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."