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.