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.