian Mythology, a comprehensive study of Polynesian mythology and folklore by Research Professor Emeritus of Folklore Martha Beckwith, The Roman Use of Anecdotes, by Professor of Latin Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94, American Housing, by Catherine K. Bauer ’26, from the United States Housing Administration, Pecuniary Panaceas, by Associate Professor of Economics Margaret Myers and The Astronomy of Scotus Erigena, by Associate Professor of English Erika von Erhardt-Siebold and Rudulf von Erhardt. Pamphlets published included You Are a Taxpayer, by Professor of Economics Mabel Newcomer and Dutchess County Goes to Market, a product of Vassar’s Social Museum for use in grammar schools.
Student Scholarship was represented by a special anniversary number, Volume XIII of The Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies, comprised of six of the best papers prepared for classes in the last year, 12 papers reprinted from earlier volumes of the journal and a cumulative index of authors and titles for all volumes. Two other volumes occasioned by the anniversary were Vassar Women, by Agnes Rogers ’16 and Life at Vassar: 75 Years in Pictures, by Marion Bacon ’22. Rogers’s book, with drawings by Anne Cleveland ‘37 and Jean Anderson ‘33, drew on college records and extensive use of questionnaires to present a wide range of statistical and attitudinal conclusions about the generations of Vassar alumnae, and Bacon’s book supplemented the analysis with 140 carefully chosen photographs. Other works commemorative of the anniversary included a color reproduction of a painting in the Brooklyn Museum by Professor of Art C. K. Chatterton and two musical compositions by Martha Alter ’25 “Bill George,” a march song for baritone and orchestra and “Bric-a-Brac Suite,” for harpsichord and piano.
Rain fell on the Chapel on June 10, as President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 270 members of the Class of 1940. Nine master’s degree candidates also received their degrees. He offered the class a “footnote” to his usual remarks. “Be glad,” he said, “that your education has not been so exact, so definite, so complete that only what is statistically certain may be anticipated. The liberal arts are a training for emergencies. They give you values, not certainties. They teach resourcefulness, not routine. The readiness is all.”
In her commencement address, Dean C. Mildred Thompson ’03 also addressed the uses of education, broadly defined. "Education," she said, "whether it be of the form of a four-year Liberal Arts course, or whether it be the training, unsystematic but no less real, which experience forces upon us, has value only in the use which comes from it, not in it as a possession, as an ornament." The dean then spoke of war and peace. She blamed her generation for letting peace become “a lifeless, sterile thing,” rather than making it an active concept and a continual goal. Admitting that “hatred of war and devotion to peace” were commonly held sentiments and that “desire for peace is the common denominator among college students,” she declared, “If peace means to us nothing more than ‘keeping out of war,’ then we may expect of life nothing more than a succession of Munich appeasements, a series of mustard plasters to reduce surface inflammation with no real diagnosis of the disease, or attempt to reach the source of the infection…. Peace, sought just for itself, just to avoid war, may lose the chance of making a fairer and more decent world and may in the end prove to be the surest path to war….
“I am not warmongering, but I am trying to say that the job of eliminating war from among the human plagues is going to take a lot more hard work and profound thinking than the easy way of signing petitions and shouting with the mob… I can believe,” Dean Thompson concluded, “that the real peace for ourselves and for others, which we all passionately desire, can be attained only by the most honest thinking, not intellectual sham, and by response to decent emotions of righteous anger against brutal aggression and pity for the oppressed and the suffering…. These are the qualities…of human civilization itself. In furthering the cause of peace in the world, with mercy and justice, in lessening the poverty and in finding a solution for unemployment, here are the jobs to be done, man-sized jobs right here in our own country.”
Academic dress at Commencement was worn by the graduating class for the first time, and after Dean Thompson’s address, at a signal from President MacCracken, the class rose and in a single gesture, shifted the tassels of their caps from right to left and then ascended the platform to receive their diplomas. The New York Times, The Miscellany News
Norway surrendered to Germany. Italy declared war on Britain and France.
As the principal speaker at the 2nd interfaith meeting at the New York World’s Fair’s Temple of Religion, President MacCracken spoke on “Democracy in Defense of Religious Freedom.” “Democracy,” he said, “described as the most complicated, most difficult and most delicate of all social mechanisms, has never survived where education and religion were not free.” The New York Times
Katherine Hubbell ’44 defeated top-seeded Mercedes Madden of Lake Erie College, 6-2, 6-2, for the national college girls’ tennis championship in Brookline, MA. She then joined Miss Madden to defeat a doubles team from Wisconsin and Bryn Mawr for the doubles championship.
Speaking to the Advertising Men’s Post of the American Legion, former heavyweight boxing champion and outspoken anti-communist Gene Tunney singled out President MacCracken as an example of the “misguided persons” who were carrying out the work of communists. “Dr. MacCracken,” he said, “fits into that niche so beautifully that it is pathetic that he doesn’t understand it…. MacCracken is a stooge when he allows Communists to come up there and use his campus. As you know, the second World Youth Congress met at Vassar and was allowed from there to sow the seeds of international communism.” The New York Times
The college announced that Dr. Oscar Halecki, formerly Professor of Eastern European History at the University of Warsaw and, after the Nazi occupation closed Polish universities, first rector of the Polish University in Exile in Paris, was joining the history faculty at Vassar. An expert advisor to Prime Minister I. J. Paderewski and the Polish delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, Dr. Halecki was later a member of the League of Nations Secretariat and first secretary of the League's Commission of Intellectual Co-operation. Touring American colleges and universities under the auspices of the Kosciuszko Foundation, Professor Halecki had spoken at Vassar in October 1938 on "The Slavonic Race and Western Civilization," "The Historical Integrity and Continuity of Poland" and "Currents and Cross Currents in the European World Today."
Visiting Professor of History Halecki left Vassar in May 1942 to become the founding director of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America. The founding president of the Kosciuszko Foundation, President MacCracken—along with President James B. Conant of Harvard University and poet Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress—served on the board of the new institute. The Miscellany News
German planes bombed airfields and factories in Britain, air battles and daylight raids occurred over Britain, Adolf Hitler declared a blockade of the British Isles.
The State Department announced that, under the Buenos Aires Convention for the Promotion of Inter-American Cultural Relations, Assistant Professor of History Charles C. Griffin was selected by the government of Venezuela as exchange professor to study and teach in at the University of Caracas for the 1940-41 academic year. The convention, agreed upon in 1936, had recently achieved the ratification in all the countries involved.
The German Blitz against Britain began.
Thirteen year-old Christine Vassar ’47, whose great-grandfather was Matthew Vassar's cousin—came from London to stay with the MacCrackens for the duration of the war. Looking back after many years, she wrote: "The MacCracken family very much became my family. They were very good to me and I am still in close touch with my foster-sister and foster-brother. I did not see my own family for seven years. They were able to be at my graduation from Vassar in 1947. After a year at Columbia, I went back to London to live with them, but decided that my life was really here. I had very much wanted to go back after high school and was very hurt that my family decided that I should stay and go to Vassar. It was not until recently that I fully understood the reasoning behind their decision." "Christine Vassar Tall: The Story of One British Evacuee," VCenecylopedia
President Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, a bill authorizing military conscription that Congress had passed two days earlier. The draft began in October.
The college opened with 1,226 students in residence, drawn from 38 states, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, England, Poland, Switzerland, Canada, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. 370 of them were freshmen, and eight were postgraduate students.
In an address at Convocation, President MacCracken urged upon the college community its responsibility—in the face of the closing of European universities, the exiling of their scholars and the destruction of their libraries—for maintaining its integrity. He pressed the necessity of maintaining “personal self-restraint in spite of emotional stresses and maintaining friendships strong and unimpaired among teachers and students, between the academic body and the staff of the college, especially with those whose opinions differ from our own, in order that we may do our part here on this campus in defense against the forces of disintegration.”
“We have become more conscious,” Professor of Chemistry Mary Landon Sague ’05 told the assembly, “than ever before that the care of our democracy is that concept of freedom which emphasizes obligation and responsibility as well as privilege…. We know that on this concept depends all that is best in our national life. To maintain it in strength and vigor on this campus and throughout the nation, is surely worth the most enlightened and the most strenuous effort each of us is capable of putting forth.” The New York Times
The Tripartite Pact joined Germany, Italy and Japan.
The New York Times reported that Professor of Geology Thomas Hills and his students had nearly completed a very large-scale topographical map of the world on the inside wall and ceilings of the cylindrical staircase in the tower in Ely Hall. The three-color map extended over a wall space about 16 feet by 48 feet inside the tower, which is 19 feet in diameter.
“The map, “ The Times said, “is drawn on a modified Gall’s projection, minimizing distortion from the level of the second floor where observers stand. The Arctic regions, about Lat. 60 degrees N. are drawn on the ceiling in a modified polar projection. The Antarctic Continent, which could not well be painted on the stairway, appears on the ceiling of the first floor foyer, it its proper place when observed from the entrance level.”
Hu Shih, Ambassador of the Republic of China, lectured in Avery Hall on "The Modernization of China and Japan, a Comparative Study of Cultural Contact and Response." Emphasizing that "freedom of contact and choice are essential for cultural transformation," Dr. Hu attributed Japan's early rise to modernity and China's later "permanently overthrowing her old civilization" to persistence in Japan of a "feudal militaristic ruling class...anxious and able to adopt a Western system of militaristic industrialization." By comparison, he said, China, having abolished feudalism 21 centuries before, needed a "slow, sporadic and wasteful" process of diffusion and assimilation among its many cultural constituencies to create a modern society "from lip-stick to literature."
A pragmatist philosopher and philologiest, in addition to his diplomatic career, Dr. Hu joined students for coffee in the Aula the following day, and, according to The Miscellany News, told them how "China's literary renaissance originated in a controversy over a poem written to commemorate a young lady's rescue from the waters of the Cayuga."
"'It happened at Ithaca, New York,' he said, 'where Chinese students were accustomed to spend the summer in the Cornell Summer School.... A charming Vassar freshman, Miss Sophie Chen, appeared that summer, and as there were very few Chinese students in America, she became immediately the center of attention. Among her escorts was Mr. Sze Zen, whom she afterwards married.'
"'One day a picnic was arranged on Cayuga Lake, and one of the frequent thunderstorms came up, endangering the party. They made haste to get to shore, but he boat capsized before the party could land, throwing the food and the picnickers into the water. They rescued themselves, and built a fire on the shore, and enjoyed what was salvaged from the picnic. The occasion was one which Mr. Zen thought worthy of perpetuating in poetry, and he therefore wrote a poem celebrating the occasion and the rescue of Miss Chen.'"
Sent a copy of the poem, The Misc. continued, Dr. Hu commented that "the poem could not be called a good one, since it was composed partily in the ancient dead classical language, and partly in the modern common speech. The conflict between these two vocabularies created a devided style which Hu Shih found unsatisfactory." A Chinese student studying at Harvard and under the influence of the conservative cultural critic Irving Babbitt rallied many others when he sided with the poem's use of the ancient language, "the only one of them joining Hu Shih being Sophie Chen of Vassar.
"Within tweny years, a new literary language had been established, which is spoken and understood from the deserts of Mongolia to the tropical shore of Kwantung. Four hundred million people now read a literature in a living speech which Dr. Hu Shih told the Vassar girls is by far the most perfect language for the conveyance of human thought ever developed by mankind." The Miscellany News
Campaigning for reelection, President Roosevelt promised not to send “our boys” to war.
The Eleanor Plant Science Laboratory was completed, Lord & Burnham, architects. Built with funds given by Dr. Helen C. Putnam '78, it replaced the Eleanor Conservatory, given by Mr. William R. Farrington in memory of his wife, Mary E. Goodsell, who was a student in the School of Music at Vassar, 1885-1888. In it students prepared specimens for study in the main plant science laboratories in the New England Building.
The new 1,900 square foot facility was steam-heated and equipped with four refrigerators, a soil sterilizer and both tap and distilled water. A separate plant pathology laboratory within the new glass structure allowed for study of plant diseases without danger of their infecting other experiments. The laboratory was a compliment to the 3-acre outdoor ecological laboratory, in which the plant science department had established every plant in Dutchess County in its native conditions.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his third term as President of the United States. In a campus poll, a large majority of students voted for Roosevelt’s opponent, lawyer and business executive Wendell Wilkie, and a large majority of the faculty voted for Roosevelt.
At its semi-annual meeting in Indianapolis the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) learned that the college’s 75th anniversary fund goal, $2 million, had been reached. The fund added $1 million to the endowment for scholarship and $1 million to the general endowment.
The trustees’ decision to keep the fund open until January remained in effect.
Béla Bartók, Hungarian composer and pianist, gave a recital.
Waves of German bombs destroyed factories, homes and the 14th century cathedral in Coventry, England. In one night, 600 people died, more than 1,000 were injured and some 80,000 structures were damaged or destroyed.
Former President Herbert Hoover spoke on "The Food Situation in Europe." He urged the government to press England to lift its naval blockade of Europe and allow the passage of foodstuff, particularly to “the five little democracies,” Finland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Central Poland, in spite of German control of them.
Hoover’s speech at Vassar was broadcast live on radio station WABC in New York.
In a lecture in Avery Hall, "Democracy Is Not a Failure," Count Carlo Sforza, former minister of foreign affairs of Italy, compared democracy to an old carriage drawn by horses—it goes slowly "but in carriages led by horses you always go." In contrast, the anti-Fascist aristocrat said, according to The Miscellany News, "Dictatorship is like two swift, gigantic motor cars, driven by insane drivers, filled with people yelling and shouting. We know why they shout. 'It is because they are afraid.'"
Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78 died in Greenwich, CT. Daughter of suffrage pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a lifelong activist, both in England, where she lived for some 20 years, and in the United States, she had spoken frequently at Vassar.
Lecturing on "Shakespeare's Treatment of Passion," William Allan Neilson, President Emeritus of Smith College, pointed out that passion figured only in the three tragedies bearing the names of the lovers, and then secondarily. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, reported The Miscellany News, Neilson claimed "the beginning and end of the story is a family feud, a socio-political situation into which two young people intrude themselves, falling in love at great risk.... In contrast to the little family feud in Verona, Antony and Cleopatra is the story of a great conflict on an international scale. Structurally the play is a story of how defiance against the Roman Empire is impossible. Love is the force of disintegration in the life of Antony." Suggesting a similar pattern in Troilus and Cressida, President Neilson then "read several of the famous passages from the two plays, one of the most charming parts of the evening's program. He received tremendous ovations from the large audience." The Miscellany News
Chaired by Dr. Barbara B. Stimson '19, a group of fifty women, representing eighteen national organizations and several state and federal offices, met at Vassar for a Conference on National Defense. "The purpose of this meeting," said Dr. Stimson in her opening remarks, "is to fashion a working program, constructive and cooperative, in which each woman may find her place, not temporarily in the emotional rush 'to do something,' but permanently in the rational desire to make each community strong for defense and strong for peace." Session chairmen were Vassar trusteeKathryn Starbuck '11: Helen Kenyon '05; Jean Ellis Poletti '25 and Dean C. Mildred Thompson '03. President Henry Noble MacCracken also attended the conference.
The British launched a desert offensive against the Italians in North Africa.
As the culmination of a semester-long comparative study of film and dramatic techniques and with the interest and cooperation of Thornton Wilder and Sol Lesser, the producer of the film of Wilder’s play Our Town, the Experimental Theatre presented a production of the play combining stage and screen sequences. Weekly showings of films from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art had been part of the class work for the production, and photographic material from the museum’s collection was displayed in the theater.
“The Experimental Theatre production starts with the stage play, interpolates one movie cut-back; proceeds through the wedding scene, which is shown in both stage and film versions; gives the film version of the funeral, cutting to the stage finale. The stage manager, who ties the whole production together….will be played by Dr. Henry Noble MacCracken, president of Vassar College. Other male parts will be taken by men from the town and the college, while the women’s parts will be played by students in the dramatic production [class].” The New York Times
The Vassar Radio Workshop broadcast the second program in a series on child study and the national defense over Newburgh, NY, radio statiion WGNY. The program, a study of the problem of war toys for children, was written by Jean MacInnis '41 and Ruth Firestone '41 and "approved by the Child Study Department." The Miscellany News
Thirteen year-old Christine Vassar, a descendant of Matthew Vassar and a British war refugee living at Vassar with the MacCrackens, was among eight English evacuees who participated from Radio City in a two-way transatlantic broadcast with their families.
On January 20, 1941, The New York Times reported that she “told her mother she had to practice the piano ‘one single solid hour of daylight every day.’
“’Oh, I say,’ Mrs. Vassar replied, ‘You wouldn’t practice at home and neither would you drink milk. But you do drink milk, plenty of milk, in the States?’
“Christine replied that everybody drinks milk here; then there was silence in the studio as Mrs. Vassar said that sometimes she forgot Christine was away and ‘I put your plate at the table.’
“’Oh, Mummy,’ Christine said.”
Christine Vassar next saw her parents again when they attended her graduation from the college in 1947.
The Germans conducted a massive air raid on London. The Old Bailey, the Guildhall and eight churches by Christopher Wren were destroyed or badly damaged.
The 75th anniversary fund reached $2,006,757.17 with about $500,000 in the form of annuities. Separate funds were set up for educational endowment, scholarships and the Library.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead, assistant curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History and visiting lecturer on child study and anthropology at Vassar for the 1940-41 academic year, spoke on personality development in a Vassar Radio Workshop program broadcast from WGNY in Newburgh, NY.
A close colleague Professor Joseph Folsom at Vassar and a student of Columbia University anthropologist Ruth Benedict '09, Dr. Mead was a frequent visitor to the college. In 1941-42 she was visiting lecturer in economics at Vassar.
President Roosevelt delivered his “Four Freedoms” address in his report to Congress on the state of the union. He said, in part:
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
“The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
“The second is the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
“The third is freedom from want—which translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
“The fourth is freedom from fear—which translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
“That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.” Erik Bruun and Jay Crosby, eds., Our Nation’s Archive: the History of the United States in Documents
For the first time the Social Museum in Blodgett Hall mounted an international exhibit, a study of social issues in Latin America. Students from classes in anthropology, international trade, geography, hygiene and sociology and their professors, aided by the chairman of the Spanish department, Associate Professor of Spanish Margarita de Mayo, examined question of trade between the United States and Latin American countries, major industries, climate, labor and health conditions, social and political structures and their varieties among the individual nations. “Latin America,” the authors of the exhibit declared, “and the myriad problems involved in the formulation of the ‘good neighbor’ program have been chosen at this time because we believe that the amount of rainfall in Brazil, and what happens to Bolivian tin, are important to Vassar College and the citizens of Dutchess County.” The New York Times
The Political Association sponsored a conference on "Higher Education and the Defense of Democracy," featuring speakers and panel discussions on curriculum changes in relation to present needs, academic freedom and the relations of colleges to society and the government.
Lorna Stephenson ’41 was among the three sponsors of a “Youth Petition to Congress” signed by 350 college students and calling for “full American support to the forces fighting nazism.” “Older people,” the petition said, “can buy a few years of comparative truce by appeasement. It is our generation that would pay for those years by living an impoverished life in an utterly hostile world…. We are not afraid of the consequences of giving the enemies of nazism everything they need to secure victory. We are desperately afraid of the consequences of giving too little and too late.” The New York Times
President Roosevelt signed the Lend Lease Act, giving him unlimited ability to “lend-lease or otherwise dispose of arms” or other military supplies needed by any country whose security was vital to the defense of the United States.
Demonstrating the techniques of the New Criticism, I.A. Richards, Harvard University, lectured on "A Reading of the First Twelve Lines of John Donne's 'An Anatomy of the World.'"
Having received an anonymous gift of $475,000 during its 75th anniversary year, 1940, the college announced plans for a graduate Division of Conservation. Faculty from the departments of geology, plant science, psychology and zoology offered courses toward a master’s degree in conservation. The donor was later revealed to be Dr. Helen C. Putnam ’78, a pioneer in physical education and co-founder of the American Child Health Association. Prior to earning her medical degree, she was the director of physical education at Vassar.
The Helen Gates Putnam Endowment Fund for Conservation was given in honor of Dr. Putnam’s parents. The college’s announcement indicated that while specific research projects would play a part in the degree, a central focus would be the general values of conservation in the physical and social development of the country.
The New York Times reported that Vassar students and faculty had, in six weeks’ time, raised $12,000 for war relief, through personal contributions, benefit performances and “Sunday night sandwich sales in college residence houses.” The proceeds were distributed among a number of agencies.
As a guest of the faculty-student emergency committee, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the Vassar student body. Acknowledging that the world situation faced women with pressure to do something of immediate usefulness, she asked her audience to remember first their continual contribution, as women in the home, the workplace and the community. A great nation, she pointed out, functions by little segments, and women are uniquely placed in American society to sustain those segments, so that the overall national fabric remains strong. “I know,” she said, “that many of you are anxious above everything else for return of peace. You must prepare for that time. You must make no compromise with cruelty, or greed, or any of the things you can’t believe in. You must plan for a kind of peace out of which you can build a world, if you will work, which will not bring us again to where we are today.” The New York Times
Kathryn Starbuck ’11 was elected chair of the Vassar board of trustees, succeeding Morris Hadley. Dr. James L. McConaughy, president of Wesleyan University, and Henry Chandler Holt, vice president of Central Hanover Bank and Trust, were elected to fill two vacancies on the board. Elizabeth Moffatt Drouilhet ’30 was elected warden, succeeding Eleanor C. Dodge ’25 who had served in the post since 1931 and who had recently married.
Ernst Krenek, composer, and Emmet Lavery, author and playwright, presented a laboratory première of their opera, Tarquin, under the auspices of the Experimental Theatre. The work was an attempt to join modern music and modern drama in a form that its creators called “singing theater.” Scored in the twelve-tone method for a cast of seven—three speaking parts and four singing parts—and an orchestra of six, the opera, while drawing its title from the Etruscan noble, was a satire on Adolf Hitler. In this production, Mr. Krenek was the pianist and Mr. Lavery, the director; the cast was drawn from The Experimental Theatre and the music department.
An Austrian émigré, Krenek was a member of the department of music from 1939 until 1942.
Anne O'Hare McCormick, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Council of The New York Times, gave the second Helen Kenyon Lecture, "Ourselves and Europe." The lecture was published by the college.
Poet Marianne Moore, former editor of the Dial, lectured on "Poetry Today, Some Technical Problems." She returned to the college in 1954 and 1955 to read her poetry.
The German battleship Bismarck sank the British battle cruiser HMS Hood. The Bismarck, severely damaged by aircraft from the carrier HMS Ark Royal, sank in the North Atlantic.
Marvin Breckinridge Patterson ’27, foreign correspondent for CBS and recently returned from Germany, spoke at the alumnae luncheon. A protégé of Edward R. Murrow and the first female news correspondent for the CBS World News Roundup, Breckinridge had famously slipped a barbed assessment of Germany under the Nazis past the severe German censors. Describing the Nazi newspaper Voelkische Beobachter, she observed, “The motto of this important official paper is Freedom and Bread. There is still bread.”
Seniors, alumnae, parents and other guests celebrated Class Day for the Class of 1941 at the Outdoor Theater. The graduating class, dressed in sports dresses, performed a brief skit, in which one of the members, apparently conforming to a statistical profile, revealed her desire to marry a Yale man, have 2.1 children, attend an Episcopal church and vote Republican.
Speaking at the Baccalaureate service for the Class of 1941, Dr. William Allen Neilson, president emeritus of Smith College, recalled hearing, as a student in Edinburgh, a British ambassador to France claim that personal moral principles don’t apply well to relations between nations. Exploring this notion in the light of the current state of the world, he told the graduating class, “It is apparently tacitly assumed by many speakers and writers that self-defense needs no defense. It has no limits…. It is not fair to our people to take it for granted in all discussion that self-protection is our only concern. There are more important things for individuals and nations than safety; we do care more for decency, for mercy, for justice, for other conditions that make it possible to develop the good life. We have done ourselves an injustice in conducting discussion as if our own safety was our highest concern.”
After the service, a tablet in memory of Dr. Charles William Moulton was unveiled in Sanders Laboratory of Chemistry by his granddaughter, Katherine Moulton, '43. Dr. Moulton came to Vassar in 1892 as Associate Professor of Chemistry, when chemistry and physics were taught in a single department. He became head of the chemistry department on its creation two years later, a position he retained until his death in 1924. The New York Times
President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 244 members of the Class of 1941, in the Chapel. In his address to the class he urged them to carry with them always a phrase from a play by Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17, “There is no wall.” Disparities of age, experience or knowledge, he said, should never appear as barriers between generations, races, languages or nations.
The chairman of the board of trustees, Kathryn Starbuck ’11, announced that gifts to the college in the past year totaled $298,975, of which $97,222 was for current use and $201, 753 was for endowment and annuity. The New York Times
The government impounded German and Italian assets in the United States.
Katherine Hubbell ’44 won her second straight girls’ intercollegiate tennis singles championship, defeating Lonny Myers ’45 in the finals at the Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline, MA. She and Barbara Brandt from Smith defeated Miss Myers and Frances Prindle ’42 for the doubles championship. This was also Miss Hubbell’s second straight doubles championship.
Three Vassar students and a recent graduate accompanied Professor Maxine Sweezy from the department of economics and sociology on a month’s field trip to Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Tennessee, visiting mills, coal fields, manufacturing sites and housing developments and speaking with union leaders, workers, managers, Polish and Czech community leasers and members of local chambers of commerce. They went to an agricultural resettlement project in Arthurdale, WV, and in Tennessee they spent ten days in Norris Park, studying the TVA, visited the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle and looked into the copper mines and concomitant erosion problems in Ducktown.
The object of the expedition, undertaken in a station wagon belonging to one of the students, was to provide on-site experience as an aid to class presentations and discussions in the fall. The New York Times
Shortly after occupying Lwów, a city of some 380,000 in the Ukraine, German troops murdered 25 professors, their families and guests, beginning an extermination of Jews that would claim some 120,000 lives.
On a ship off the coast of Newfoundland, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, outlining peacetime goals “after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny.” The text included the “four freedoms” outlined by Roosevelt in his State of the Union Address in January.
Vassar trustee Dr. Barbara Stimson ’19 and Dr. Achsa Bean, one of four physicians in the Vassar health service, sailed for England, the first of ten American doctors requested by the British Emergency Medical Service. Dr. Stimson, a specialist in fractures, was the niece of United States Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and her sister, Julia Stimson ’01, the president of the American Nurses Association, had attained the rank of Major and was decorated by the French government for her service abroad during World War I.
Germany launched the siege of Leningrad, which would last nearly three years.
Following a series of attacks on American vessels by German submarines, President Roosevelt announced that he had ordered the navy to attack German and Italian war ships in “waters which we deem necessary to our defense.”
In her convocation address Professor of Latin Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94 declared the readiness and willingness of the Vassar faculty to aid the country: "Many of the faculty are already registered with the government in full dossiers, showing their specialties and avocations, which indicate the lines of work for which they can be called on in case of need. Some of the women on the faculty have already been commandeered or have volunteered for service. Prof. Mabel Newcomer of the Department of Economics is serving on a committee of experts which [United States Treasury] Secretary Morgenthau appointed to do research work for the United States Treasury on a comprehensive survey of federal, state and local revenue systems. Prof. Agnes Rindge of the Department of Art in her leave of absence is serving under the Council of National Defense in the Division of Cultural Relations between the American Republics. She is one of the two Executive Secretaries of the Committee on Art. Prof. Ruth Wheeler of the Department of Physiology is Chairman of a Committee on Nutrition for Dutchess County which is making a study of the dietary needs of the district with special reference to the malnutrition of children. And Doctor Achsa Bean of Vassar's medical staff, with our trustee, Doctor Barbara Stimson, has volunteered under the Red Cross for a year of service in Great Britain. These are a few examples from our own faculty of the varied lines of service which are open to American women now. Women who are well trained are going to be called upon more and more."
The college published Professor Haight’s remarks under the title, “Education for Service.”
On October 10, President Roosevelt sent a message to Congress, calling German attacks on American shipping intolerable. Fearing that isolationists would tie up repeal of neutrality legislation passed the previous year, he asked instead for repeal of certain restrictions, so that he could arm merchant vessels. Claiming that Hitler was trying to drive the American flag from the seas “either by his submarines, his airplanes or his threats,” Roosevelt said, “It is time for this country to stop playing into Hitler’s hands, and to unshackle our own.”
A few days later, 122 members of the Vassar Faculty sent a letter of support to the President:
“We, members of the faculty of Vassar College, in our capacity as citizens, wish to express our agreement with your pronounced policy that the defeat of Hitlerism is necessary for the survival of the freedom of America.
“To this end we pledge our support of the measures you propose in your message to Congress and such others as may be necessary to the defense of our nation against the greatest menace to liberty we have ever had to face.” The New York Times
11 sailors aboard the destroyer USS Kearney became the first American military casualties of World War II when they died after their ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near Iceland.
Curt Sachs, professor of music at the graduate school, New York University, lectured on "The Origin of Music."
Jane Plimpton ’42, Associate Professor of History Charles Griffin and Joseph Lash, general secretary of the International Student Service, welcomed 54 student delegates from 14 colleges, including Harvard, New York University, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Barnard, West Point, Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania, to a conference on national morale, sponsored jointly by the student-faculty Vassar Political Association and the International Student Service, a Federal agency for international education. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt joined Mr. Lash, Massachusetts Democratic congressman Thomas H. Eliot, Francis J. Brown, consultant to the American Council on Education, Captain G. J. Weitzel from West Point and Private John Dahlberg in the opening conversation. The discussion moved from the interaction between civilian and military morale to considerations of how both communities might support the inevitable increase of civilians in uniform as the nation prepared for war. Mr. Brown, according to The New York Times, summarized three major challenges in the present situation: “How to render ‘service without sentimentality’ to the draftees. How to keep a sense of the continuity of life for both drafted men and the nation, realizing the importance of planning for a world beyond emergency. How to lay the foundation for a permanent peace, not through ‘policing’ but through world brotherhood.”
During the two-day conference the delegates were addressed by several experts on civilian and military morale, including Hungarian journalist and novelist Hans Habe [Janos Békessy] an escapee from a Nazi camp who had immigrated to the United States. They also attended a special production of The Experimental Theatre, Reveille: 1941, a “living newspaper” play, written by Vassar students, focusing on conditions in the draft camps.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that the Vassar Bank of Arlington had been admitted to membership.
Mary Draper ’42 was one of four young people discussing the desires and methods of American youth in achieving a “democratic moral code” on the radio program “America’s Town Meeting of the Air.” The other participants were a young woman from Stephens College in Missouri and two young men, one a clerk in a 42nd Street bookshop and the other the president of the Young Men’s Board of Trade. Miss Draper, differing from her colleague from Missouri, asserted that women’s place was “on a par with men.” Citing statistics showing that working women managed healthy and happy homes, she said women needed to do things outside the home to help men “build a world that makes more sense.”
During a lively question and answer session with the audience, when asked if she thought a woman could be both President of the United States and a mother, she replied, “You’ve got me there. If a woman ever got to be President, I think she’d have to concentrate on that.” The New York Times
Mary Draper Janney was chair of the Vassar board of trustees from 1981 until 1989.
As part of the Rotary Club's observance of "Vassar Week," President MacCracken talked to the Poughkeepsie Club on "How a Poughkeepsie Business Man Founded Vassar College." The speech was later published by the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank.
Under the direction of Hallie Flanagan Davis the Experimental Theatre presented T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the, Cathedral (1935). The part of the doomed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was played by Assistant Professor of Political Science C. Gordon Post, and Assistant Professor of Music Clair Leonard supplied a musical complement to Eliot's choral texts, which he performed on the organ. Writing in The Miscellany News, Nancy Hallinan '42 praised "the chanting in fifths, and the antiphony of voices singing and speaking at the same time" in Leonard's setting. "The overture," she continued, "centered around the three main themes of the body of the play, beginning with the churchly Te Deum theme.... We were fully prepared for the sinuous dance of the First Tempter [physical comfort and safety] by the ingratiating little jazz melody that had all the direct appeal of mild syncopation. The Second Tempter, representing secular power, entered with a motive of pomp and circumstance. Harsh dissonances accompanied the Third Tempter [revolution through conspiracy], and a swell of religious modal music was the background for the [Fourth] Tempter of spiritual power [martydom]."
In Dynamo: The Story of a College Theatre (1943), Hallie Flanagan reflected on the chronology of the play—December 2-29, 1170—and of Vassar's production which opened on December 6, 1941: “Here was a play which emphasized the common man and the part he must play in a great decision. Every word spoken by the women of Canterbury seemed to have an immediate urgency. The women desired peace and the ordinary way of life; they were disturbed by the sense of doom in the air; they were concerned not with the dream of empire or the glory of heroes, but with the business of children, of homes, of crops and harvest and apples stored against the winter. They did not want anything to happen. Yet there was upon them, as upon all of us in the fall and early winter of 1941, a sense of fate.”
Pearl Harbor: "Japan Wars on U.S. and Britain; Makes Sudden Attack on Hawaii; Heavy Fighting at Sea Reported." The New York Times
The House of Representatives, with one opposing vote, and the Senate in unanimity adopted a resolution of war with Japan.
The Vassar faculty adopted a resolution:
“We, the president and members of the faculty of Vassar College, in deep sense of the gravity of the national crisis, reaffirm our loyalty to our country and pledge our united support of the cause declared by the Congress in its declaration of this date, Dec. 8, 1941. In so far as our skills and our special training may prove useful, we wish to offer them to the service of the nation as a whole.” The New York Times
Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and the United States declared war on Germany and Italy.
With national attention focused on the area, the college restored study of the history of the Far East to the curriculum, after 6 years’ absence. Cyrus H. Peake, teacher of modern history of the Far East at Columbia, was appointed as a visiting lecturer. His teaching at Vassar focused on the history of the region from the 16th century to the present, with emphasis on the influence of Western civilization and colonization.
As a war measure, the student waitress plan was inaugurated. It continued through 1942/43. In September 1943 the cooperative system was established.
Over 400 students enlisted in the campus civil defense unit established by Keene Richards, consulting engineer and general business manager of the college. The unit was the third element in a three-part Vassar defense program that was drawn up in the fall by a faculty-student emergency committee led by Leila Barber, assistant professor of art. The committee had also directed student attention curriculum resources having to do with national service, democratic civilization and postwar reconstruction, and, secondarily, it had engaged individuals and organizations in reinforcement of self-discipline and citizenship in the college community.
Richards also served as the chief air raid warden for Dutchess County.
Thailand declared war on the United States and Britain, and Japanese troops invaded the Solomon Islands. Landing in Northern Ireland, the first American forces arrived in Europe.
In its first drill, Vassar “blacked-out” in 11 minutes, except for the headlights of a locked car parked in front of Main Building. The practice black-out was part of an elaborate civil defense plan devised by the Vassar College Defense Council in consultation with Keene Richards, the college's general manager and the Dutchess County chief air raid warden. Having suffered imaginary damage to its water system, residents of Strong House were evacuated to Lathrop, where they received orders to spend the night either in Josselyn or North [Jewett]. "Bells in the halls sounded the alarms," reported The Miscellany News. "In case of an actual blackout, the fire whistles will blow. Their use requires army authorization."
In addition to the evacuation committee, the exercise involved the communications committee, the health and sanitation committee and the food and shelter committee. "I consider it a really exceptional performance," Richards said. "The fundamental purpose is to find out the errors—we don't know whether it will be good or bad."
President MacCracken informed the trustees of the gift to the college of prints and sculptures from the wife and children of financier Felix Warburg, in his memory. Warburg, who died in October of 1937, was a lifelong collector of art and amassed an exceptional collection. The gift to Vassar consisted of 167 prints, including 54 by Dürer and 68 by Rembrandt, and 11 sculptures, including a late Greek marble figure and ten late medieval and Renaissance works. Mrs. Warburg made a similar gift of prints to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
Speaking to a large audience of students on "The Structural Approach to an Understanding of Form in Modern Verse", the American poet Dr. William Carlos Williams acknowledged being accused of a number of "sins," including a lack of traditional form and even of intellectual content and a proclivity for denouncing academics—the concept and the personnel. "He knew all that," he told the students according to one of his biographers, "but he was still insisting on change, on a revolution in poetry. All the more important it was now...to create new forms if Americans were to live, if they were to 'have anything to return to after the international adventure of war.'" Dr. Williams enjoyed his interchange with the students, but although he found their responses to his talk perhaps more intelligent than most men's might be, he confessed to "'finding it always rather difficult to take the girls seriously enough except on the one topic!'" Paul L. Mariani, William Carlos Williams: a new world naked
President MacCracken announced that Mary Virginia Heinlein ’25, head of the drama program at Sarah Lawrence College, had been appointed to succeed Hallie Flanagan Davis as director of The Vassar Experimental Theatre. Davis became dean at Smith College and director of its new theater.
Bataan, on the Philippine island of Luzon, fell to the Japanese.
Some 75,000 American and Filipino troops were started on the “Death March” to internment camps in the North.
The American historian and writer of historical fiction Esther Forbes lectured on "Fact in History and Fiction." Her biography, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1942.
Winifred Clara Cullis, professor emeritus of physiology at the University of London and head of the Women's Section of the British Information Services in New York City, gave the third of the Helen Kenyon Lectures, "What British Women Are Doing in the War." The lecture was published by the college.
Reveille in Washington (1941), a study of the nation’s capital during the Civil War by Margaret Leech’15, won the Pulitzer Prize in History. A journalist, novelist and biographer, Leech traced her writing career to her first job, with the Condé Nast publishing firm, where for $12 a week she wrote responses in the complaint department. Her five years’ work on the book on Washington, DC, in wartime taught her, she told The New York Times, that “democracy is tough enough to take anything.”
Leech, the widow of Ralph Pulitzer, the son of the founder of the prizes, won a second Pulitzer Prize in History in 1960 for In the Days of McKinley (1959), which also won the prestigious Bancroft Prize.
The Vassar Club of New York sponsored a panel discussion on “The Family in War and After” in The New York Times Hall in New York City. Speakers included the director of the city’s Bureau of Child Guidance, Dr. Caroline B. Zachary, Swedish social welfare expert Alva Myrdal, Belgian child psychologist Dr. Andreé Royon, Dr. Eduard C. Lindeman, professor of social work at Columbia and Dr. Mary Schattuck Fisher ’20, professor of psychology and director of the Vassar Summer Institute.
Dr. Fisher announced that the theme of the summer institute, along with its name, was changed for 1942. The Institute for Family and Child Care Services in Wartime, held at Vassar between June 22 and August 1, trained professionals, volunteers and parents in a special wartime curriculum.
Professor of Latin Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94 retired after 40 years on the Vassar faculty. A former president of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College, she was also on the Council of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome and former president of the American Philological Society. Her publications included The Autobiography of Matthew Vassar (1916), which she edited, and Vassar (1915), which she wrote with James Monroe Taylor, the college’s 4th president.
Reflecting wartime conditions, reunions were cancelled and commencement week for 1942 was shortened to one night and one day.
Destruction of several Japanese ships in the Battle of Midway marked a turning point in the war in the Pacific.
President MacCracken announced alterations in the calendar for the upcoming academic year designed to aid the national effort to conserve transportation and fuel. Christmas vacation was lengthened to save fuel in the period that was coldest and required the most light, and the spring vacation was shortened from 11 to 5 days to discourage travel.
President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 258 members of the Class of 1942. Four master’s degrees in the arts were granted and Vassar’s first two master of science degrees were granted.
James T. Cleland, associate professor of religion at Amherst College, delivered the commencement address, telling the class that individualism in the 20th century was “a-will-of-the-wisp.” “Interrelatedness is the fact for us, a nasty fact very often, a disagreeable fact regularly, but a hard, cold fact to be reckoned with. We are not entirely our own…. Our lives are what they are because men and women in all ages have been willing to die for things which they held to be of ultimate importance. The only way that we can repay those to whom we owe so much is to buy the future for those around us and those who will follow us. Some of us will do that in this war for our country.”
Himself a naturalized United States citizen, Cleland posited that he might even love the country more than the native-born, since his citizenship was a choice made in his maturity, not a childhood gift. “One who has lived in Europe,” he concluded, “knows the unspeakable worth of America.” The New York Times
The start of the Manhattan Project marked the beginning of the nuclear age.
107 adults and 94 children were in attendance when the first session of the Vassar College Summer Institute for Family and Child Care Services in Wartime opened on the campus. New York’s Lieutenant Governor Charles Poletti, noting that families left behind had new and terrible concerns in the present war, framed this with an anecdote. “Many months ago,” he said, “before American went to war, I saw a story in a newspaper about children in war-torn Britain. I read that Mickey Mouse gas masks were being made for babies and young children…. That story brought home forcibly to me the fact that this war is different, that we in 1942 are engaged in a type of warfare in which there is no quarter given, not even to helpless children.”
Among the other speakers was motion-picture actor Melvyn Douglas, speaking on behalf of the Federal Office of Civilian Defense. “Civilian defense as organized in America today,” Douglas said, “is a demonstration by the people themselves of their faith in themselves. We must not permit our troops to be drawn back to our shores because of our fear of invasion. The social meaning of total civilian effort is gradually dawning on us.” The New York Times
The college announced extensive changes in the curriculum for the next academic year, many of them wrought by the war. Courses in French, German, Spanish and Russian emphasized translation skills, particularly of technical or other very specific material and were open to members of the surrounding community who possessed the necessary fundamental knowledge of a language. This emphasis prepared students for the civil service translator examinations. A course in modern Greek was also offered, although only to Vassar students, and the Russian department augmented its extraordinary collection of Russian rare editions with dictionaries and lexicons of scientific and technological terminology.
The department of astronomy offered its first course in meteorology, open to juniors and seniors with the proper prerequisites and designed to meet the requirements of the civil service junior grade meteorologist examination, The physics department taught an advanced course in radio and vacuum tube applications, such as radio transmitters and receivers and television. The psychology department offered a graduate course within the new conservation graduate division on the psychology of personality with collateral study to prepare for scientific research of problems of mental health. A second new course in the department was directed at undergraduates preparing for non-academic psychological vocations, in education, social services, industry or government. The New York Times
Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the second session of the Vassar College Summer Institute for Family and Child Care Services in Wartime, which opened with 152 adults and 103 children enrolled. Her topic was “How Different Kinds of American Families are Meeting the Problems of Total War.” She told of meeting many people on her travels who were struggling to make practical decisions based on the flood of suggestions about conservation, thrift, proper nutrition and the like during wartime. When asked if she thought members of Congress up for reelection were spending more time on their campaigns than on the country’s needs, she replied, “It is very hard to divest yourself of the thought that the people at home are in fault. The people should take the November elections in their hands and tell their Congressmen…what they think of them by their vote. Candidates should be judged by what they have done in Congress in the past, not by what they will say between now and November.”
Mrs. Roosevelt was accompanied to the campus by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, who was staying at Hyde Park. After the question and answer period, the Queen joined Mrs. Roosevelt and President MacCracken on a visit to Cushing House to meet some of the children attending the summer institute.
Elizabeth MacLeod Culver ’35 was one of the seven women sworn in by Lieutenant Commander W. Pratt Thomas as the first officers of the new Women’s Reserve, United States Naval Reserves, known as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). On August 3, the president of Wellesley, Mildred McAfee ’20 was inducted as a lieutenant commander to serve as the commander of the Women’s Reserve.
At her induction, she recalled interrupting her time at Vassar to volunteer as a war worker in World War I. “It was my task,” she said, “to paste clippings in scrapbooks. I remember distinctly that I pasted too rapidly to please some of my co-workers. I never did bring myself to be slow enough. The job lasted just one week and I went back to college.”
By the end of the year, eight members of the Class of 1942 had joined the WAVES. The New York Times
The Army Air Forces announced the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), a group of licensed and experienced women flyers who would be employed in ferrying new aircraft from airplane factories to air bases across the country, thus freeing for other duties airmen currently performing this task. The new squadron was the idea of its commander, Nancy Harkness Love ’35, who flown planes since before she came to Vassar. While in college, she earned extra money taking other students for plane rides in rented aircraft.
Unlike the women serving in the WAVES, the WAFS remained non-commissioned civilians and received pay as civil servants. In 1943, the WAFS merged with another women’s unit to become the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the WASPs, under Mrs. Love’s direction. Over 300 women served as WAFS or WASPs during the war.
In the spring of 1944, 22 students organized the Vassar Flying Club. The group consisted of three already licensed pilots and 19 students learning to fly at the Lime Ridge Airport near Pawling, NY. Their goal was either to gain commercial licenses or to take the training necessary for admission to the WASPs.
As the opening of school approached, the college announced the institution of 10 extracurricular courses intended to supplement the curricular changes already made to accommodate wartime needs. The courses, designed in collaboration with the American Red Cross, the New York State Office of Civilian Defense and the United States Civil Service Commission, were focused on skills such as first aid, home nursing, health aide work, child-care and civil defense work. Courses in structural drawing, drafting and blueprint reading and music in wartime were also available.
All students not enrolled in one of the special curricular courses were expected to register for one of the extracurricular courses in the first week of classes.
Other wartime changes included each student taking responsibility for caring for her own room as well as for contributing seven hours a week to housekeeping and messenger duties. Heat was reduced to 65º during the day and turned off at 9:30 pm. Tablecloths were abandoned, as were lights in the indoor tennis court, and the pool was open only three days a week. The Social Museum and The Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies were suspended, and a “vegetable dinner” was served once a week. To further conserve on materials needed for the war effort, the latter restriction was changed, in November to require a “meatless day” once a week.
A student who had transferred to another college wrote: “Vassar is a wonderful place. There is nothing here to compare with it; neither work, nor faculty, nor student body is as stimulating, as difficult, as painful, enjoyable or rewarding as Vassar…something is missing…. I find myself missing even the pain of [Professor Helen Lockwood’s] Contemporary Press.” Trustee Minutes
Speaking before the New York League of Women Voters, Dr. Mabel Newcomer, professor of economics and consultant to the United States Treasury, debated the effect of wartime economic policies on democracy with Dr. Gustav Stolper, an Austrian economist and recently naturalized citizen. To Dr. Stolper’s assertion that rationing and price controls were akin to the Prohibition Amendment “on a Sears Roebuck scale” and constituted “mechanical limitations” and “compulsive, comprehensive slavery,” Newcomer defended both measures, “even if it means policing.” And—admitting it might “lose me my job—to Stolper’s insistence that any progressive spending tax must exempt rents and education, ”Newcomer rejected the exemptions. 'It might turn people from Vassar College to the State universities,' she said. 'Is the quality of Vassar better? I can’t answer that question. I’m not sure it is.'” The New York Times
Attended by a color guard comprised of the presidents of the three upper classes and a freshman representative, the chair of the college war council, Katharine Tryon ’43 raised a service flag on Main Building in honor of the 35 members of the Vassar community, including employees, trustees and teachers, serving in the armed forces.
American composer Aaron Copland spoke on “Contemporary Music.”
The president of the senior class, Mary Sublett ’43, announced that the class had voted not to hold the traditional senior prom in the spring. “The members of the class,” she said, “believe that the expense and travel entailed by the dance would not be justified in wartime. Moreover, they realize that many of the men they would want to invite would be unable to attend because they are now in military service.”
The sophomore class voted not to buy class rings. Instead they bought war bonds, which, class president Dorothy Hardin ’45 observed, might purchase class rings when they were redeemed after the war.
Under the auspices of the Italian Club Italian-American historian and fervent anti-Fascist Dr. Gaetano Salvemini, Lauro de Bosis Lecturer in the History of Italian Civilization at Harvard University, spoke in Taylor Hall on "The Italian Population Problem." 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.
Admitting the relative density of the Italian population, Salvemini claimed the Mussolini government's arguments that Italy must "expand or explode" were simply excuses for "bullying her neighbors." As to the establishment of African colonies, the historian and former member of the Italian Parliament said the billions of lire needed for the project 'could have transformed Sardinia, Sicily and southern Italy into a garden." He also called on the United State and its allies to encourage imigration for all nations and to prevent imigrant communities from congregating in segrated urban slum communities.
A professor at the Universities of Pisa and Florence before coming to the United States in 1930, Salvemini became an American citizen in 1940. He spoke at Vassar on "Florence in the Time of Dante" in 1933 and on "Italy after Thirteen Years of Dictatorship." The Miscellany News
Vera Micheles Dean, research director of the Foreign Policy Association, gave the fourth series of Helen Kenyon Lectures, "America Looks Abroad" and "The Road to Victory; After Victory - What?" Dean, a trustee of Vassar from 1943 to 1946, was the first woman trustee who was not a Vassar graduate.
Violinist Jascha Heifetz, accompanied by pianist Emanuel Bay, gave a recital at the Metropolitan Opera House as a benefit for the Vassar Club Scholarship Fund. To Beethoven’s “Spring” sonata, Op 24, he added Lalo’s “Spanish Symphony” and Saint-Seans’s “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.” Shorter pieces by Debussy, Chopin and Tchaikovsky rounded out the program.
Seating on the stage for the performance was reserved for women in the armed services.
A survey by the engineering, science and management war training division of the United States Office of Education found that, of the 16,707 women in New York colleges, excluding New York City, 29 percent were enrolled in courses that would prepare them for war work on the home front. Vassar women ranked first among these colleges; 96 percent of the 1,265 students were taking what the survey judged to be “war courses.” The New York Times
President MacCracken, WAVES Lieutenant Commander Mildred McAfee ’20 and Major Julia Stimson ’01 of the Army Nurses Corps and president of the American Nurses Association spoke at the annual luncheon of the New York Vassar Club. MacCracken assured the group that the college was at work training women for the nation’s present needs but also for the future, and he told of an alumna who owned a manufacturing firm who had offered the entire senior class jobs at graduation. He added that the Vassar tradition of recognizing the value of the individual continued to guide the college.
Lieut. Comdr. McAfee—on leave for the duration of the war from her post as president of Wellesley—said that her transition to war work had convinced her once again of the value of an education such as Vassar provided, and Maj. Stimson asked all her auditors to aid in meeting the need for 31,000 more nurses in 1943 and 75,000 more in training for the future. The New York Times
At the conclusion of the Casablanca conference with Winston Churchill and Charles deGaulle, President Roosevelt announced the Allies’ goal was the “unconditional surrender of German, Italy and Japan.” Three days later, the Americans conducted their first bombing raids on Germany.
After two years of study by the faculty and discussion with students, the trustees unanimously approved the faculty plan for a three-year BA program during the national emergency. The plan, approved by the students by a vote of 964 to 79 and by the faculty, 50 to30, allowed students to receive the bachelor’s degree after three 40-week academic years rather than four years of about 30 weeks. A 10-week third term was added after the traditional spring term to accommodate the new plan.
The last class on this plan graduated in June 1948. Enrollment was increased to 1,300 for the three-year program.
The student-faculty Political Association held a conference, “Women in a Changing World,” on the opportunities and problems for women arising from the war emergency. “In this war you will have opportunities,” Columbia professor Marjorie Hope Nicolson told the gathering in her keynote address, “such as no generation of women has ever faced, and upon your generation much of the ultimate future of women will depend.” Acknowledging that deciding whether to leave college to join the war effort or not had to be an individual one, balancing patriotic feeling—even the “right” to remain in school—against completing their studies in hope of contributing more fully later. Seemingly inclined toward the latter option, she declared that “college women of today have a profound duty to carry on our cultural tradition in both the sciences and the humanities, so that there shall not be a definite break and a serous cultural lag.”
Other speakers at the three-day conference held different views. Dr. Margaret Hagood of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics said that in agriculture “as in industry, the logical source of supply to meet the record food needs of armed forces and civilians this year is women not already in the labor market, students and housewives.” Mary Dublin, formerly of the Office of Civilian Defense in Washington, declared that “if we learn how to mobilize our full resources for peace as we did for war,” a full labor force engaged in war production, along with men now in the armed services, could be remobilized to enhance postwar living standards. Frieda Miller former State Commissioner of Labor warned that issues of equal pay and unemployment insurance for women entering the wartime work force would need to be addressed, and Charles Rose, manager of the Poughkeepsie office of the United States Employment Service, offered the opinion that “actual conscription of womanpower” wasn’t necessary, because “women would answer voluntarily when the need was made clear.”
Ensign Nona Baldwin ’39 of the WAVES and Lieutenant Alline Pino of the Waacs cited the increasing quotas for these services as evidence of women’s eagerness to serve and of their value in support of the fighting forces. The New York Times
To replace labor claimed by military service or war work, the Vassar Outing Club recruited students to work on the farm, bunching asparagus, plucking chickens, weeding and setting out plants.
In his address at Commencement, President MacCracken declared that, while wartime placed great emphasis on scientific training and on applied sciences, the broad liberal arts education was not in peril. He predicted that liberal studies of tomorrow would be valued in relation to their capacity to use freedom to directly effect the advancement of the culture. Two hundred sixty-eight members of the Class of 1943 received the bachelor’s degree, and five master’s degrees were awarded—three in the arts and two in the sciences.
Dean C. Mildred Thompson ’03, honored for her 20 years of decanal service, observed that, despite the recent national and world turmoil, 75.5 percent of the class that entered in 1939 received their degrees at the ceremony. The number of the original class completing their degrees was 5 percent higher than in the Class of 1942 and about 10 percent higher than in the Class of 1941. The New York Times
The Italian Fascist government collapsed and Benito Mussolini was arrested. His successor began negotiations with the Allies.
The navy announced that Ensign Rosalie Thorn '40 had won the Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal. With a score of 211 out of 240, the WAVE, on duty in the bureau of aeronautics, became the first woman entitled to wear the expert pistol shot's blue and green ribon on her uniform.
Married briefly—1945-1950—to Henry Dickson McKenna, she returned to Vassar to work on a master's degree in art history, and her thesis, a history of Main Building, remains the most thorough study of James Renwick Jr.'s magesterial building. As Rollie McKenna, she became an internationally famed protrait photographer, counting Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, T. S. Eliot, Ted Hughes, Sylva Plath and many other literary figures among her subjects.
The annual fee for tuition and residence was raised to $1,250. 1,406 students were enrolled, 55 more than the campus could house. Freshmen for whom there was no room on campus were housed in Alumnae House. Excess upperclassmen lived cooperatively in Lyman House, a faculty dwelling.
Lieutenant Commander Mildred McAfee, '20, of the WAVES, addressed the students on war service.
President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met at Teheran, the first meeting of “The Big Three.”
Seven seniors on the accelerated plan received their degrees in Vassar’s first winter Commencement.
Allied troops landed at Anzio, Italy. The siege of Leningrad was lifted after 900 days.
As a counterpoint to The Miscellany News, Phyllis Safarik ’45, Mariajane Clarke ’45 and Audrey Talmage ’45 founded the Vassar Chronicle. "We shall deal with each issue,” the editors said, “according to our opinions at the time, not according to a pre-established party line." Politically opposite, the two campus newspapers coexisted—frequently publishing joint issues—and gradually the editorial opposition lessened. In 1959, the student-faculty Coordinating Committee on Educational Policy recommended a reorganized, consolidated paper. The Miscellany resisted the idea, and on May 16, theChronicle’s editors announced that it would cease publication at the end of the academic year.
The Experimental Theatre, under the direction of Mary Virginia Heinlein ’25, presented a production of The Tempest, with President MacCracken as Prospero and C. Gordon Post, of the political science department, as Caliban. Well known New York stage professionals, costume designer Aline Bernstein ’35 and set designer Raymond Sovey, directed students in planning and making the costumes and scenery. Miss Bernstein—later Mrs. Eero Saarinen—lectured and taught at Vassar occasionally.
British bombers dropped 3,000 tons of bombs on Hamburg, Germany.
In a survey of the approaches by colleges and universities to questions of postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation, The New York Times described Vassar’s interdepartmental approach:
“An interdepartmental major field in problems and principles of reconstruction is offered at Vassar College. The aim is to increase understanding of the rehabilitation problem, to prepare students for service in agencies which administer foreign relief, and to provide a foundation for those who wish to participate in the post-war reconstruction work in Europe.
“Two main lines of study are followed: knowledge of one of more of such fields as child welfare, public health and nutrition, social welfare, and knowledge of the language, literature, customs, geography and economic resources of a particular country in which rehabilitation work may be needed.”
Dean C. Mildred Thompson '03, along with John W. Studebaker, United States commissioner of education, and Representative J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, was one of six United States delegates appointed by the State Department to the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education in London (CAME). The conference’s goal the development of an Allied organization for educational reconstruction. The 20 countries represented adopted a plan for a worldwide school program, which was the genesis of a meeting in 1945 in London when delegates from 37 countries founded the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO came into force in 1946, after ratification by the governments of 20 of the founding countries.
Dean Thompson, widely known as an historian and an educator, was a member of the department of history from 1907 until her retirement in 1948, and dean from 1923 to 1948.
Harriet Warner Bishop ’67, the last survivor of the four members of the college’s first graduating class, died at her home in Detroit at the age of 98. She had attended Vassar’s 75th anniversary celebration in 1940 and received a great ovation when she entered the Outdoor Theater for Class Day on President MacCracken’s arm.
The Class of 1944 graduated in the second Commencement of the academic year. There being no daisies in April, the Daisy Chain served tea at the president’s reception.
Actor and director Margaret Webster, whose Othello, starring Paul Robeson in the title role (1943), broke all Broadway records for a Shakespearean production, gave the fifth Helen Kenyon lecture, "Shakespeare and the Modern Theatre." The daughter of actors Ben Webster and Dame May Whitty, Webster directed the English actor Maurice Evans in several Broadway plays by Shakespeare and in 1946 co-founded, with Eva LeGallienne, the American Repertory Theatre.
"My own aim as a director of Shakespeare," she told her Vassar audience, "is to make the characters living human beings, to show for instance in Hamlet that Shakespeare was concerned with the kitchen as well as the battlements of Elsinore." A director, she said, "becomes a diplomatist, a financier, a pedagoge, a top sergeant, a wet nurrse, and a martyr, the kind of martyr who used to be torn into pieces by wild horses galloping in all directions at once."
Webster and The Margaret Webster Shakespeare Company, which she founded in 1948, were frequent visitors to Vassar, and her lecture was published by the college.
D-Day. Allied forces landed on the northern coast of France.
Speaking to some 200 women at a luncheon of the Women’s Action Committee for Victory and Lasting Peace, Dean C. Mildred Thompson ‘03 urged support of the draft constitution for the United Nations educational and cultural organization proposed by the United States delegation to the international conference, of which she was a member. She also warned that many European children in occupied countries seemed content in their Nazi-dominated school programs, which emphasized marching and singing at the expense of studying. “Under our democratic method,” she said, “we won’t be able to hit such children over the head and say ‘You must prefer our system!’ We must make them want to prefer our way by offering the best we have.” The New York Times
At Commencement for students in the accelerated plan, President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 19 graduates. Five students received the master of arts degree, and two received the master of science degree.
In his remarks, President MacCracken endorsed the education of the whole individual as education’s highest aim, declaring that the current emphasis on man as a psychological being was as imperfect as previous approaches emphasizing man as a political or an economic creature.
Professor Mabel Newcomer, chairman of the economics department, was one of twelve American delegates named by President Roosevelt to the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held at Bretton Woods, NH. In announcing the appointments, the President had said that the delegates’ responsibility was, first, to demonstrate “to the world that international postwar cooperation is possible.” More specifically, the conferees were charged by Mr. Roosevelt to try to formulate “definite proposals for an international monetary fund, and possibly a bank for reconstruction and development.”
The delegation included Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., Fred M. Vinson, director of the Office of Economic Stabilization, Marriner S. Eccles, chairman of the Federal Reserve and New York Senator Robert F. Wagner, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. Dr. Newcomer was the only woman and the only academic representative in the American delegation.
Allied armies liberated Paris.
Allies liberated Verdun, Dieppe, Artois, Rouen, Abbeville, Antwerp and Brussels.
In a poll by the Vassar Community Church board on the question of a college chaplain, 900 students wanted a chaplain and 49 didn’t.
“Everything’s changed at Vassar. Girls wear discarded men’s shirts, blue jeans and moccasins and act as if they’d never seen Brooks sweaters and saddle oxfords. There was a senior last year with an eighteen months’ old baby….” Vassar Alumnae Magazine
President Roosevelt’s administrative assistant Jonathan Daniels gave the opening address at a three-day conference, sponsored by the student-faculty Vassar Political Association, on “The Returning Service Man.” After the last war, he told the conferees, the peace was lost and as a result the homecoming men developed a “sense of futility and cynicism.” The troops returning soon from the present war would insist on security, not pensions, he said. Victory could not become “a dead-end street for heroes.”
Daniels outlined the processes falling in place to avoid this from happening, such as rapid recomputation of service rating cards to allow the most needy or deserving troops to be the first home and varied educational programs overseas—from literary classes to post-graduate university study—for those waiting to come back. “The Government does not leave the veteran when he leaves its military or naval services,” he assured the gathering. But, he added, “Obviously this is a job for free business and free labor as well as government. This is a job for us all.”
Other speakers at the conference included Dean C. Mildred Thompson ’03 and John J. Sullivan, state director of the Labor League for Human Rights, affiliated with American Federation of Labor (AFL). Dean Thompson pledged that Vassar was ready to receive and accommodate women returning from military service and, as one of six American delegates to the recent Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME) in London, she spoke of those deliberations, urging that the CAME framework for international education be ratified by the countries represented. She especially advocated rapid governmental aid for foreign students to attend American institutions. “They would be a healthy influence for peace,” she said, “American students would get a better insight into the problems of peace…. At the same time it is important that Europeans live in a free society and see the democratic process in operation once more.”
Mr. Sullivan provoked lively argument with his assertion that men returning from the war should have first chances at available jobs. Responding to queries from Professor Helen Lockwood ’12—“Are you just going to consider one class of people, women, as being dumped out? What about women whose husbands are killed in service?—Mr. Sullivan suggested that a “means test” could sort out those problems. Miss Bess Bloodworth, a member of the women’s advisory committee of the Federal War Manpower Commission, declared that “if you start with a ‘means’ test then you should not stop at women. You should give the same test to men.” “I agree with Miss Bloodworth 100 per cent,” said Pauline M. Newman of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). Mr. Sullivan responded, “if you provide high enough wages for the men the women will not want to work. They will be happy enough to remain at home and take care of their families.”
Elizabeth Miller ’45-4, president of the Political Association, chaired the conference sessions. The New York Times
After two weeks of intense battle and the loss of 5,000 soldiers in the battle for Aachen in Germany, the Germans surrendered. The Allies took 5,600 prisoners of war.
Franklin D. Roosevelt won reelection to a fourth term. Both college newspapers favored him, but 56 percent of the students participating in a campus poll voted for his opponent, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey.
A few days before the election, Dean C. Mildred Thompson ’03 had joined 37 other nationally prominent women, including Barnard’s dean, Virginia Gildersleeve, and Constance Warren ’04, the president of Sarah Lawrence College, in an appeal to women voters on Roosevelt’s behalf. Declaring that the survival of American freedom and enterprise in the postwar era required “the creation of a strong and realistic world organization for peace,” the open letter from the group of Democrats, independents and registered Republicans, said, “we do not believe the Republican party as at present constituted is whole-heartedly committed to such a policy.” The New York Times
President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 202 members of the Class of 1945-4, the first class to graduate on the three-year plan. This was the fourth Commencement in 12 months.
Soviet troops secured Warsaw and liberated the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
Martha Graham and her company performed her new work, Appalachian Spring, with music by Aaron Copland, and other compositions. Miss Graham praised Vassar’s dance training, telling a Miscellany News reporter, “Few colleges have as fine instruction.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin discussed postwar Europe, German reparations and the demilitarization and denazification of Germany at Yalta, in the Ukraine.
Dresden, Germany, was destroyed by a firestorm after Allied bombing raids. 25,000 people died, and another 30,000 were wounded.
The college announced that President MacCracken intended to retire at the end of June, 1946.
Helen Gahagan Douglas, Congressional Representative from California, gave the sixth series of Helen Kenyon Lectures, "This May Be Our Last Chance" and "Where Is Your Place?"
President Roosevelt died at Warm Springs, Georgia. Vice President Harry S. Truman became the country’s 33rd president.
A community memorial service was held at Vassar for the former trustee (1923-1932), honorary trustee (1933-1945) and friend of the college.
Soviet forces entered Berlin, and Benito Mussolini was captured and hanged by Italian partisans.
With the opening of c-term, the third academic term under the accelerated plan, Professor of English Helen D. Lockwood ’12 led a team of six teachers from six departments in an experimental class for 20 freshmen. Entitled “Today’s Cities,” and assuming the city to be the dominant form of modern culture, the course—which took up all the students’ academic schedule for the term—looked at problems of technology and democracy in urban cultures. Through extensive field, group and laboratory work in physics, economics, political science, sociology, psychology and English, the course emphasized the interrelationships of fields of knowledge.
“Today’s Cities” was offered again in c-term 1945-46 and 1946-47.
The United States 7th Army liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
German troops in Italy surrendered.
Student Government President Elizabeth Gatchell ’45 christened the Vassar Victory—launched before V-E Day, but completed after it—at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyard in Baltimore. One of a number of Victory-class ships built as rather austere troop carriers, in a slightly upgraded configuration the Vassar Victory repatriated American troops from Europe. The ship made eight round trips between its maiden voyage to France on September 29, 1945 and its return to Baltimore on April 4, 1947.
Subsequently sold to a commercial line, the vessel—renamed the Castelbianco—brought displaced persons from Europe under the sponsorship of the International Relief Organization (IRO).
All remaining German forces surrendered to the Allies.
"Today Is V-E Day. Truman, Churchill, Stalin to Proclaim War's End. Germans Surrender at Eisenhower's Headquarters." The New York Herald Tribune
“The faculty of Vassar College on this eighth day of May, 1945, express their solemn thanksgiving for the end of hostilities in Europe, and for its final liberation by allied might of the United Nations…. Vassar College has been so fortunate in weathering the storms of five years that its sympathy and its help must go out all the more to the ancient universities of Europe, and to all the suffering, wandering millions, uprooted and distraught. With deep determination to aid, so far as in them lies, the quest for human and international understanding, they declare that Vassar College, founded in time of war by a man or vision and courage, must face the challenge of peace with equal valor and steadfastness. Faculty Minutes
Charles G. McCormick, B.D. from Union Theological Seminary, joined the college as chaplain. McCormick’s special field was personal and pastoral counseling, and the appointment reflected the college’s growing involvement with issues of students’ guidance, emotional growth and personal development.
Fannie Borden ’98, on the library staff since 1908 and librarian since 1928, retired. Eileen Thornton, from the University of Chicago, succeeded her.
At the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, the United Nations Charter and the new statutes of the International Court of Justice were officially signed. The delegates also signed the Interim Agreement setting up the UN organization.
American historian and journalist Douglas Southall Freeman, whose daughter Anne was among the graduates, addressed the Class of 1945 at Commencement, and President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on its 227 members. Five graduate students received the master’s degree in arts.
Gifts to the college during the year totaled $280,000, of which $26,200 was expendable for scholarships and $138,300 was for scholarship endowment. President MacCracken announced two anonymous donors had given $40,000 to establish the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Scholarship Fund, the income of which was to be used to bring foreign students to the college, and $40,000 to create the Queen Marie Memorial Scholarship Fund to benefit students primarily interested in international relations, preferably students of Rumanian descent. $15,000 had also been given to establish the Louise Roblee McCarthy Scholarship Fund for the Vassar Summer Institute. Mrs. McCarthy ’12 served as a Vassar trustee from 1933 until 1937.
The first 100 of approximately 700 WACs from the New York Army Post Office spent a seven-day “vacation” at Vassar. The women had worked seven-day weeks for over two years without leaves or furloughs, facilitating mail deliveries overseas. The vacations at Vassar were suggested by Mera Galloway '36, a lieutenant colonel in the Women's Army Corps and staff director of the WACs in the Southwest Pacific theater.
On September 6, The Miscellany News reported on the WACs’ summer “rest cures” in Raymond House, "starring 'delicious' food delivered daily from Camp Shanks [Rockland County] and the use of all Vassar facilities, with the minor exception of daily classes."
Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met in Potsdam, occupied Germany, to discuss further German punishment, restoration of damaged diplomatic and political entities and the establishment of postwar order. Truman had succeeded Franklin Roosevelt, and Churchill was replaced by Clement Attlee mid-way through the meetings, as his Labor Party ousted Churchill’s conservatives in the 1945 general elections held on July 5th and 12th and verified on July 26.
Addressing the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living on the subject of housing, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Eighteen million American families, almost half of our entire population, now live in substandard dwelling.” Adequate housing, she said, was lacking particularly in the rural areas, where postwar growth was likely to be greatest. The problems were intensified, she said, by the return of veterans to civilian life. She cited an estimate by the National Housing Administration that suggested a government appropriation of $100 million would be necessary to fulfill the emergency temporary veterans’ housing measures already approved by Congress. The New York Times
The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Eighty thousand people were killed in the bombing, and an estimated 100,000 subsequently died of injuries and radiation poisoning.
The United States dropped a second atomic bomb, on Nagasaki, Japan, killing nearly 74,000 people initially. At least that number died subsequently from injuries and radiation poisoning.
Japan agreed to unconditional surrender.
"The curriculum has been revised to adapt it to both the three-year and the four-year schedule and to realize more fully the basic Vassar aim of education for social use." Catalogue, 1945-1946.
Japan signed surrender terms aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay (V-J Day).
The New York Times reported that a sculptured madonna and child, one of the works presented to Vassar in 1942 in his memory by the family of financier and collector Felix Warburg and thought by experts to be a fine plaster cast of an early 15th century statue, was a very valuable original. The authentication came through the collaboration of Professor Richard Krautheimer of the art department and Professor of Geology A. Scott Warthin, Jr.
Professor Krautheimer explained that the enigmatic work, about 30 inches tall, had stylistic elements dating it to France around 1400, but that no original for it had ever been identified. And its features “linked it to a group of Rhenish, south German, Silesian and Austrian madonnas, the ‘beautiful madonnas,’ for which a French model had always been suspected but never found…. Furthermore, the workmanship [of the Vassar madonna] seemed too neat and clean for a plaster cast.”
Using a small chip of material taken from the bottom of the statue, Professor Warthin was able to first determine that it was unquestionably not plaster but a soft chalk in its natural state. Fossil remains in the chip then allowed him to speculate fairly accurately where the material may have come from, and comparisons with 25 chalk samples indicated that it probably came from around Rouen, France.
“The conclusions reached by the geologist seemed, therefore, to support those reached by the art historian on the basis of historical and scientific evidence: that the statue is an original, created in northern France about 1400.” The New York Times
The Henry Noble MacCracken Chair of English Literature was established by gifts from trustees, alumnae and friends of the college. It was first held by Anna Theresa Kitchel, professor of English from 1918 until 1948.
Helen D. Lockwood '12, and Barbara Swain '20, professors of English, gave $4,000 to purchase for the college the library of the late Nikander Strelsky, associate professor of Russian and comparative Slavonic literature, from 1935 until his death in 1946, at the age of 52. The collection included about 1,200 titles, with many rare volumes.
A severe illness while managing a Russian ballet troupe’s American tour after World War I had required Nikander Strelsky to remain in the country. Settling in Poughkeepsie, he tutored Russian and lectured while earning his M. A. and PhD degrees from Columbia, becoming in the process Vassar’s first professor of Russian and founding the first Russian department in a women’s college in America. Russian was first taught in 1932 and was first credited toward the degree in 1935.
A contract for college employees between the college and the AFL union went into effect.
Lt. (j. g.) Grace Murray Hopper '28, USNR, on military leave from Vassar's mathematics department, spoke on the Automatic Sequence Controlled Computer and Large Scale Calculator and the future of "computing." "Lieutenant Hopper," said The Miscellany News, "sketched the history of computing machines.... Any problem can be reduced to successive processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and using tables, and can be computed on the machine which deals with numbers containing up to twenty-three decimal places.... There are six large scale machines in the United States now, each with its trained crew. In the future these machines will be employed more extensively and may be adapted for use in economics and other fields."
"This modern calculator," The Misc added in "Lecture Notes," published the following week, "given to Harvard University, but used by the U. S. Navy during the war, has completed 32 problems since it was put to work in the spring of 1944. One of these, amounting to 235 pages of figures, is to be given to the Vassar library. Lieutenant Hopper has estimated that it would have taken over 300 years to compile the results without the calculator."
A pioneer in the field of computers, Associate Professor Hopper did not return to Vassar's mathematics department at the end of World War II. Continuing her work in the Navy, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she worked on the Mark series of computers, receiving the Naval Ordnance Development Award for her programming of the Mark I, Mark II and Mark III computers. Her subsequent work with the Univac machines of Sperry Rand led to the her design of COBOL, the first "modern language" computer language for business applications.
A frequent visitor to Vassar, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper retired from active duty in the Navy in 1986. She died in Arlington, VA, on January 1, 1992.
Some 500 alumnae, the largest group ever to attend the New York Vassar Club’s annual luncheon, heard the views of the guest of honor, President Henry Noble MacCracken, on the relationship of students to a liberal arts college. “There must be,” he said, “consent of the student to her own education.” Courses of study must not be prescribed but must be chosen by the student, who “must have a sense of unity with the main purpose of the course…. If a woman is old enough to decide whom to marry she is old enough to decide what to study.”
The student, he told the alumnae, must also be “a citizen of the college, the community, the State, the nation and the world.” The New York Times
Maria Gulovich ’47 was among more than 6,000 service men and women and 61 civilians who arrived in New York from Le Havre aboard a former German liner renamed George Washington. A native of Slovakia, she attended Vassar under a scholarship from the Institute of International Education.
Disembarking, she declined to comment on reports that as a member of the Slovak underground she had helped British and American soldiers cross into Russian-held territory. “Her only comment was that she had been with the United States Office of Strategic Services.” The New York Times
Delivering the annual Phi Beta Kappa address, entitled “Press in a Troubled World,” Edwin L. James, managing editor of The New York Times, gave a detailed assessment of the current state of the world press. While the press in Germany and Italy, he said, was understandably not presently under the direct control of Germans and Italians, the strong traditions of a free press in those countries before Hitler and Mussolini went “war crazy” boded well for the future.
James reserved his strongest criticism for the press in the Soviet Union. “We believe,” he said, “the press should tell all truths to the members of a democracy so that the citizenship, individually and collectively, may exercise its judgment in a really democratic form of government. Not at all, say the Russians. They argue that the real role of their press is to tell the people of their country that which will be useful to the Government.” The New York Times
Katherine Blodgett Hadley ’20, chair of the Vassar board of trustees, announced that Sarah Gibson Blanding, dean of the State College of Home Economics at Cornell University was the unanimous choice of the board to succeed Henry Noble MacCracken as president. Miss Blanding was the first woman to become president of the college.
“We are glad,” Mrs. Hadley said, “to give recognition to woman’s place in the educational world by the election of such an outstanding woman.” In a statement issued after the announcement, Miss Blanding said, “Each generation has something to contribute to the progress of the world, but to our generation has come the unprecedented opportunity to strengthen the position of free men everywhere and to help in rebuilding a world that shall be based on international justice, understanding and good will.” The New York Times
President MacCracken, with his retirement a few months away, reflected on knowledge and education in the last of a series of Sunday morning lectures at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. Distinguishing between general knowledge and personal knowledge, he favored the latter. “General knowledge,” he said, “is what the student shares with others, the abstract, repeatable, countable, classified knowledge. The other kind of knowledge would be personal, unrepeatable, unclassifiable—himself, his growth, his development, his thoughts, feelings and behavior—in short his whole personality.”
MacCracken, however, saw the encouragement of this inner knowledge imperiled in the modern college. “A strange new faculty,” he said, “has arisen in every college, called the administration for want of a better name, which, with its deans, advisers, doctors and psychiatrists, has developed to the point of doing all a student’s thinking. The student consequently never gets a chance to put himself together while an administration tries to do something which is the teacher’s job. A teacher at best can only guide and point things out, for only the student can face the facts unique to his personality and go forward in that knowledge.” The New York Times
Professor of Economics Mabel Newcomer offered an experimental course based on the design of “Today’s Cities,” introduced by Professor Helen Lockwood ’12 in the 1945 c-term. Twenty students and five teachers from the economics, history, plant science, physics and political science departments joined her in “The Tennessee Valley: A Regional Study.” The course filled the students’ programs for c-term and included a two-week field study in the Tennessee Valley.
"Today's Cities," was also given again in the third term. The course, taking the students' full time, focused on dominant urban culture, and involved six teachers from six departments, with frequent field trips. First offered in 1945, it was also given in 1947.
Experimental courses of this comprehensive and multidisciplinary nature were not continued after 1947, when the college returned to the four-year plan.
The college announced that its three-year accelerated program, introduced in 1943, would be discontinued with the entrance in the fall of the Class of 1950. Third terms (c-terms) were offered for the next two years, so that students enrolled in the accelerated program could complete their degree work on schedule.
The founder of the study of economics at Vassar, Professor Herbert E. Mills, died at his home on Academy Street at the age of 84. Coming to Vassar in 1890 from Cornell as associate professor of history and economics, Mills quickly drew the attention of Professor of History Lucy Maynard Salmon, who wrote to friends, “The new associate professor goes on his way like an historical comet.” In 1893, when economics became a separate department, Mills headed it.
The dean of the highly successful Nurses Training Camp in the summer of 1918, Mills was also the first president of the Dutchess County Child Welfare Board. He acted as chairman of the faculty in the interim between the Vassar presidencies of James Monroe Taylor and Henry Noble MacCracken.
Paul J. Tillich, professor of philosophical theology at Union Theological Seminary, spoke on "Social and Spiritual Forces in Germany Today." This was one of many visits to the college by the eminent theologian.
At a special faculty meeting, it was decided that, starting with the upcoming c-term, qualified returning servicemen would be admitted to Vassar, as non-residential students. The action, taken—according to the resolution passed by the faculty—because of the "overcrowding of educational institutions because of the return of the veterans," admitted "properly qualified men" to both regular classes and "special classes organized for the purpose." A special faculty committee was established to oversee both the admission to regular classes and the development of the special classes.
As Vassar’s charter permitted the granting of degrees to women only, provision was made for the transfer of Vassar credit to the University of the State of New York and to other institutions.
A. Hyatt Mayor, associate curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gave an illustrated lecture on Goya, under the auspices of the departments of art and Spanish, as part of the 200th anniversary celebration of Goya's birth.
Albert Camus, French novelist, dramatist and philosopher, spoke on "Le Theatre Français d'Aujourd'hui."
Vassar's first men students, the 36 veterans who enrolled at Vassar for c-term, were diversely prepared. Half of them had no college experience, and several of the 11 who had attended a college or university expected readmission to their former schools in the fall. Among the seven who already had college degrees—from Yale, Cornell, Columbia and New York University, among other institutions—was a PhD candidate at Fordham who had studied at the University of Florence and a Harvard Law School graduate studying French.
The program for veterans continued until 1950, with a total enrollment of 152. Sixteen veterans finished the college course, receiving the A.B. degree from the University of the State of New York. The Vassar Veterans Association was organized in the fall of 1946.
President MacCracken’s retirement was the theme for Founder’s Day. At 9 A.M., students serenaded him on the steps of the President’s House with original songs, to which he replied with an anecdotal history of Matthew Vassar and his college. The president then led a caravan of buses, cars and bicycles to the Founder’s grave at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, after which he conducted a historical tour of the campus while Cornelia Raymond ’83, the daughter of the college’s second president, conducted a tour of Main Building.
In the afternoon, students presented “Vassaga, Dedicated to Prexy,” a series of skits dramatizing significant periods in MacCracken’s presidency. In the evening, after a picnic supper and square dancing in the circle, the faculty staged a burlesque entitled “Life Begins at 65.”
In recognition of the president’s engagement with international education, students raised $8,000 for the Henry Noble MacCracken Foreign Student Scholarship Fund.
Don Juan Ramón Jiménez, Spanish lyric poet, lectured on "Poesía Abierta y Poesía Cerrada."
Cleanth Brooks, critic and teacher, lectured on "Yeats's Great Rooted Blossomer," a study of William Butler Yeats's “Among School Children”; Mr. Brooks stayed two days and talked to English majors and students in Aesthetics 255. A leading proponent of the formalist “New Criticism,” Brooks published one of its primary texts, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry, in 1947.
The American delegate to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt, called for a balanced recognition of all nations’ needs in the seventh Helen Kenyon Lecture, "The United Nations and You." The only woman among the six-member American delegation, led by Secretary of State James Byrnes, Mrs. Roosevelt told a large audience in the Students' Building that "this period in history is one of fluidity.... We must make up our minds whether we really want to build up the UNO...so that internaionalization and a lot of things good for both the United States and Russia will be possible.... It is in the balance which you do—build up your own strength, or look fairly at the needs of all and try though an international organization to give them what they really need."
A frequent visitor to the college from the early 1920s, when her late husband was a Vassar trustee, and a UN delegate from 1945 until 1952, Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the organization's Commission on Human Rights, presenting its Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the General Assembly in 1948. "The Russians," she reminded her Vassar audience, "are an able, self-reliant, pioneering people.... They have both the vitality and the insecurity of our early days."
The Helen Kenyon Lectureship Fund was established June 7, 1939 by the Associate Alumnae, the Class of 1905 and other friends of Helen Kenyon, '05, as a contribution to the 75thanniversary fund. Miss Kenyon was an alumnae trustee from 1923 until 1928 and Chairman of the Board from 1929 until 1939. The Miscellany News
At a corps review at West Point, Major General William Donovan, former head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), awarded the Bronze Medal for meritorious achievement, "in connection with military operations in Czechoslovakia from October 30, 1944, to May 8, 1945," to Maria Gulovitch ’47, a Czech scholarship student. The award to the Miss Gulovitch was the first such to a woman in the history of the Military Academy.
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, at the unveiling of a mural by the popular illustrator, Dean Cornwell, in the Eastern Airlines building in Rockefeller Plaza, read a telegram from the Vassar art department, members of which had been invited to the ceremony. Misspelling the artist’s name, the telegram said, “Vassar College cannot indulge in backing anyone so reactionary as Dean Cromwell.”
Department chair Agnes Rindge Claflin explained that the response referred to Cornwell’s art, not his politics. “The members of the department,” she said, “are concerned with the many unimaginative public monuments of our day and therefore regret that in commemorating the newest and most progressive means of transportation an outmoded style of art was chosen.”
“I guess,” Cornwell responded, “it’s because I paint human beings to look like the people I see around me.” The New York Times
The faculty capped a year of curricular review and revision by approving a new four-year plan, keyed to the idea of related studies rather than a major field. The new curriculum took effect in September of 1947.
La Muse S’Amuse, a fantasy written by students in the drama department, was presented in honor of President MacCracken by the Vassar Experimental Theatre. After the curtain fell, Winifred Smith ’04, chair of the drama department presented MacCracken with an album of photographs, programs and reviews of the 32 Experimental Theatre, Philaletheis and Founder’s Day plays in which he had acted. The album also included letters of appreciation from Miss Smith, Experimental Theatre director Mary Virginia Heinlein ’25, costume designer Aline Bernstein ’35 and the Experimental Theatre’s founder, Hallie Flanagan Davis.
In his baccalaureate address to the Class of 1946, President MacCracken sought to rescue the term “perfectionist” from “the opprobrium” that clung to it. “The perfectionist,” he said, “that people talk about is the one who is always judging others, never himself. He makes no allowances, he is intolerant, sanctimonious, pietistic, complaining. The true perfectionist condemns no one but simply presses toward the mark.” He urged the class to never lose trust “in that perfection which we know at the start we shall never attain.” The New York Times
Acting for the last time as “dispenser of diplomas,” as he had called himself a few years earlier, President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 353 members of the Class of 1946, Vassar’s largest graduating class to date. During the 31 years of his presidency, the college weathered the depression, prohibition and two world wars. In the cause of international understanding, he brought many foreign students to Vassar and sent them back to positions of leadership in their own countries. The college became, under his guidance, an academic community where trustees and administrators were not the governors of faculty and students, but their colleagues. During his term, Vassar grew: 11 more buildings; $12 million more dollars of endowment; 170,000 more books in its libraries.
In his commencement address, John G. Winant, former United States Ambassador to Great Britain and U.S. representative on the United Nations economic and social council, urged the graduates to resist the effects of finding the inevitable: that military victory had not “wiped out” injustice in the world. “I feel among many,” he said, “a premature discouragement, a post-war weariness that holds great danger for the future. It makes for indifference, for cynicism, for intolerance…. We have now to dig down to the roots of our social and economic problems. We have to draw out from the post-war soil the infertile elements of intolerance of man to man or of country to country and to replace them with the seeds of tolerance and social justice.”
Katherine Blodgett Hadley ’20, chair of the Vassar board of trustees, announced that the trustees, alumnae and other friends of the college had given more than $100,000 to endow the Henry Noble MacCracken Chair of English Literature. The New York Times
Grace Harriet Macurdy was awarded the King's Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom in recognition of her work in Greek and British war relief. Professor Macurdy taught Greek at Vassar from 1893 until 1937, and was chairman of the department from 1920 until 1937.
Sarah Gibson Blanding, the first woman to be president of Vassar, took office. From 1941 to 1946 she was dean of the New York State College of Home Economics at Cornell, the first woman to head a college there. Earlier, from 1928 until 1941, she was associate professor of political science and dean of women at the University of Kentucky.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead, associate curator and the American Museum of Natural History, spoke at the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living about accommodation by the emerging American character to the notion of world peace. Admitting the unique importance of America’s engaging in the world peace movement, she said that its success depended on three questions: how Americans adapt to change; how capable they are of conceiving of a new kind of world; under what circumstances would they assume responsibility for such a world.
Her answers were provocative: “Americans accept change as normal, but the live in terms of an ideal state of society, a dream to which they cling tenaciously. Only by including other people’s dreams within ours can we accept them as part of a future world. Americans believe that machines should be taken care of and people should be left alone, left to sink or swim. If we come to think of world organization, world trade, world exchange of ideas as parts of a great complicated machine, then we can take a lot of responsibility for keeping it in good repair and improving it from year to year by getting out new models.” The New York Times
President Emeritus MacCracken led the American delegation to the first international conference of Christians and Jews, bringing together representatives of the two religions from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia and eight European countries. The week-long conference was held in Oxford, England.
Modern dance, hitherto an uncredited activity in physical education, was admitted to the curriculum as a one point course, History and Theory of Dance.
Asserting that the film as a medium of communication had earned a place in the liberal arts curriculum, Professor Helen D. Lockwood ’12 directed a two-semester interdepartmental senior course, “Problems of Communication Through Documentary Films,” studying relationships between commercial, educational and civic motion pictures, analyzing scientific and documentary films and preparing film scripts based on research projects in other classes or other specially prepared topics.
The college welcomed 96 non-resident World War II veteran students, 435 freshmen from 39 states and nine foreign countries and incoming President Sarah Gibson Blanding at the 82nd Fall Convocation. Associate Professor of English Richard A. E. Brooks, returning from teaching GIs at the United States Army University in Biarritz, France, spoke of his experiences, and Miss Blanding urged the veterans and the 1,142 resident students to "make of your mental equipment the best that can be made of it.... The crisis through which the world is passing will be upon us for many years to come. The time you spend at Vassar is a period of preparatiion for meeting the hard and knotty problems for which you and the members of your generation will be ultimately responsible.
The veterans began their studies under the former four-year plan, as the three-year option adopted for wartime was ended.
Instructor in English Evelyn Yellowrobe, a great-granddaughter of the Sioux chief Sitting Bull, received the Indian Achievement Medal for 1946. The medal was established at A Century of Progress, the international exhibition held in Chicago in 1933-4. The Chicago Tribune
An audience of 1,400 listened as the unexpected enlivened the inauguration of Sarah Gibson Blanding as Vassar’s sixth president. Praise of Vassar for its choice by Frank L. McVey, president emeritus of the University of Kentucky, where the new president had begun her administrative career, was followed by the plaint of her next mentor, Cornell University President Edmund E. Day: “I don’t see why Vassar should have raided Cornell. We found this lady. She was lost down in Kentucky.”
The academic exercise took on a military air when Brigadier General Roger Anderson, dean of the academic board of the United States Military Academy at West Point and acting on behalf of Secretary of War Robert Patterson, awarded Miss Blanding the War department’s exceptional civilian service award and medal for her work with the war department during World War II. General Alexander also announced Blanding’s appointment to two new civilian advisory posts.
In her inaugural address, Blanding declared that the country’s colleges were among its most powerful forces in the battle against division and for international unity. “Our fathers,” she said, “made a union of the States which has endured, though it was founded on ideals untried and widely thought impractical. So we can make a union of the world, if we too have faith and courage, patience and unflinching resolution.
“If a college is to serve modern society, it cannot stand still. Indeed, to have a static policy would be the worst betrayal of the Vassar tradition. As Alice discovered in the world behind the looking glass, you must run very fast indeed, just to stay where you are when the very ground under your feet is moving.”
Katherine Blodgett Hadley ’20, chair of the Vassar board of trustees, formally inducted the new president, turning over to her the college seal and its charter. The New York Times
The new President Blanding faced an early crisis when the 46 veterans enrolled at Skidmore College challenged the 90 veterans at Vassar to field a football team. Despite considerable interest at The New York Times and the taunt it reported from one of New York University’s veterans—“we probably could give them a better game than Vassar”—her resolution was firm and clear. “Naturally the men students at Vassar were eager,” she said, “to accept the Skidmore challenge…. However, the college feels it must say no to any football at Vassar. Is has no facilities, no equipment and no coach. Furthermore college policy has never encouraged intercollegiate athletics of any kind. Vassar College has asked that its veterans restrict their athletic activities to sports for which the college has suitable facilities and to intramural competition.” The New York Times
Professor Emeritus of Greek Grace Harriet Macurdy died after an illness of several weeks, at the age of 80. Joining the Vassar faculty in 1893, she chaired the department from 1920 until her retirement in 1937. At that time, her colleague Professor Theodore Erck said “Grace Macurdy was a splendid representation of that generation of emancipated women who distinguished the faculties of American women’s colleges during the first third of the Twentieth Century, women who spurned marriage and devoted their entire lives and their entire energies to their chosen professions and careers.”
Professor of Economics Mabel Newcomer sailed on the transport Admiral Hugh Rodman for Germany, where she served in Berlin as chief consultant on taxation and revenue in the public finance branch of the Civil Affairs Division, Office of Military Government. Columbia University Press had published Newcomer’s Central and Local Finance in Germany and England in 1937.
Sterling Brown lectured on "Stereotypes in Literature." Professor Brown was visiting professor of English at Vassar for the a term in both 1945/46 and 1946/47.
Renaissance scholar and professor of art at Smith College, Frederick Hartt spoke on “The War’s Toll on Italian Art.” "Mr. Hartt revealed by his slides," said The Miscellany News, "the devastation done to priceless art treasures, palaces, medieval bridges, churches and theatres in principal cities such as Naples, Venice, Verona, Milan, Pisa, Genoa and Florence. With contrasting pictures he showed to what extent repairs had been made at great expense by both Italians and Americans. 'Even small towns in Italy are crowded with works of art, frescoes and altarpieces of importance and the large towns have immeasurable treasures. In the course of the Italian campaign dangers were of several varieties. Artillery, bombardment, fire, mine and dynamite were most cruel.'"
Hartt received the Bronze Star for his work in repatriating art looted by the Germans from Austrian monasteries and libraries, and he served on the board of directors of the American Committee for the Restoration of Italian Monuments. His Florentine Art Under Fire appeared in 1949, and he spoke at Vassar in 1951 on "The Meaning of the Medici Chapel."
The Vassar College Corps de Ballet was founded. A modern dance group was already in existence.
Simone de Beauvoir, French novelist, playwright and essayist, lectured on "La Vie Litteraire en France: un Ecrivain dans la Société."
In America, Day by Day [L’Amérique au jour le jour] (1954), de Beauvoir recalled her visit to Vassar and particularly the students. “Whatever nature lovers might say,” she wrote, “this mixture of freshness and artifice, those heavy, painted lips half-open over dazzlingly youthful teeth, the smiling eyes of a sixteen-year-old beneath long mascaraed lashes, seems quite attractive to me. Many of them have kept on their ski clothes. Others wear that outfit…that is almost a uniform at Vassar—blue jeans rolled above the ankles and a man’s shirt, either white or checkered in vivid colors, which they leave outside their trousers and knot in front with studied carelessness…. Dressed like boys, made up like streetwalkers, many of these young girls are knitting as they listen to me. I’m told their taste for knitting was cultivated during the war…. I suppose that for many of these students, knitting is an anticipation of marriage and maternity.” Simone de Beauvoir, America, Day by Day, tr. Carol Cosman
President Blanding announced that the board of trustees had voted to continue enrolling local veterans for the at least the next academic year. The board noted that the situation at colleges for men was still acute and that it was not likely to improve in the short term.
74 veterans were enrolled in the b term.
The Vassar Bank, established in 1925 by President MacCracken with the assistance of Poughkeepsie banker Peter Troy, was consolidated with the First National Bank of Poughkeepsie under that institution’s title. The bank had been set up so that women students—instead of, as was the custom, receiving allowances managed by the college—could have bank accounts just as men students did.
Marjorie Hope Nicolson, professor of English at the Graduate School, Columbia University, gave the eighth Helen Kenyon Lecture, "And Gladly Teche." This was one of several appearances by Nicolson at the college.
Seventy-five delegates from 30 Eastern colleges came to the campus for the Eastern Colleges Science Conference, a symposium on science, philosophy and society. The speakers included two prominent German émigrés, the philosopher of science Carl G. Hempel of Queens College and the philosopher, mathematician and physicist Philipp Frank from Harvard, along with Professor Hugh S. Taylor, dean of the graduate school at Princeton.
In a keynote address Kirtley F. Mather, professor of geology at Harvard and co-founder in 1937 of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, spoke on the challenges and promises of the atomic age. “Scientific research,” he said, “has opened wide a door from which two roads diverge into the future. One road leads to death and destruction, the other to abundant life and peaceful progress…. From the physical point of view, ours is a very small world. From the material point of view it is one of potential abundance from the practical point of view of inescapable interdependence.
“The far reaching decisions that must now be made because of these three facts lie unmistakably in the area of morals and ethics. It takes intelligence to construct atomic bombs, but it requires far more than intelligence to build a world of peace, security and freedom.”
The conference’s customary round of student demonstrations, papers and paper discussions in the fields of chemistry, the physical sciences, biology and psychology filled the delegates’ remaining time. The New York Times
As legislation, known as the Austin-Mahoney Bill, prohibiting educational discrimination because of color, race, religion or national background was pending in the New York State Legislature, the chairman of the executive committee of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Irving Miller, reported that a survey of 23 non-sectarian colleges in the state had shown that only four of the institutions—Brooklyn, City College, Sarah Lawrence and Vassar—asked no discriminatory questions in application materials.
Although she held firm against fielding a football team in October, President Blanding permitted the veterans studying at Vassar to form a basketball team, which was defeated in Saratoga Springs in its first game 41-32 by the men of Skidmore.
“The loudest cheer came during the intermission when it was announced that Skidmore girls with permission to remain out until 10 o’clock, could stay for the finish of the game.” The New York Times
With postwar inflation on the rise, the trustees voted to raise tuition, room and board for the coming year from $1,350 to $1,600. Tuition for day students was raised from $600 to $675.
In a six-year period Vassar’s comprehensive fees had increased 33 percent.
The festival of choruses from four women's colleges included performances by the Bryn Mawr Chorus, the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Smith College Glee Club and the Vassar College Choir.
The British literary critic and theorist of literature I.A. Richards gave the Folger Fund lecture, "The Sources of Our Common Thought."
President Truman signed Executive Order 9853, the “loyalty order,” establishing the “Federal Employees Loyalty Program,” a framework for the investigation by departmental loyalty boards of the “Americanism” of government employees and, should “derogatory information” be found, authorizing further field investigations.
An agreement signed by the presidents of the college and of the Students' Association eliminated the Students' Association, in existence since 1868, in favor of a College Government Association. The new plan provided for joint control by students, faculty and administration.
The Experimental Theatre presented the American première of Les Mouches by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Winifred Smith, '04, professor of drama. Professor Mary Virginia Heinlein ‘25 directed the production.
A retrospective exhibition of paintings by Professor Clarence K. Chatterton opened at the Vassar Art Gallery. When the young painter accepted a position at Vassar, in 1915, his mentor, the American painter and teacher Robert Henri, remarked, “I don’t know much about Vassar, but I think it’s a pretty good place, and if you decide to go up there, I’d stay just about a year or two.” When Chatterton retired in 1948, having taught some 3,000 students, he said, “I stayed at Vassar of 33 years because I just fell in love with the place.” The VC Encyclopedia
500 members of the Classes of ’92, ’93, ’97, ’98, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’32 and ’33 gathered on campus to renew acquaintances with each other and with the college. A series of five forums included “Education,” “You and Your Family,” “Labor Relations Day by Day,” “The Arts” and “Your Community.” Participants included attorney Harriet F. Pilpel ’32, Rhoda Harris ’16, head of the Albany School for Girls, and Dorothy Meigs Edileitz ’14, former president of the National Association of Day Nurseries.
Organized by Mary St. John Villard ’34, some 3,000 alumnae attended the first alumnae reunions since 1942, held on five consecutive weekends. During the war all reunions had been suspended, and they resumed in a new design. Eschewing parades and nostalgia, the alumnae attended panel discussions and forums in which they exchanged ideas about the family, the arts, education, economic issues and the community.
The second weekend of alumnae reunions brought over 600 members of the Classes of 1915-1919 and 1934-39 back to the campus. They joined in panels and forums to discuss the responsibilities of the college woman as a citizen of her home, her community and the world. At the concluding luncheon, Vera Micheles Dean, a former trustee and the director of research for the Foreign Policy Association, spoke on “Trends in American Foreign Policy.” Focusing on the rising concern in America about a growing communist threat, Mrs. Dean declared that “fear and reaction” were not appropriate responses, and she predicted that they would not over time be successful. The United States, she said, with its strong humanitarian tradition had nevertheless failed in providing help for the 1 million people displaced in Europe. America’s postwar reach for markets rather than trade prolonged people’s misery, and conditions such as these fostered communism.
Dean urged Americans to support and strengthen those liberal forces working for progress and social reform abroad. Recognizing that “in almost every country except America, liberalism means some form of socialism,” she pointed to the socialist program in Britain as “the greatest experiment in our time.” The New York Times
Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to 11 reunion classes at the fifth and final reunion weekend at Vassar. The chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, she declared that the bill on human rights currently being drafted would be “basic for international understanding.”
Reconciling democratic and collectivist conceptions of human rights would, she said, require patience, clarification and compromise. “My hope,” she added, “is that we will include as many human rights as possible, knowing that the words will mean different things to different nations but that these varying interpretations will draw closer and closer together during the coming years.” The New York Times
The president of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, Charles Phelps Taft II, son of William Howard Taft and the former director of economic affairs at the State Department, addressed the Class of 1947 at Commencement. Taft, whose daughter Lucia was among the graduates, said that economics and economic concerns had come to dominate the spiritual, intellectual, political and commercial life of the country “to a degree that is positively dangerous.” “Marx’s economic determinism” he said, “has nearly conquered us, and economics has become to most of us the rock of our salvation. Our obsession is with production, or else with the economic reform of what production has brought about.”
Taft urged the graduates not to overlook the economic elements entirely but to allow the “spiritual element” or the “mental” element to be active rather than passive in their considerations of problems and solutions. “The Christian faith,” he declared, “and the Christian spirit is the essential lubricant for the successful working of any economic system, but the most essential for our free system. It is the very heart of our democracy.”
President Blanding conferred the bachelor’s degree on 272 members of the Class of 1947, and in her charge to the class she said that application of their college training required moral fiber as well as intellectual curiosity. A master’s degree in arts and two in science were also granted. The New York Times
As part of the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living, 21 young women from 11 colleges took part in an experimental teacher-training program to accelerate their entry into teaching. Half of the group were undergraduates, earning credit, and two, Vassar ’47, were scheduled to take charge of a two-room rural school in Maryland in September.
The practice teachers’ students were children of parents enrolled in the institute.
President Blanding was one of two women named by President Truman to the 10-member board to develop and implement a selection policy for the new Fulbright international exchange scholarships, authorized by Congress in 1946.
The most sweeping curricular changes in decades went into effect with the opening of college. Intended to strengthen general education, reinforce the traditional liberal arts and emphasize the interrelatedness of disciplines, the new program discarded the “major,” as such. Students, working with faculty advisors, were expected to work out individualized programs of study that could cut across disciplines, departments and divisions. If a student’s interest fell outside a single discipline or department, the advisor helped her plan related studies for her course of study. Ideally students were discovering and concentrating on a theme or a subject and not majoring in a department.
Some requirements remained, and two were strengthened. Students were now required to study in each of five major fields: natural sciences, social sciences, historical development, arts and foreign languages. Within natural sciences, students were required to study both a physical science and a biological science. But only forty points, one-third of the total required for graduation, needed to be taken within a single department.
Another departure from traditional studies in the new plan was the granting of credit for “collateral studies.” Students could gain credit toward graduation for fieldwork, work in the community or summer work. Such exploratory, self-guided study added a practical element to a student’s program and provided experience upon which to base further modification of her program of study.
A new introductory course, “Contemporary Society,” a study of certain social problems using the materials and methods of economics, sociology, anthropology and political science, was offered to freshmen. The four collaborating instructors held weekly staff meetings to plan and present the common class presentations.
A very popular course, enrolling as many as 100 students, it was extended to include sophomores and, in 1949, made a part of the regular curriculum.
The study of Portuguese was also introduced, to address growing student interest in Latin America, particularly Brazil.
The college began its academic year with 1,336 students and 38 foreign students representing 14 foreign countries. The freshman class contained 404 students.
Professor of Economics Mabel Newcomer, returning to the college after eight months in occupied Berlin as chief consultant on taxation and revenue in the Civil Affairs Division of the Office of Military Government, spoke at Convocation. She reported that the joint occupation of Germany by the four Allied powers had the potential of promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. She regretted that “many people over here, and even in Berlin, are engaged in building the wall between the Russians and ourselves even higher, and that the Russians themselves reinforce this wall by refusing to permit people or ideas to cross the barrier.” The New York Times
Under the leadership of Republican congressman Parnell Thomas, the House Un-American Activities Committee issued subpoenas to members of the motion picture industry whom they thought were Communists or had Communist leanings.
The Committee for Economic Development, an independent and non-partisan group founded by business leaders to aid the nation’s transition to peacetime, announced President Blanding’s election as the first woman on its board.
In honor of the fourth centenary of the birth of Cervantes, the Magic Show by Cervantes, with music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was presented by the Department of Spanish, assisted by John W. Peirce, professor of music, Martha J. Wolfe '48, and L. Gale Turnhull '50. A special exhibition was arranged in the Library.
English poet, editor and critic Stephen Spender gave the Folger Fund lecture, "What Is Modern in Modern Poetry?"
The Margaret Stiles Halleck Chair of Social Sciences was established by the bequest of Annie A. Halleck, sister-in-law of Margaret S. Halleck '87. The chair was first held by Joseph Kirk Folsom, professor of sociology from1931 until 1959.
The college announced the discovery in Italy by Professor of Art Richard Krautheimer and Professore Enrico Josi of the Commissione di Archaeologia Sacra of the Vatican of a Constantinian chapel dating to the 4th century CE. The chapel, built into catacombs, lay under the pavement of the church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome, and its discovery occurred after Allied bombing during the war destroyed the roof, façade and pavement of the 12th century church.
The excavations were sponsored by the Vatican and, through the Lucy Maynard Salmon Fund for Research, the college.
The Vassar chapter of Students for Democratic Action held its first meeting.
The college hosted a national intercollegiate arts conference, gathering students, teachers and artists representing every fine art from across the country to discuss “The Creative Arts in Contemporary Society.” Panel discussions focused on the challenges of new artistic media, trends in literature and the arts, the creative process and the scope of public involvement in and understanding of the arts.
The American studies scholar and literary critic F.O. Matthiessen from Harvard gave the keynote address. The drama and dance panel included Irwin Shaw, playwright and novelist, and pioneering modern dancer Merce Cunningham. The panel on art and music included the social realist painter Ben Shahn and the composer, poet and philosopher John Cage. The poet, critic and former member of the Vassar English department, John Malcolm Brinnin, spoke on contemporary literary trends, and the Yale philosopher of theology, metaphysics and aesthetics, Paul Weiss, offered a summary and led the closing discussion.
Professor Edith A. Roberts and Mildred D. Southwick ’26 of the plant science department reported to the Electron Microscope Society of America that they had determined that Vitamin A, heretofore thought of as being formed primarily in fish livers, was in fact formed in young plants and vegetables, in the form of carotene. In October, the team reported more fully on their technique in “Contribution of Studies with the Electron Microscope to Studies of the Relationship of Chromoplasts to Carotene Bodies and Carotene Bodies to Vitamin A,” in Plant Physiology.
The Vassar Chapel Choir and the New York University Glee Club gave a joint concert in the Chapel. The combined choral groups, numbering 160 singers, sang in New York City two weeks later.
President Blanding conferred the bachelor’s degree on 175 members of the Class of 1948 at Commencement.
Vassar trustee and former director of recreation in the Federal Office of Defense Health and Welfare Services Mark A. McCloskey delivered the commencement address. A pioneer in the integration of community service and education, McCloskey, director of community education for the New York City schools, spoke on “The Civilized Citizens.”
2,500 delegates to the biennial session of the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches of the United States elected Helen Kenyon ’05, former chair of the Vassar board of trustees, the church’s moderator. She was the first woman to receive the denomination’s highest honor.
President Blanding was the only woman and the only educator among the 12 nominees sent to the Senate by President Truman for a European recovery advisory board to Economic Cooperation Administrator Paul G. Hoffman. Other nominees included former New York governor Herbert H. Lehman, Eric Johnston, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Allan Kline, president of the Farm Bureau Federation and the secretary-treasurers of both the CIO and the AFL.
Dr. Marion Tait, former associate professor of Greek and Latin at Mount Holyoke College, succeeded C. Mildred Thompson ’03 as dean. Sydnor Walker ’13, formerly an officer with the Rockefeller Foundation, was appointed assistant to the president.
President Blanding conferred the bachelor of arts degree on 188 seniors, the last group to complete their degree under the three year plan. In her commencement address, Agnes Ernst Meyer—with Miss Blanding, one of two women on President Truman’s Commission on Higher Education—promised the graduates that they were entering upon “the most promising era of all human history,” with possibilities that “stagger the imagination.”
In her remarks, Katharine Blodgett Hadley '20, chair of the board of trustees, conveyed the board’s highest tribute and its gratitude to Dean C. Mildred Thompson ’03, who was retiring after 40 years on the faculty, 25 of them as dean. The New York Times
Topics for the workshops and seminars at the 23rd session of the Vassar’s Summer Institute for Family and Community Living included “Child Development and Family Relationship and Guidance,” “Parent Education Leadership,” “Family Needs and Community Resources” and “The School Curriculum.”
Entire families often attended the summer sessions. Children lived separately from parents and participated in special activities while parents attended the adult education events.
The college welcomed 390 freshmen, 54.9 percent of whom came from private schools and 37.4 percent from public institutions. Both types of secondary school had been attended by 7.7 percent.
Reporting on her work with President Truman’s Commission on Higher Education, President Blanding expressed her sense of the college’s place in higher education’s future: “I hope that Vassar College will always have something going on, that we will always be experimentally minded. If Vassar learns how to do something better than any other college, we will be affecting all of education in the country. I think that, perhaps, is our justification for being.” Vassar Alumnae Magazine
Harry Truman defeated Republican Thomas Dewey in the presidential election. In a campus poll Vassar students voted for Dewey, 558 to 128.
Denis W. Brogan, professor of political science, Cambridge University, lectured on "The Present Political Situation in France."
Denis W. Brogan, professor of political science, Cambridge University, lectured on "The Present Political Situation in France."
The Vassar Glee Club joined the New York University Glee Club in New York City for its 20th annual Town Hall concert. This was the first time the NYU group had performed with a guest ensemble in the annual event, and it was the first appearance for the Vassar club at Town Hall.
Vassar received a five-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation to establish fieldwork in the social sciences. Typical area study trips sponsored and arranged by the Field Work Office through 1959-60 included those to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Boston-Lowell area and Puerto Rico.
German-born Uruguayan musicologist Francisco Curt Lange, director of the Instituto Interamericano de Musicologia, Montevideo, gave an illustrated lecture on "The History and Evolution of Music in Latin America." Born Franz Curt Lange in Ellenburg, Germany, in 1903 and trained as an architecht as well as in musicology, Lange came to South America in 1923, and quickly established himself as the leading scholar of Uruguayan, Brazilian and Argentinian music of the 18th and 19th centuries. In his illustrated lecture at Vassar, he noted that musicology had a short history in Latin America and told his audience in Skinner Hall that many of the original manuscripts of the region's music had been destroyed by disaster and carelessness.
Music by contemporary Latin American musicians, he said, according to The Miscellany News, was "patterned by, (1) the national tendency, which included their heritage of primitive and folklore rhythms and (2) the universal syncopation tendency. Workers in music are now trying to bring about a synchronization of these trends to produce a new heritage of Latin American music. Dr. Lange showed slides of native musicians and carnivals and explained many of the native instruments and musical practices."
The trustees approved a program of extension courses to meet the needs of local men and women. In the second semester four courses with a total enrollment of one hundred and eleven were given; in the first semester of 1949-50 six courses with an enrollment of ninety; in the second semester of 1949-50 three courses were attended by 53 students. The program was discontinued at the end of 1949-50.
The college released President Blanding’s annual report for 1947-1948, in which she addressed the inequalities of access to private colleges for racial minorities and the importance of strengthening resources for scholarship aid. “There has been much in the press of late,” she noted, “concerning equal opportunities for Negro students, and I should like to…say that Vassar would welcome more applications from well-qualified Negro students.” “We rejoice,” she declared, “that at Vassar our admissions system makes no distinction as to race, creed or color.”
Vassar, she said, had long since recognized the financial barrier to higher education often faced by qualified students, but like other private colleges, it “must meet the larger part of its budget from student fees. However, Vassar can be proud of its record of student scholarship aid made possible by the support of friends and alumnae. This year 23 percent of our students received financial assistance. It is my hope that this figure can soon be raised to a point where at least 25 percent receive aid from the college.”
Reflecting on the implications for liberal arts colleges of the recent report of the President’s Commission on Higher Education, on which she served, President Blanding concluded, “I believe the small privately endowed liberal arts college will continue as long as it provides an education which has meaning for contemporary life. And, indeed, the issues raised in the report offer a special opportunity for the private colleges, uniquely qualified as they are, to experiment with teaching techniques and courses of study appropriate to our democratic way of life.”
The president reported that the college’s endowment and annuities totaled $13,833,539 and that aggregated funds received for the year were $439,286. The New York Times
“Perfectly charming without seeming modest or self-absorbed,” English poet, critic and eccentric Edith Sitwell, in turban and jewels, met with students and lectured on "Modern English Poetry.” A student in Professor Barbara Swain's English 341 class in contemporary poetry, Katharine "Tinka" Cosgriff '50 was among the students invited to "sip sherry with Miss Sitwell and some of the faculty" at Alumnae House before Miss Sitwell's lecture. Describing the experience in The Miscellany News, Cosgriff reported, "among the students there was considerable panic as to just what one should say to Miss Sitwell...and some of the faculty looked as if they were wondering the same thing." Asked by a student "if she considered herself 'baroque,' Miss Sitwell replied 'Heaven forbid! If anything I am Greek.'"
In her lecture in the Students' Building, Cosgriff wrote, Sitwell "traced trends, but always with a personal interpretation, praising Yeats while taking a dim viw of Housman. Most outstanding was Miss Sitwell's characterization of a period in a few words. 'The Victorian age,' she said, 'was that time when strong men cried upon seeing a few ducks on a pond....' She discussed the misconception of free verse as an easy way out for amateurs and called real free verse 'melody stripped of its pitch.'"
Accompanied by composer John Cage and under the auspices of the department of physical education, dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham gave a recital in the Students' Building. The program, almost exclusively dances by Cage, included "A Diversion," "Short Suite," "Root of an Unfocus," "Totem Ancestor," "Orestes," "Experiences," "Mysterious Adventure," "Dream" and "Monkey Dances." The music for "Monkey Dances" was by French composer Erik Satie. Cage and Cunningham were participants in February 1948 in the Vassar Arts Conference. The Miscellany News
Merce Cunningham also spoke and performed at Vassar in November 1954, May 1966, February 1967 and February 1972. He spoke on campus about films of his dancing in February 1983.
The college welcomed 350 students from colleges and universities to a three-day spring conference of the Student Christian Movement of New York State. The theme of the conference, “applied Christianity,” was taken up in the keynote speech of Dr. Robert W. Searle, executive secretary of the Human Relations Commission of the Protestant Council of New York City. Citing a recent survey that indicated that 95 percent of the respondents professed a belief in God but over half of them believed that religion had no bearing on economic or political life, Dr. Searle charged that “the church has been culpably negligent in the teaching of applied religion—that is, the relation of religion to every day life.” The New York Times
Barker Fairley, Professor of Germanic Languages at Columbia University, gave the Goethe Bicentennial Lecture, "Goethe: the Man and the Myth."
"Friends of Professor Grace H. Macurdy gathered in the Classical Museum to honor her memory and to see an exhibition of more than 200 Greek vases and figurines left to the College upon her death. The collection was made by Professor Macurdy and her friend Professor J.A.K Thomson of the University of London over a long period of years. At her death half of the collection was consigned to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University. Professor Inez Ryberg, the Curator of the Classical Museum, accepted the bequest, explaining its significance, and introduced the speakers, Theodore H. Erck, Professor of Greek, and President MacCracken." Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ‘94, The Vassar Alumnae Magazine
Professor Macurdy died on October 23, 1946.
The highly respected American painter Abraham Rattner spoke in the Ely studio about the Vassar Art Gallery’s exhibition of his work—the first in his birthplace, Poughkeepsie. Known for the luminous colors in his work, Mr. Rattner, a camoflage artist during World War I, described a picture, Georgine Szalay'50 reported in The Miscellany News, as a "world of relationships.... Yet for him color has possibilities of deeper expression and is a means for the feeling of expression.... He works sometimes for years on a painting, establishing the correspondence of every square inch on the canvas by building up the areas of colors. He reaches luminosity by laying different colors one over the other."
The Vassarion listed, in addition to the five college associations (Students’ Association, Political Association, Athletic Association, Community Church and Philaletheis), some 30 clubs and extra-curricular groups, two newspapers, two magazines and the yearbook. An alumna, visiting the campus the following year, observed, “This intensification of the organized and scheduled extracurricular life…is the most striking feature of the current scene at Vassar. To the returning alumna whose college years were both more snobbish and sectarian, on the one hand, and more Bohemian, rebellious, and lyrical, on the other, the administrative cast, so to speak, of the present Vassar mold is both disquieting and praiseworthy….” Mary McCarthy ’33, “The Vassar Girl,” Holiday
President Blanding announced a grant of $37,500 from the Carnegie Corporation for the development of fieldwork in the curriculum. The departments of economics, sociology and anthropology, political science, psychology and child study participated under the grant. “This generous gift,” the president said, “…will enable Vassar greatly to enhance an aspect of its teaching program which is vitally important, and with which the college has experimented with considerable success.”
Clarice Leavell Pennock ’19 was appointed director of the Field Work Office.
The president also announced a gift of $24,000 in memory of Eleanor Dodge Child ’25, warden of the college from 1931 until 1941 and a trustee from 1942 until her death in 1948. The gift was used to furnish a student lounge and to establish a fund for special aid to students.
At Commencement, in addition to the 259 graduates in the Class of 1949, two former GIs, completing their work at Vassar, received degrees from the University of the State of New York. They were the second and third veterans to complete degree work, and 25 remained as undergraduates. Ten master’s degrees were also awarded.
Dr. Millicent McIntosh, dean of Barnard College, apparently unaware that students at Vassar had been doing seven hours per week of housework and messenger service since 1942, warned graduates heading toward marriage that they would be doing housework and that “wise acceptance of your situation” would “save you much frustration.” She also counseled those hoping for both marriage and a career that “fundamentally the man must be the person whose career comes first, because woman’s biological role is not to support and defend the family but to bear and rear the children.”
Katharine Blodgett Hadley '20, chair of the board of trustees, announced that the college had received a gift of $2 million from the Old Dominion Foundation of Washington, DC, for the establishment of the Mary Conover Mellon Fund for the Advancement of Education. The purpose of the foundation was the exploration and encouragement of those conditions in the life of the college that contribute most to mental and emotional health.
The fund, named in honor of Mrs. Mellon, a graduate in the Class of 1926, established a long-range educational program and a more specific, complementary counseling program. In her remarks about the gift, President Blanding noted that both Mrs. Mellon and her husband, Paul Mellon, the president of the foundation, were interested in “the possibilities of applying to the development of the individual during the educational process some of the insights and techniques provided by the new sciences of psychology and psychiatry.”
Development of the new programs was the responsibility of psychiatrist Dr. Carl Binger, a member of the faculty of the Cornell University Medical College. Yale University received a similar gift at this time from the Old Dominion Foundation. The New York Times
The chair of the board of the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students, Dean Harry J. Carman of Columbia, announced that Vassar had assured a full tuition scholarship to Ruth M. Graham, whom the service had referred to Vassar and who had been admitted to the Class of 1953.
Barbara Scarlett ’52 defeated Mrs. Adrienne Goldberg Ayares, representing Goucher College to win the Eastern intercollegiate women’s singles tennis championship. She and a partner also won the doubles title.
The New York Times reported that President Blanding was one of several college heads rejecting or resisting the request made by Georgia Democratic Congressman John S. Wood, chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, that colleges and universities send textbook lists to the committee. A college spokesman said that Miss Blanding invited the committee to inspect the Library’s 260,000 volumes, but that she had told the committee, “If the request was made for the purpose of examining textbooks and supplementary reading material, it strikes at the very heart of academic freedom.”
The Lucy Maynard Salmon Chair of American History, honoring the pioneering social historian and founder of Vassar's history department, was established through alumnae gifts. Very little history was taught at the college before 1887, when Professor Salmon (1853-1927) established the department of history. It's chairman for nearly forty years, Salmon urged students to "go to the sources" and to consider "history" not only as contained in the acts and texts of governments and nations but also as revealed in the evidence of everyday life, as exemplified in her 1913 study History in a Back Yard.
Professor of Astronomy Maud W. Makemson, director of the Vassar Observatory, reported a labor of many years was successfully completed, and she was able to provide “all necessary conditions of any proposed correlation between the Maya and Christian calendars.” The college had previously published Dr. Makemson’s The Maya Correlation Problem (1946), and her Astronomical Tables of the Maya had been published in 1943 by the Carnegie Institute. She was assisted in the completion of her work by Louise Howe Evans ’52. The New York Times
Dean Marion Tait spoke at Convocation as the college began its 85th academic year, urging that “in education, as in any enterprise, the really important first things are the quality and sincerity of our mutual care and respect for each other as individual human beings. This is what any kind of creative living depends upon, and it is what will finally determine our effectiveness in approaching our ideal of democratic living.”
Her freshman auditors numbered 392.
Introduced by Eleanor Roosevelt and under the auspices of the college and the Dutchess County Council on World Affairs, Columbia Broadcasting System journalist Edward R. Murrow lectured in the Chapel on "America Is an Island." "America, the island, is regarded," wrote Barbar Lechtman '52 in The Miscellany News, "with both fear and admiration, but unfortunately, Mr. Murrow said, the fear far outweighs the admiration. And though we my believe that we have found the answer to th political, social and economic questions of our time, others outside do not agree. Outside we are regarded rather as a 'test tube,' with many problems as yet unsolved." Looking critically at United States perceptions of and relations with the Soviet Union and Western Europe—Germany in particular—Murrow predicted that the Marshall Plan for European recovery would fail.
In conclusion, Murrow, said Miss Lechtman, asked, "What should our future course be? Mr. Murrow has a few suggestions. We in this country must show the many people looking for new allegiances, the hungry people looking for a system, that we have a system to which they can turn for bread and security.... We cannot, according to economic expedience, oppose dictatorship in Russia and support it in Spain and elsewhere. We must recognize our friends and the fact that our power and position demand a high degree of steadiness and calmness. We must create a public opinion that will sustain a foreign policy. But above all, 'the most urgent task that confronts the world today is education.'" The Miscellany News
Edward R. Murrow interviewed President Sarah Gibson Blanding in the President's House via television from New York City on his interview program, "Person to Person" in March 1959, and a few years after his death in 1965, Murrow's journalism was the subject in the fall of 1974 of a two month survey at Vassar that included showings of many of his programs, and that culminated in a panel discussion among several of his friends and colleagues.
Poet Muriel Rukeyser '34 lectured on "The Life of Poetry." During her residency, she met with various English classes and student groups. 1n 1940, she gave a series of five lectures on poetry at the college.
Ralph Bunche, the director of the United Nations Department of Trusteeship, addressed the college and the Dutchess County Council on World Affairs on "The United Nations Peace Effort."