Vassar received a five-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation to establish fieldwork in the social sciences. Typical area study trips sponsored and arranged by the Field Work Office through 1959-60 included those to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Boston-Lowell area and Puerto Rico.
German-born Uruguayan musicologist Francisco Curt Lange, director of the Instituto Interamericano de Musicologia, Montevideo, gave an illustrated lecture on "The History and Evolution of Music in Latin America." Born Franz Curt Lange in Ellenburg, Germany, in 1903 and trained as an architecht as well as in musicology, Lange came to South America in 1923, and quickly established himself as the leading scholar of Uruguayan, Brazilian and Argentinian music of the 18th and 19th centuries. In his illustrated lecture at Vassar, he noted that musicology had a short history in Latin America and told his audience in Skinner Hall that many of the original manuscripts of the region's music had been destroyed by disaster and carelessness.
Music by contemporary Latin American musicians, he said, according to The Miscellany News, was "patterned by, (1) the national tendency, which included their heritage of primitive and folklore rhythms and (2) the universal syncopation tendency. Workers in music are now trying to bring about a synchronization of these trends to produce a new heritage of Latin American music. Dr. Lange showed slides of native musicians and carnivals and explained many of the native instruments and musical practices."
The trustees approved a program of extension courses to meet the needs of local men and women. In the second semester four courses with a total enrollment of one hundred and eleven were given; in the first semester of 1949-50 six courses with an enrollment of ninety; in the second semester of 1949-50 three courses were attended by 53 students. The program was discontinued at the end of 1949-50.
The college released President Blanding’s annual report for 1947-1948, in which she addressed the inequalities of access to private colleges for racial minorities and the importance of strengthening resources for scholarship aid. “There has been much in the press of late,” she noted, “concerning equal opportunities for Negro students, and I should like to…say that Vassar would welcome more applications from well-qualified Negro students.” “We rejoice,” she declared, “that at Vassar our admissions system makes no distinction as to race, creed or color.”
Vassar, she said, had long since recognized the financial barrier to higher education often faced by qualified students, but like other private colleges, it “must meet the larger part of its budget from student fees. However, Vassar can be proud of its record of student scholarship aid made possible by the support of friends and alumnae. This year 23 percent of our students received financial assistance. It is my hope that this figure can soon be raised to a point where at least 25 percent receive aid from the college.”
Reflecting on the implications for liberal arts colleges of the recent report of the President’s Commission on Higher Education, on which she served, President Blanding concluded, “I believe the small privately endowed liberal arts college will continue as long as it provides an education which has meaning for contemporary life. And, indeed, the issues raised in the report offer a special opportunity for the private colleges, uniquely qualified as they are, to experiment with teaching techniques and courses of study appropriate to our democratic way of life.”
The president reported that the college’s endowment and annuities totaled $13,833,539 and that aggregated funds received for the year were $439,286. The New York Times
“Perfectly charming without seeming modest or self-absorbed,” English poet, critic and eccentric Edith Sitwell, in turban and jewels, met with students and lectured on "Modern English Poetry.” A student in Professor Barbara Swain's English 341 class in contemporary poetry, Katharine "Tinka" Cosgriff '50 was among the students invited to "sip sherry with Miss Sitwell and some of the faculty" at Alumnae House before Miss Sitwell's lecture. Describing the experience in The Miscellany News, Cosgriff reported, "among the students there was considerable panic as to just what one should say to Miss Sitwell...and some of the faculty looked as if they were wondering the same thing." Asked by a student "if she considered herself 'baroque,' Miss Sitwell replied 'Heaven forbid! If anything I am Greek.'"
In her lecture in the Students' Building, Cosgriff wrote, Sitwell "traced trends, but always with a personal interpretation, praising Yeats while taking a dim viw of Housman. Most outstanding was Miss Sitwell's characterization of a period in a few words. 'The Victorian age,' she said, 'was that time when strong men cried upon seeing a few ducks on a pond....' She discussed the misconception of free verse as an easy way out for amateurs and called real free verse 'melody stripped of its pitch.'"
Accompanied by composer John Cage and under the auspices of the department of physical education, dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham gave a recital in the Students' Building. The program, almost exclusively dances by Cage, included "A Diversion," "Short Suite," "Root of an Unfocus," "Totem Ancestor," "Orestes," "Experiences," "Mysterious Adventure," "Dream" and "Monkey Dances." The music for "Monkey Dances" was by French composer Erik Satie. Cage and Cunningham were participants in February 1948 in the Vassar Arts Conference. The Miscellany News
Merce Cunningham also spoke and performed at Vassar in November 1954, May 1966, February 1967 and February 1972. He spoke on campus about films of his dancing in February 1983.
The college welcomed 350 students from colleges and universities to a three-day spring conference of the Student Christian Movement of New York State. The theme of the conference, “applied Christianity,” was taken up in the keynote speech of Dr. Robert W. Searle, executive secretary of the Human Relations Commission of the Protestant Council of New York City. Citing a recent survey that indicated that 95 percent of the respondents professed a belief in God but over half of them believed that religion had no bearing on economic or political life, Dr. Searle charged that “the church has been culpably negligent in the teaching of applied religion—that is, the relation of religion to every day life.” The New York Times
Barker Fairley, Professor of Germanic Languages at Columbia University, gave the Goethe Bicentennial Lecture, "Goethe: the Man and the Myth."
"Friends of Professor Grace H. Macurdy gathered in the Classical Museum to honor her memory and to see an exhibition of more than 200 Greek vases and figurines left to the College upon her death. The collection was made by Professor Macurdy and her friend Professor J.A.K Thomson of the University of London over a long period of years. At her death half of the collection was consigned to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University. Professor Inez Ryberg, the Curator of the Classical Museum, accepted the bequest, explaining its significance, and introduced the speakers, Theodore H. Erck, Professor of Greek, and President MacCracken." Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ‘94, The Vassar Alumnae Magazine
Professor Macurdy died on October 23, 1946.
The highly respected American painter Abraham Rattner spoke in the Ely studio about the Vassar Art Gallery’s exhibition of his work—the first in his birthplace, Poughkeepsie. Known for the luminous colors in his work, Mr. Rattner, a camoflage artist during World War I, described a picture, Georgine Szalay'50 reported in The Miscellany News, as a "world of relationships.... Yet for him color has possibilities of deeper expression and is a means for the feeling of expression.... He works sometimes for years on a painting, establishing the correspondence of every square inch on the canvas by building up the areas of colors. He reaches luminosity by laying different colors one over the other."
The Vassarion listed, in addition to the five college associations (Students’ Association, Political Association, Athletic Association, Community Church and Philaletheis), some 30 clubs and extra-curricular groups, two newspapers, two magazines and the yearbook. An alumna, visiting the campus the following year, observed, “This intensification of the organized and scheduled extracurricular life…is the most striking feature of the current scene at Vassar. To the returning alumna whose college years were both more snobbish and sectarian, on the one hand, and more Bohemian, rebellious, and lyrical, on the other, the administrative cast, so to speak, of the present Vassar mold is both disquieting and praiseworthy….” Mary McCarthy ’33, “The Vassar Girl,” Holiday
President Blanding announced a grant of $37,500 from the Carnegie Corporation for the development of fieldwork in the curriculum. The departments of economics, sociology and anthropology, political science, psychology and child study participated under the grant. “This generous gift,” the president said, “…will enable Vassar greatly to enhance an aspect of its teaching program which is vitally important, and with which the college has experimented with considerable success.”
Clarice Leavell Pennock ’19 was appointed director of the Field Work Office.
The president also announced a gift of $24,000 in memory of Eleanor Dodge Child ’25, warden of the college from 1931 until 1941 and a trustee from 1942 until her death in 1948. The gift was used to furnish a student lounge and to establish a fund for special aid to students.
At Commencement, in addition to the 259 graduates in the Class of 1949, two former GIs, completing their work at Vassar, received degrees from the University of the State of New York. They were the second and third veterans to complete degree work, and 25 remained as undergraduates. Ten master’s degrees were also awarded.
Dr. Millicent McIntosh, dean of Barnard College, apparently unaware that students at Vassar had been doing seven hours per week of housework and messenger service since 1942, warned graduates heading toward marriage that they would be doing housework and that “wise acceptance of your situation” would “save you much frustration.” She also counseled those hoping for both marriage and a career that “fundamentally the man must be the person whose career comes first, because woman’s biological role is not to support and defend the family but to bear and rear the children.”
Katharine Blodgett Hadley '20, chair of the board of trustees, announced that the college had received a gift of $2 million from the Old Dominion Foundation of Washington, DC, for the establishment of the Mary Conover Mellon Fund for the Advancement of Education. The purpose of the foundation was the exploration and encouragement of those conditions in the life of the college that contribute most to mental and emotional health.
The fund, named in honor of Mrs. Mellon, a graduate in the Class of 1926, established a long-range educational program and a more specific, complementary counseling program. In her remarks about the gift, President Blanding noted that both Mrs. Mellon and her husband, Paul Mellon, the president of the foundation, were interested in “the possibilities of applying to the development of the individual during the educational process some of the insights and techniques provided by the new sciences of psychology and psychiatry.”
Development of the new programs was the responsibility of psychiatrist Dr. Carl Binger, a member of the faculty of the Cornell University Medical College. Yale University received a similar gift at this time from the Old Dominion Foundation. The New York Times
The chair of the board of the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students, Dean Harry J. Carman of Columbia, announced that Vassar had assured a full tuition scholarship to Ruth M. Graham, whom the service had referred to Vassar and who had been admitted to the Class of 1953.
Barbara Scarlett ’52 defeated Mrs. Adrienne Goldberg Ayares, representing Goucher College to win the Eastern intercollegiate women’s singles tennis championship. She and a partner also won the doubles title.
The New York Times reported that President Blanding was one of several college heads rejecting or resisting the request made by Georgia Democratic Congressman John S. Wood, chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, that colleges and universities send textbook lists to the committee. A college spokesman said that Miss Blanding invited the committee to inspect the Library’s 260,000 volumes, but that she had told the committee, “If the request was made for the purpose of examining textbooks and supplementary reading material, it strikes at the very heart of academic freedom.”
The Lucy Maynard Salmon Chair of American History, honoring the pioneering social historian and founder of Vassar's history department, was established through alumnae gifts. Very little history was taught at the college before 1887, when Professor Salmon (1853-1927) established the department of history. It's chairman for nearly forty years, Salmon urged students to "go to the sources" and to consider "history" not only as contained in the acts and texts of governments and nations but also as revealed in the evidence of everyday life, as exemplified in her 1913 study History in a Back Yard.
Professor of Astronomy Maud W. Makemson, director of the Vassar Observatory, reported a labor of many years was successfully completed, and she was able to provide “all necessary conditions of any proposed correlation between the Maya and Christian calendars.” The college had previously published Dr. Makemson’s The Maya Correlation Problem (1946), and her Astronomical Tables of the Maya had been published in 1943 by the Carnegie Institute. She was assisted in the completion of her work by Louise Howe Evans ’52. The New York Times
Dean Marion Tait spoke at Convocation as the college began its 85th academic year, urging that “in education, as in any enterprise, the really important first things are the quality and sincerity of our mutual care and respect for each other as individual human beings. This is what any kind of creative living depends upon, and it is what will finally determine our effectiveness in approaching our ideal of democratic living.”
Her freshman auditors numbered 392.
Introduced by Eleanor Roosevelt and under the auspices of the college and the Dutchess County Council on World Affairs, Columbia Broadcasting System journalist Edward R. Murrow lectured in the Chapel on "America Is an Island." "America, the island, is regarded," wrote Barbar Lechtman '52 in The Miscellany News, "with both fear and admiration, but unfortunately, Mr. Murrow said, the fear far outweighs the admiration. And though we my believe that we have found the answer to th political, social and economic questions of our time, others outside do not agree. Outside we are regarded rather as a 'test tube,' with many problems as yet unsolved." Looking critically at United States perceptions of and relations with the Soviet Union and Western Europe—Germany in particular—Murrow predicted that the Marshall Plan for European recovery would fail.
In conclusion, Murrow, said Miss Lechtman, asked, "What should our future course be? Mr. Murrow has a few suggestions. We in this country must show the many people looking for new allegiances, the hungry people looking for a system, that we have a system to which they can turn for bread and security.... We cannot, according to economic expedience, oppose dictatorship in Russia and support it in Spain and elsewhere. We must recognize our friends and the fact that our power and position demand a high degree of steadiness and calmness. We must create a public opinion that will sustain a foreign policy. But above all, 'the most urgent task that confronts the world today is education.'" The Miscellany News
Edward R. Murrow interviewed President Sarah Gibson Blanding in the President's House via television from New York City on his interview program, "Person to Person" in March 1959, and a few years after his death in 1965, Murrow's journalism was the subject in the fall of 1974 of a two month survey at Vassar that included showings of many of his programs, and that culminated in a panel discussion among several of his friends and colleagues.
Poet Muriel Rukeyser '34 lectured on "The Life of Poetry." During her residency, she met with various English classes and student groups. 1n 1940, she gave a series of five lectures on poetry at the college.
Ralph Bunche, the director of the United Nations Department of Trusteeship, addressed the college and the Dutchess County Council on World Affairs on "The United Nations Peace Effort."