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.