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.