"Of course I have a life work," playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder said at the outset of his lecture on "The Spanish Theatre of the Seventeenth Century," "but if you want to hear me whistle, just watch me at my hobby!" The hobby was 17th century Spanish drama. Asking his audience in Avery Hall "What makes a great age in the theater," Patricia Maynard '52 reported in the Miscellany News, "Mr. Wilder cited the Greek and Elizabethan golden ages to show that such greatness demands not only inspired playwrights, but also imaginative and sensitive audiences, willing to participate in the fantasy of drama. The dramatist must not be forced to urge between clenched teeth, 'Pretend with me.'" Citing Lope de Vega as the outstanding representative of the age, Wilder characterized the period, reported Ms. Maynard, as one "when theater enjoyed a national interest and the Spanish people welcomed each new play with enthusiasm. Towns fought to obtain the best plays and companies for their annual festivals, and actors were so identified with their parts that they were greeted on the streets by character names. ('Very different thing from Broadway. Very.' Mr. Wilder added tersely.)"
Thornton Wilder spoke at Vassar about his second novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), in March 1929, and in November 1931 the Yale Dramatic Association and Vassar's Philaletheis joined forces to produce the novelist's first dramatic productions, four one-act plays—“The Long Christmas Dinner,” “The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden,” “Such Things Happen Only in Books” and “Love and How to Cure It”—presented at the Yale University theater in New Haven.
Zita Thornbury ’08, director of the Vocational Bureau, reported that 53 percent of the student body worked, took technical training or engaged in academic work over the previous summer. An additional 10 percent worked in volunteer positions. Four hundred ninety-four students earned $88,692, and 121 took training ranging from typing and shorthand to landscape painting and television production. One hundred seventeen did academic work, with French, government, history and psychology the most frequent subjects. Ten percent fewer students worked for pay than in 1948. The New York Times
In a speech to the Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy attracted instant press attention by displaying a paper on which he claimed were the names of 205 State Department employees whom he had identified to the Secretary of State as communists.
President Blanding released to students, faculty, trustees and alumnae her third annual report. With fear of Russia and communism rising, she urged the importance of defending academic freedom. “Unless we preserve our freedom to teach and our freedom to learn,” she said, “we cannot claim to carry forward the tradition upon which American education is founded. In some places these freedoms are in jeopardy…. In suppression lies our greatest peril.” Expressing complete confidence in the loyalty of the Vassar faculty, she denounced recent attempts to limit the range of books used in the social sciences, in “the fallacious belief that ignorance of an idea will forestall interest or sympathy.”
“Young people,” she said, “are always attracted to whatever at the moment is uppermost in people’s minds and this is particularly true when the ideas are concerned with principles of government. At Vassar we are confident that study of the philosophy and history of any ideologies, including communism, will be scholarly and objective…. We therefore encourage our students to learn as much as possible about Russia, by studying its language and history, by becoming familiar with its literature, government and economic system…. We are convinced that we are strengthening faith in democracy as we develop greater understanding of what it stands for and we do not fear comparison with other forms of government.” The New York Times
Four women associated with the United Nations joined Professor of Economics Mabel Newcomer and four student “rapporteurs” in a two-day forum on “The Non-Political Activities of the United Nations,” this year’s Helen Kenyon Lecture. The guest speakers were: Julia Henderson, chief of the policy division of the UN; Dr. Alva Myrdal, director of the UN Department of Social Services, Madame Sophie Grinberg-Vinaver, UN consultant on human rights and Louise L. Wright, member of the United States Commission for UNESCO. Professor Newcomer was a US representative at the UN Bretton Woods conference in 1944 that established the International Monetary Fund.
On the forum's second day, four student "rapporteurs," Marjory Hughes '51, Marie Zafiropulos '50, Joan Dumper '52 and Beverly Corbett '50, summarized the panel discussions' findings, speaking, respectively, on social welfare, the role of the United States in stablizlizing the world economy, the new Covenant on Human Rights and UNESCO. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt joined the forum in a question and answer session, and the forum concluded with a short film on human rights.
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.
President Blanding announced a gift of $200,000 from Dexter M. Ferry Jr. for the design and construction of a cooperative living unit on campus. Hungarian-born designer and architect Marcel Breuer, a representative of modern architecture’s International School, was chosen to design it.
Constructed of natural stone, painted brick and glass, the residence housed 25 students and a faculty advisor. Residents saved approximately $300 annually by assuming responsibility for budgeting, marketing, cooking and other household tasks, but the residence was open to all students, regardless of financial aid status.
Two of Mr. Ferry’s daughters, Edith Ferry Hooper ’32 and Jean Ferry Davis ’35, were Vassar graduates, and two of his sisters, Blanche Ferry Hooker ’94 and Queene Ferry Coonley ’96 had given $100,000 in 1919 for the erection of Alumnae House.
Student delegates from 17 Northeastern colleges and universities attended “Forecast for Germany,” a two-day conference at Vassar. Speakers included: exiled German political scientist, Hans Simons, from the New School for Social Research; émigré historian Professor Felix Hirsch from Bard; Brigadier General Telford Taylor, former chief counsel at the Nuremburg trials and Adolf A. Berle Jr., former Assistant Secretary of State.
In his remarks, Mr. Berle urged extending the Marshall Plan and development of an international process for the distribution of world surpluses. “The basic problem,” he said, “is the integration of German economy with the whole of Europe; in the long run we must work for free trade, a stronger UN, and a United States of Europe.” The New York Times
The Experimental Theatre presented the American première of Électre by Jean Giraudoux, in a translation by Winifred Smith ’04, emeritus professor of English.
On their second American tour, French composer and pianist Francis Poulenc, member of Le Groupe des Six, and baritone Pierre Bernac gave a recital of works by Dowland, Schumann, Ravel, Debussy, Faure, Duparc and Poulenc in Skinner Hall. After vocal performances ranging from Dowland to Duparc, reported Louise Erdman '51 in The Miscellany News, " M. Poulenc played four of his most familiar compositions: Mouvements perpetuels, Nocturne in C major, Intermezzo in A flat and Pastourelle.... Although they are popular, I don't think they can be fully enjoyed until one has heard M. Poulenc play them. Lastly M. Bernac sang the Chansons Villageoises, by M. Poulenc. These are brief, amusing songs, short scenes from French country life. They could have been written by no one not born a Frenchman nor sung by anyone not a Frenchman."
Bohemian-American pianist Rudolf Serkin gave the fifth Barbara Woods Morgan Memorial Concert.
An intercollegiate conference on "Psychology and Philosophy in Contemporary Society" was held at Vassar with more than 200 delegates attending.
Marcel Breuer, architect of Ferry Cooperative House, gave a gallery talk in Taylor Hall.
An intercollegiate conference on "Theatre Today" was held at Vassar. Delegates represented drama departments and theatrical groups of twenty eastern colleges.
Welsh poet Dylan Thomas read from his favorite contemporary poets, including Yeats, Hardy, Auden and Betjeman and from his own works.
The college announced the resumption of publication of The Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies. First issued in 1926 and intended to give wider circulation to papers of exceptional quality written by students as part of class requirements, the journal had suspended publication in 1944, owing to wartime paper shortages.
The college held its first outdoor commencement, in the Outdoor Theater. 2,000 parents, alumnae and friends looked on as President Blanding conferred the bachelor’s degree on 309 members of the class of 1950. Four women received the master of science degree and 11 veterans, studying at Vassar under the male veterans program, received the bachelor’s degree from the University of the State of New York.
The Indian ambassador to the United States, Madame Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, in her commencement address, departed from tradition. “Although it has become the fashion to warn youth about the dangers of our age,” she said, “I believe that dangers are the spice of life, and that the world would be a dull place if we had no difficulties to overcome.” She urged the graduates to accept the privilege and the responsibility of helping the world come to grips with its problems. The New York Times
"Truman Orders U.S. Air, Navy Units to Fight in Aid of Korea; UN Council Supports Him; our Fliers in Action; Fleet Guards Formosa." The New York Times
After a United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolution failed to end invasion of South Korea by North Korea, President Truman, with UN support, ordered American forces to come to South Korea’s aid. The first air confrontation, on June 27, resulted in the downing of three North Korean aircraft. American ground troops were deployed by June 29, and by August, some 90,000 United States soldiers were in Korea.
Writing in The New York Times, Laurie Johnston reported on a new focus in the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living. As many first-time mothers were stepping out of professional positions, they sought ways, said the institute’s director, Dr. Mary Fisher Langmuir ’20, “to help break down the isolation that develops when such a mother stops her other activities and becomes preoccupied with her child.” Mothers and their very young children enrolled a program designed, in Dr. Langmuir’s words, to shift the focus from “my child and I” to “my child and I, our community and our world.”
Although child-study students were provided so that the mothers could attend discussions, classes and lectures, the mothers were expected to take responsibility for laundry, feeding and baby care as a cooperative exercise. Through such arrangements, Dr. Langmuir noted, “there is no community where young women could not duplicate this experimental workshop…. Through their clubs, churches or housing developments, they could study child development jointly, call in a pediatrician for group discussion, take turns baby-sitting. They also could form closer contacts with older women in the community, who have a ‘time bank’ of leisure and experience that cannot be bought.” While, she added, “the needs of the baby must come first, they can be met without the mother giving up everything else.”
Many of the babies’ fathers were in residence and attended program activities as their schedules permitted.
President Blanding announced the appointment of the former minister of St. Andrews Methodist Church in New Haven, Reverend William H. Kirkland, as college chaplain and lecturer in religion.
Four displaced persons from Latvia, Estonia, Hungary and Yugoslavia, attended Vassar on scholarships provided by the trustees and with support from funds provided by donations from every student in the college. In an article in the Vassar Alumnae Magazine Professor of History Alma Luckau pointed out that the history of Vassar’s international students was a reflection of the history of European upheavals. In the 1920s, most of the students came from countries created in 1919, which needed educational leadership. “In the 1930s Vassar College gave asylum to innumerable refugees from countries overrun by the Nazis…. In the early 1940s we educated the daughters of anti-Nazi statesmen and resistance leaders…from countries conquered by the armies of Hitler. Since 1945 we have had students from as many as 20 different countries in one year, among them a few of the new type of refugees, from communist-dominated countries.” Vassar Alumnae Magazine
American and allied forces recaptured Seoul, the South Korean capital.
Vassar’s 87th year opened with an enrollment of 1,369 students, of whom 374 were freshmen. In her remarks at Convocation, Professor of Economics Emily C. Brown spoke of the supreme importance of “free inquiry and free speech, of academic freedom in the fullest sense.” Referring to the increasing power and scope of anti-communist inquiries and interventions, she said, “As a nation we need to be wary lest, in our fears over possible disloyal and dangerous acts, we destroy the freedom of opinion and discussion which is essential for the democratic process…. In standing firmly for academic freedom, the colleges and universities support the cause of freedom in the nation.
“…we believe at Vassar in free inquiry. No problem is too dangerous or controversial to be touched,” she continued, “or to be studied objectively. We have such faith in the strength and value of free institutions that we are not afraid of where free inquiry may lead us…. Academic freedom…is the foundation of the life of this college.”
Professor Brown received a standing ovation from the assembly.
In “It Happened at Vassar,” a review of former president Henry Noble MacCracken’s The Hickory Limb (1950), Mildred McAfee Horton ’20, the recently retired president of Wellesley College and wartime head of the Waves, praised McCracken’s transformation of “the docile ‘darling daughters’ of the traditional higher education for women into mature young citizens of a large world. Thus, he writes,
‘For fifty years students went to Vassar and hung their clothes on a hickory limb, but didn’t go near the water…. But by 1915 we were ready to go swimming, leaving our clothes on the old hickory limb, and finding in the adventure either confirmation by the test of experience of the validity of old authority or the way to a more self-reliant view of life.’”
“It is good to see in words,” Horton said in conclusion, “the testimony of faith in students which President MacCracken expressed in works for all the years of his presidency…. The story is one which needs telling if women’s colleges (and especially Vassar) are to be credited accurately with their share of influence on higher education in America.” The New York Times
Dr. Roman Jakobson, Professor of Slavic Language and Literature at Harvard University, lectured on "Sound and Meaning in Language," sponsored by the departments of Russian, economics, sociology and anthropology.
Chinese communist forces launched their first offensive in aid of North Korea.
Going house-to-house at the request of the Poughkeepsie Area Development Council and the Girl Scout Council, 450 students conducted a survey of local residents’ perceptions of neighborhood life. The survey asked about the extent of neighborhood development in the city and about what services the residents thought neighborhoods should supply. Overseen by Vassar’s fieldwork office, the study was prepared by members of the Vassar faculty, in consultation with members of the Development Council and the Girl Scout Council.
President Blanding was one of three recipients of gold medals for “distinguished service to humanity” from the National Institute of Social Sciences at its annual dinner. The other medals were presented to municipal reformer and banker Henry Bruere and Filipino General Carlos P. Romulo. Bruere was a principal credit advisor to President Roosevelt during the banking crisis in the early 1930s and, as chief executive officer of the Bowery Savings Bank, coordinated relief committees for the people of France and Britain during World War II. Romulo was a principal in the formation of the United Nations and, at the time of this award, was president of the fourth session of the General Assembly.
Working under the Mary Conover Mellon Foundation, established at the college for administering the $2 million gift to the college in 1949 from the Old Dominion Foundation, the Research Center for Human Relations at New York University presented to the faculty an extensive survey of Vassar as a residential college. Eschewing conclusions, the 250-page report presented data as a basis for study and interpretation by the faculty and the student body.
Students reported that they had improved most during their college years in “happiness,” “making friends” and “definiteness about life plans.” The great majority of students considered themselves “happy” at college, although ten percent said they were “not so happy.” Most of the respondents said that they felt “liked by the faculty,” and nearly all of them reported that a more personal relationship with faculty members would “enrich their intellectual development.”
Twenty-three percent of the students in the study were engaged by the end of their senior year. Ninety-five percent hoped to have a family by the age of 30, and about 15 percent said they hoped to be in a full-time career by that age. About half said that they planned on seeking employment at graduation, while one-third said they would probably seek further education.
Seventy-seven percent of the student respondents reported that they would choose Vassar again. The New York Times
In her annual report, distributed to faculty, trustees, students and alumnae, President Blanding addressed advocates of separate academic programs for men and women, declaring that to become successful adults and citizens all students needed to be able to make wise choices and a valuable contribution to society. She said that those who would revise or adapt the traditional liberal arts curriculum specifically for women, “appear to have just discovered that 81 percent of college women eventually marry and probably have children, as a result of which they devote their major energies…to homemaking. For this vocation, so the argument runs, the traditional liberal arts training has not prepared women, either practically or psychologically….”
Blanding declared the traditional curriculum “a sufficiently flexible and efficient instrument to meet the needs of students of either sex, although it will not, of course, meet their needs in exactly the same way. But is it a problem, for instance, that physics is more highly elected by men and child psychology by women?
“I should like to urge that we concentrate more steadily on the fact that what we are concerned with is not, in the end, either physics or child psychology, but the creation of understanding which will enable the student to develop her own philosophy and values. Many of the problems raised in connection with women’s education would then lose their pressing urgency.” The New York Times
“E. E. Cummings Reads Poetry: Capacity Audience is Enthralled.” The Vassar Chronicle
500,000 Chinese communist troops force UN forces below the 38th Parallel and recapture Seoul.
Paintings by Picasso, lent by the artist through the courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, were exhibited in Taylor Hall.
An exhibition to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of Queen Isabella I of Spain, known as Isabel la Católica, was opened in the Library, with the cooperation of the Department of Spanish.
"This is the first day of Spring, an inappropriate time for a lecture, so I will try to appeal to the senses instead of the intellect," said pioneering microbiologist René Dubos, speaking on "The Living Earth and Its Microbial Alchemy." Passing from the sensory impressions of microbial activity in springtime—the fresh "earth" smell, faint phosphorescences, bubbles in a pond—to the many new uses for micro-organisms in fields ranging from pharmaceuticals to brewing beer, Dr. Dubos, from the Rockefeller Instiute for Research, said that they all arose from the same truth: for every type of organic substance there is in nature a type of microbe that will attack and break down that substance.
Writing in The Miscellany News, Barbara Butterworth '54 said, "Dr. Dubos concluded his informative talk by predicting a great future for enzymes, which do the work in chemical processes, and for man, who is learning more each day about the basic material of the earth—micro-organisms."
The French-born American microbiologist—winner in 1948 of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research and, for his influential book So Human an Animal (1968), the 1969 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction—spoke at Vassar again in April 1953, October and December 1956, February 1959, April 1968 and February 1972.
After nearly a month’s bitter fighting, U. N. forces pushed the Chinese communist forces back to the 38th Parallel and retook Seoul.
Santha Rama Rau, Indian author and memoirist, lectured on "Barriers to Understanding between East and West."
Student leaders of Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley met at Barnard for the Seven-College Conference on Student Government.
The New York Times summarized a philosophical squabble at Vassar that had received considerable attention:
“Plato vs. Spencer: For months the Philosophy Department at Vassar College has been rocked by a philosophical but violent dispute. Associate Professor Lewis S. Feuer, a disciple of the English philosopher of evolution, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), felt that the department’s stress on Plato (circa 427-347 B. C.) was old hat. Assistant Professor Joseph Katz defended Plato. Last week it was reported that Professor Feuer had attempted literally to put into effect the Spencerian doctrine of ‘the survival of the fittest’—by punching Professor Katz in the nose. Plato’s “good life governed by reason” triumphed; Professor Feuer and his departmental supporters resigned. At the week-end a Vassar student, asked what the college thought of the un-philosophical clash, quoted Plato, ‘No human thing is of serious importance.’”
Walter White, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, lectured on "Color Lines around the Globe."
Honoring Matthew Vassar, the college celebrated the 85th Founder’s Day. Following the traditional visit to the Founder’s gravesite in the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, former president Henry Noble MacCracken told an all-college assembly of Vassar’s humble beginnings, his life’s accomplishments and the founding of his college. The faculty play followed a picnic supper.
In the first of two articles in The New York Times, reporting on a study involving 72 colleges of the effects of McCarthyism on campus freedom of speech and inquiry, Kalman Seigel described the “subtle, creeping paralysis of freedom of thought and speech…attacking college campuses in many parts of the country, limiting both students and faculty in…the free exploration of knowledge and truth.” Seigel identified five fears the study found on campuses: social disapproval; a “pink” or communist label; criticism by regents, legislatures and friends; rejection for further study at graduate schools; and investigation by government and private industry for employment and service in the armed forces. “Such caution,” he wrote, “has made many campuses barren of free give-and-take of ideas….”
Seigel quoted a recent anonymous letter to The Miscellany News, in which “the writer noted that she did not now belong to, nor did she intend to join any political association on the campus. The decision, she said, involved careful thought on her and her parents’ part.”
“In today’s world,” the student wrote, “of ‘witch hunting,’ ‘subversive actions’ and ‘pink tinges,’ such factors as these must be taken into consideration by every student…. It is particularly important if the student might some day want a position with the Government.”
President Blanding announced a $400,000 gift to the college from the chair of the board of trustees, Katharine Blodgett Hadley '20, through the Rubicon Foundation. The fund was used to help address operating deficits in the current and succeeding years and to improve faculty salaries. Mrs. Hadley’s mother, Minnie Cumnock Blodgett ’84, was a trustee between 1917 and 1931, and she and her husband had given the Minnie Cumnock Blodgett Hall of Euthenics to Vassar in 1925.
George J. Hecht, chairman of the American Parents Committee and publisher of Parents Magazine, spoke to the Vassar Child Study Club on the need for government action to aid the country’s schoolchildren. Of the nation’s 51 million children under the age of 18, he said three-quarters needed dental care, 10 million had defective vision, 3 million were deaf to some degree, 500,000 had orthopedic defects and 175,000 had active tuberculosis.
"Schools are perhaps the number one problem of the country," reported The Miscellany News, "in regard to children at the present time according to Mr. Hecht. Three or four million children are attending school on a two or three shift basis." A million school children, he added, suffered from mental disabilities. Action was still pending in the House of Representatives on a National School Health Services Bill approved by the Senate the previous year.
The father of Susan Hecht '52, Mr. Hecht and Parents Magazine established an awards program the following year, offering two $50 prizes for the best senior theses in child study. "Mr. Hecht," said The Miscellany News, "also announced that if any thesis, prize-winning or not, proves worthy of publication in Parents Magazine, the magazine will pay the author for publication rights at its regular rates." The New York Times, The Miscellany News.
Vassar psychologist and education researcher Helen Trager was one of two experts asked by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to testify in a South Carolina courtroom in the first test case of the “separate but equal” policy in Southern schools. The three-judge panel reserved its decision in the case, Briggs v. Elliott, which became one of five combined by Marshall in his 1954 for argument before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.
The director of the Mary Conover Mellon Foundation for the Advancement of Education since its founding in 1949, Dr. Carl Binger resigned, declaring in a report prepared for the board of trustees that he did not “believe a matriarchy provides a wholesome atmosphere in which students are likely to develop satisfactorily.” A statement from the college, accepting his resignation “with regret,” thanked Binger for his “knowledge, experience and enthusiasm,” and Katharine Blodgett Hadley ’20, chair of the board of trustees, praised his work on “getting the program started.”
Binger had urged the college to create a separate psychiatric and sociological department for student support and to increase the number of males and married couples on the faculty. Of the 195 members of the faculty, 139 were women, 119 of them unmarried. Nineteen of the 27 departments of instruction were headed by women. The New York Times
Simultaneously with the college’s statement about Dr. Binger’s resignation, the public was informed of the most substantial accomplishment to date of the Mellon project, the establishment of a house fellow program. President Blanding had described it earlier in her annual report:
"As a result of faculty recommendation, an experiment is to be initiated in three student houses with Mary Conover Mellon House Fellows instead of the usual Residents.... The House Fellows...will have special interest in and qualifications for advising students; they will be relieved of one third of the normal teaching load and will accept certain definite responsibilities in connection with the social life of the student houses...." President's Report, 1950-1951
The plan was later extended to all residence halls.
Commencement week for 1951 began with the return to the campus of 650 alumnae from 11 classes ranging from 1901 to 1945. The alumnae heard about educational innovations at the college from Dean Marion Tait, and they nominated Frederica Pisek ’25 as an alumnae member of the board of trustees. In the afternoon, alumnae, seniors, parents and guests enjoyed the senior play, written by Susan Neuberger ’51, in the Outdoor Theater. Afterward, the daisy chain led the group to the seniors’ class tree.
In the evening, the tradition of Shakespeare in the night was again observed with a production in the Outdoor Theater of Twelfth Night.
President Blanding conferred the bachelor’s degree on 309 members of the Class of 1951 at Commencement in the Outdoor Theater. In his commencement address, former Massachusetts governor Robert F. Bradford drew on recent revelations of government alliance with organized crime by Senator Este Kefauver’s Senate Crime Investigating Committee to denounce paternalism in government. Bradford asserted that “the real villain in the Kefauver drama is not the sleazy racketeer, or even the cheap politician who has ridden into office on his back. It is John and Jane citizen who have tolerated all this, and tolerate it today.” Public disengagement from the work of active citizenship, he said, had created “a new type of American Government—a hand-out government, tax and tax, spend and spend, until government has a hand in everyone’s business…. If you throw away the formula for individual liberty, and substitute a mother-knows-best government, you may have gained temporary benefits, but you have lost the permanent source of all benefits, the right to be free.” The New York Times
President Blanding announced the appointment for three years of Evalyn Clark, professor of history, as associate dean of the college. The new position was created to aid Dean Marion Tait in her administrative duties.
The French Embassy announced that—along with students from Yale, Wellesley and the University of Oregon—Regina Weiss ’51 won a nationwide essay contest on the theme “Importance of Paris in the Past and Future.” The four students’ essays were chosen from 75 written by students in 50 colleges and universities. The essays, in French, were written in a three-hour period, at the start of which the topic was revealed.
The contest’s sponsors originally planned for two winners, but, finding four outstanding submissions, with the aid of the Alliance Française and the American Association of Teachers of French, they were able to award four. The prize was a month-long trip to France, as guests of the French Government and the Paris Bimillenary Committee, to take part in the celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of Paris. The group sailed on the Ile de France on June 28.
A parent-young adult discussion on mutual needs was held as part of the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living. Thirty-eight young interns at the institute representing 16 colleges and universities spoke with parents attending the institute about the needs of young people to establish and have recognized their independence within the family. The internships were intended to help the young people prepare for careers as teachers, social workers, child psychologists and nurses. In another discussion group, 12 fathers discussed how fathers might take more responsibility in the home and with family matters.
A major theme throughout the four-week institute was discipline of children in the family and in school. The New York Times reported that a conclusion reached was “that children whose rights were respected were more responsive to discipline and guidance. ‘The most important thing for today’s children,’ it was concluded, ‘was the need to learn how to face uncertainty with confidence.’”
140 adults and 150 children, from 29 states, India, Canada and Australia, attended the institute. The New York Times
The Mary Conover Mellon House Fellow program began in three residence halls. Based on the assumption that the teaching faculty should be an intellectual force in the residential aspects of student life, faculty members were relieved of 1/3 of their teaching responsibilities and moved into remodeled apartments in the residence halls.
Dr. Robert M. Nixon from the Westchester Division of New York Hospital became the full-time college psychiatrist. The post was supported by the Mellon program.
Professor of English Helen D. Lockwood ’12 spoke at Fall Convocation. Identifying ignorance and fear as dangerous forces in an uncertain world, she saw informed and engaged confidence as the best attitude. “At this crucial time,” she said, “we should support the men fighting in Korea and our policy-makers in Washington and at the United Nations with renewed faith in the eighteenth-century American dream of men free and equal, men ready for change, making a new republic based on consent. And we should add twentieth-century realism in implementing it and accepting others’ efforts to extend it.”
Vassar’s 87th academic year began with 1,426 students—450 of them freshmen—and 41 new faculty and staff appointments. The New York Times
The Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Cooperative House was dedicated. The gift of Mr. Ferry, father of Edith Ferry Hooper '32 and Jean Ferry Davis '35, the building was designed by Marcel Breuer, who was responsible also for its interior design and its landscaping. Constructed at a cost of $200,000, the T-shaped modernist building accommodated 27 student residents and a faculty advisor.
Two of Mr. Ferry’s sisters, Blanche Ferry Hooker ’94 and Queene Ferry Coonley ’96 had given $100,000 in 1919 for the erection of Alumnae House. At the dedication, Mr. Ferry—five of whose nieces and whose daughter-in-law also attended Vassar—said that the “the building is in grateful appreciation of all Vassar has meant to the Ferry family.” Mr. Ferry had previously presented to the college twelve outstanding works of nineteenth century European art.
Katharine Blodgett Hadley ’20, chair of the board of trustees, accepted the building for the college, and both President Blanding and Marcel Breuer spoke at the dedication. Penelope Wells ’52, president of the new residence, expressed the students’ appreciation.
A lecture series on the Near East included: geographer and population scholar George B. Cressey from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University; Mohamed M. Shalaby, social affairs officer at the United Nations; Russian émigré political scientist George Lenczowski from Hamilton College and the Polish-American assyriologist E.A. Speiser, professor of oriental studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dorothy Wrinch, professor of physics at Smith College, gave the 10th Helen Kenyon Lecture, "The Architecture of Living Things." On the following day Dr. Wrinch held a seminar on "The Applications of Structural Principles."
His Eminence Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, Archbishop-Metropolitan of Jerusalem and Transjordan, lectured on ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls.” Mar Samuel was a central figure in the discovery and exposition of the scrolls, one of which, the famous Isaiah scroll, was exhibited in the Aula.
Mar Samuel’s appearance at the college was arranged by Marguerite Smith ’12, a trustee of and the librarian at the Zion Research Foundation in Brookline, MA., where the scroll was earlier shown and examined.
The first program of the Vassar Broadcasting Association was given over WKIP, Poughkeepsie radio station, under the auspices of the Radio Workshop. The first Vassar radio programs had been broadcast over station WGNY of Newburgh in January 1938.
Reviewing recently released recordings, Howard Taubman, music critic for The New York Times, praised The Italian Madrigal by the Vassar Madrigal Singers, directed by Professor of Music Harold Geer. “The fourteen young singers,” wrote Taubman, “ sing this music with disarming clarity and sweetness…. One has the feeling that the spirit is close to the one that prevailed in the days when these pieces were new.”
Addressing the problem of steeply rising costs, “common to many privately endowed colleges,” President Blanding announced a $400 increase in comprehensive fees for the coming year, to $2,000. She added that the actual per-student cost was $2,436, saying that the endowment and current gifts presently covered $435 of each student’s costs. The New York Times
Helen Liverman Weston ’34 won the grand prize, $25,000 and a model General Electric kitchen, in the 3rd annual Pillsbury Mills baking contest with her “Starlight Double-Delight Cake,” a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. Receiving her prizes from President Truman’s daughter Margaret at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria, Mrs. Weston, a former researcher for the Solar Aircraft Company and schoolteacher, said that the recipe was a joke. Her husband had walked into the kitchen one evening and “just dreamed it up.” The New York Times
Anticipating the eventual creation of a development office, President Blanding announced the appointment of John Grier Holmes, formerly assistant to the president of Sarah Lawrence College, as secretary of the college. Mr. Holmes’s duties included directing Vassar’s publications, public relations and endowment office. Holmes played an important role in the college's outreach to business and industry and to such nascent organizations of the Council for Financial Aid to Education and the American College Public Relations Association. In the years immediately after his appointment, he worked with trustees on Vassar's "ten year development plan."
Dining room service by student waitresses in dormitories was replaced by the cafeteria system, greatly reducing the hours available for students to engage in cooperative work.
Some 150 students from West Point, Fordham, Columbia and Vassar attended a conference on “Breaking Chains in Asia,” sponsored by the Vassar Political Association. Addressing the closing session, German-American economist Martin W. Wilmington from Pace College, declaring that “the United States has a vital stake in the economic development of Southeast Asia,” said that America “must take an active leading role in the fight against poverty” in the region “as its most effective measure against communism.” Citing commitments in “other theatres” that prevented the country’s marshaling “adequate military power in the area to check Soviet military expansion,” Wilmington said that “technical assistance and capital aid are essential.”
In his summary of the conference’s discussions, I Milton Sacks, political science researcher at Yale, said he thought “the only possibility to save the Indo-Chinese situation is to create an independent national force.” The New York Times
Sixteen five-man teams pedaled from New Haven to Poughkeepsie in the first Yale to Vassar bike relay marathon. Inspired by a Yale man's boast that he could beat another Yalie in a bike race to Vassar, the event drew campus-wide attention, and a crew from LIFE magazine captured the excitement in over a dozen photographs in an April 28 article entitled "Beer and Bikes from Yale to Vassar—Men from Eli Guzzle and Pedal 77 Miles to See Girl Friends."
In The Miscellany News "Pency Pyfels '52" (probably contributing editors Penny Wells '52 and Nancy Pyfer '52) caught the excitement as the racers drew near: "The welcomers crowded Taylor Gate and the highway. When standing room gave out, eager girls hung out of the windows of Stack III, climbed on shoulders or scaled trees...Blue and white pennants floated from the windows. Two drum majorettes defied the winter weather in their brief but snappy costumes. Peg Monroe looked very official in her jail-striped jacket. 'Purity' and 'Wisdom' were on hand to uphold the college seal by confiscating empty beer cans. Several beauties, decked out with crepe paper, became daisies for a day. Dapper 'Matthew Vassar's Brew' (aged since '62) escorted 'Miss Brew of '52.' And the music maker raised her bugle to herald the winners."
Race rules required that a team member consume a quart of beer at the end of each leg before the next rider could depart, thus allowing a team's faster imbibers to compensate for its slower pedalers. Although LIFE reported that one contestant, a dean's list student, became lost before reaching the Yale Bowl, another injured his arm and hip when he lost control of his bike coming downhill and a third found his machine frozen in high gear shortly after the race began, accidents, injuries and calamities on the course were few. "With 90 dates waiting for them at the finish line," the magazine observed, "most of the Yale men doggedly stuck to their wheels." Of the colorfully named teams—"Maidenform Five," "Quart Quintet," "Lavender Hill Mob"—the "Under Sextet" team won when Steve Hutchcraft '52 crossed the finish line at Taylor Gate.
The event, organized for 1952 by Margaret Monroe '52, was an annual fixture through 1957.
Literary critic, social historian and Harvard University professor of literature Howard Mumford Jones delivered the commencement address for the Class of 1952. Begging to differ with the modern literary prophets “who tell us in imaginative verse that the world is ailing” and noting that the world had been pronounced at its end several times in the last 1,900 years, Jones said that, possibly, “the verdict of certain modern writers may be premature.” The present age, he concluded, might even seem heroic to future eyes, for if the “sum of human wickedness today is very great so likewise is the sum of human courage.”
President Blanding conferred the bachelor’s degree on 308 members of the graduating class. The New York Times
The 27th annual session of the Vassar Summer Institute brought some 200 adults and 175 children to the campus for a month-long study of family and community living.
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of five speakers at a weekend conference in July sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Led by the National Conference’s co-founder and president, Rev. Everett R. Clinchy, the gathering’s theme was "Intergroup Tensions: What Can Communities Do?"
Other speakers and discussion leaders included: Benjamin J. Buttenweiser, former United States Assistant High Commissioner in Germany; Dan W. Dodson, director of the Human Relations Center at New York University; R. Maurice Moss, associate executive director of the National Urban League and Max Birnbaum, educational director of the American Jewish Committee.
Dr. Mary Fisher Langmuir ‘20, the Institute’s director and chair of Vassar’s child study department, summarized the session’s discussions and conclusions in her closing lecture, “Peace in the Family.” Family peace, she said, was not the absence of conflicts or problems. “Instead,” she said, “peaceful, friendly and satisfying family life comes about when all members of the family accept problems as normal, learning to work together toward their solutions.” The New York Times
In the Korean War’s largest single-day air raid, U. S. Fifth Army planes, known as the Far East Air Force (FAEF), and carriers bombed Pyongyang, North Korea, in 1,402 sorties.
In the largest all-Navy air raid, 144 planes from three carriers destroyed an oil refinery at Aoji, North Korea.
Eminent research psychologist Dr. Nevitt Sanford succeeded Dr. Carl Binger as director of the college’s Mary Conover Mellon Foundation for the Advancement of Education. The founding director, in 1949, of the foundation, Dr. Binger resigned on May 30, 1959, telling the board of trustees that he didn't "believe a matriarchy provides a wholesome atmosphere in which students are likely to develop."
One of a dozen professors dismissed from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950 for refusing to sign a loyalty oath, Sanford pioneered in the study of the interaction between social systems and personality. A California Supreme Court decision in 1959 led to Sanford’s reinstatement at Berkeley.
“God help me for what I did! There is no doubt in my mind I did a great deal of harm.” These statements punctuated the opening testimony of Dr. Bella Dodd before Michigan Senator Homer Ferguson’s Senate Internal Security subcommittee investigating communist subversion in education. A former member of the Communist party’s national executive committee and legislative representative of the Teachers Union who had recently repudiated the party and returned to the Catholic faith, Dodd told the committee that most of the Communist professors and teachers were concentrated in the New York City area and that they numbered around 1,000. Vassar, Columbia, New York University, along with Brooklyn, Queens and Hunter Colleges, were among campuses named by Dodd as institutions where at least three registered Communists taught. In Massachusetts, Smith, Wellesley, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were similarly infiltrated, she said, as were Chicago, Northwestern and Minnesota in the Midwest.
Dodd went on to describe the influence of these agents on their students and colleagues, claiming that one Communist teacher might influence 300 future teachers in a single semester. The late anthropologist and chairman of the Committee for Democracy and Freedom Franz Boaz was, Dodd said, among the well-intended dupes who had to differing degrees been manipulated by Communist subversives. The New York Times
Horticulturist Sven Sward was appointed superintendent of grounds, succeeding Henry E. Downer.
President Blanding introduced Democratic presidential nominee Governor Adlai E. Stevenson’s radio broadcast over New York radio station WJZ. This was the third of four successive broadcasts addressed to women voters. Governor Stevenson’s other introductions were from Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt; the chairman of New York State Volunteers for Stevenson, Mrs. Adele Levy; and actress Ethel Barrymore.
Cornelia M. Raymond ’83, daughter of President John H. Raymond, died at the age of 91. She came to Vassar at the age of four, and, having taught school for 30 years after her graduation, she returned to the college in 1913 to serve as associate warden. From 1926 until 1931, Miss Raymond was director of the bureau of publications, and she later served as publicity secretary. She was resident in the college at the time of her death.
In touch with the college throughout its 87-year history, she published her recollections at the time of the 75th anniversary in 1940 as Memories of a Child of Vassar, including a recollection of her four-year-old self by Sarah Scott, a teacher of rhetoric and mathematics when the college opened in 1865:
“We were under the shadow of the Civil War, some of us mourning lovers or brothers, some having lost our homes, all strangers, some leaving little sisters at home. To us all the sight of a little girl full of sympathy was a great comfort. Little Nellie became a center of life and hope.”
A memorial service was held in the Chapel for Miss Raymond on Nov. 1.
In an article entitled "God and Woman at Vassar" published in The Freeman, "A Fortnightly for Individualists," ex-student Nancy Jane Fellers recounted the persistent ideological "tyranny" on the part of Professor of English Helen D. Lockwood '12 that had forced her to leave Vassar in her senior year and return to Earlham College to receive her bachelor of arts degree. A transfer student to Vassar in 1950, Miss Fellers had received a grade of F in the Contemporary Press course taught by Professor Lockwood, who called her, she claimed, "politically naive," and who said that "something must be done about my 'dangerous ideas.'"
The article touched off strong reactions on campus and nationally, inspiring an editorial, "Miss Blanding's Dream College," in The Chicago Tribune and an analysis of "Academic Freedom at Vassar," entered into The Congressional Record. "The furor has not subsided," Ellen Silver '56 wrote in The Miscellany News a week later. "Miss...Blanding reports that letters arrive 'in every mail' and says, 'We'll be hearing about this thing for three months!' She...identifies the frenzied letters...with the mass hysteria about communism and communist infiltration.... The letters for and against Vassar have been about evenly balanced. Among the latter, there are several unusual ideas revealed. One man was amazed that such an awful thing...could happen in America. Another accused Vassar of harboring fifteen Communist faculty members and threatened to notify the House Committee on Un-American Activities. One person advocated packing Miss Lockwood off to Russia!"
Professor Lockwood responded to Miss Fellers's article in a letter to the editor of The Freeman, in which she said, "Most of the students who were in the same class...believed in God. Most of them were Republicans. All were good Americans and believed in human dignity. They continued to believe in God, they continued to be Republicans and good Americans and to believe in human dignity at the end of the year. They passed the course, some of them with distinction, and they expressed themselves freely." Noting that Feller's work was marked by "inaccuracies of fact, garbled quotations, arguments by inuendo rather than logic and evidence," Lockwood concluded, "in long hours of patient conferences many of us tried to help her reason. But she couldn't." The Freeman, The Miscellany News
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson in the presidential election. Eisenhower received 55.2 percent of the popular vote.
At Vassar, Eisenhower defeated Stevenson 691 to 321 among students, and Stevenson received a majority of the faculty votes.
A former member of the Vassar faculty, the Hungarian-American musicologist Paul Henry Lang, professor of music at Columbia University, gave the 11th Helen Kenyon Lecture, "Music and History." Part of a program given in honor of retiring Professor of Music George Sherman Dickinson—a member of the faculty since 1916—the lecture was later published by the college.
Along with six members of the United States Olympic swimming and diving team, Vassar students, performing a water ballet, participated in the 3rd annual water carnival at Columbia University.
Theoretical chemist and molecular geneticist Dr. Linus Pauling, head of the department of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, lectured on "The Structure of Proteins." Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954, Pauling was awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his campaign against nuclear weapons.
The American Association of University Professors, Phi Beta Kappa and the Political Association sponsored a series of lectures on "Academic Freedom." Lecturers were Robert McIver, chairman of the Academic Freedom Project, Columbia University, Dean Louis Hacker, School of General Studies, Columbia University and Elmer Davis, veteran broadcast journalist and American Broadcasting Company news analyst.
Following a recent bequest by the late Mrs. Thomas Lamont of some $3 million to the seven leading women’s colleges, The New York Times presented a brief comparison of the endowments of men’s and women’s colleges of comparable sizes. Among women’s colleges, largest enrollment to smallest, the endowments were: Smith, $11,792,088; Wellesley, $18,128, 071; Vassar, $15,200,000; Bryn Mawr, $8,758, 933. Among the men’s colleges, similarly arranged, the endowments were: Dartmouth, $28,568,064; Williams, $14,520,903; Amherst, $19,657,488; Wesleyan, $10,019,417.
“When one considers,” the article concluded, “that, with the exception of Amherst, these men’s colleges had a head start of almost a hundred years over the women’s colleges these figures are not too discouraging. It become increasingly evident, however, that without substantial public support independent educational institutions of all kinds cannot long survive.” The New York Times
Declaring that she spoke for herself and not for the college, President Blanding released a statement of her views about the current Congressional investigations of subversive influences in education. Colleges, she said, should be responsible for “weeding out the incompetents and misfits,” adding that the Congressional committees might open a “wedge for Federal control of our educational system.”
“I think,” she continued, “that the effect of a Congressional inquiry would be to increase the pressure and the fears that have already narrowed freedom of inquiry and expression in our academic life.
“As much as I regret the plans for a Congressional investigation, I do not question the right of the committee of Congress to conduct such an investigation.” The New York Times
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, in a speech printed in the Vassar Alumnae Magazine, said: “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”
“Anxiety, Despair and Faith: the Search for Meaning in Life,” was the subject of a three-day Community Religious Association conference. A member of the religion department remarked that, although to many alumnae other topics, such as religion and war or religion and peace, might seem more important, it was “a clue to the thinking of this generation that this theme met with the most response….” Vassar Alumnae Magazine
“It is disgraceful that anyone has to make this speech in America,” said the concluding speaker in the series of lectures sponsored by the American Association of University Professors, Phi Beta Kappa and the Vassar Political Association, veteran broadcast journalist, wartime head the Office of War Information and two-time Georg Foster Peabody Award winner Elmer Davis. Addressing the theme of the series, “Academic Freedom,” Davis delivered “a stinging attack against Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, the tactics of the Senate investigators and the forces opposing the freedom of thought. …one of the most awakening speeches that this college has heard in a long time.” The Miscellany News
The first chapter of Davis’s book, But We Were Born Free (1954), was based on his Vassar address.
Lieutenant Colonel Julia E. Hamblet ’37 became the third director of the Women Marines, with the rank of colonel. Hamblet enlisted in the Women’s Reserve of the U. S. Marine Corps, established on February 13, 1943, in April of that year. Commissioned as first lieutenant on May 4, 1943, she rose quickly through the ranks, succeeding Colonel Katherine Towle in September, 1946, as director of the Women’s Reserve.
The Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 transformed the Women’s Reserve into the Women Marines, into which Hamblet was commissioned in November, 1948. In assuming the directorship of the Women Marines, Colonel Hamblet was the youngest woman to head a branch of the U. S. military.
A hit song in the faculty’s Founder’s Day show was an ironic torch number entitled “I’ve Got Those Uninvestigated Blues.”
More than 800 alumnae concluded three days of reunion and anticipated Commencement of the Class of 1953. Thanking the alumnae, President Blanding announced that their annual gifts, totaling $281,900, were the largest ever given by any women’s college. An additional $50,000 was given by an anonymous alumna.
Dr. Ralph Bunche, director of the Trusteeship Division of the United Nations, delivered the Commencement address at the graduation of his daughter, Joan ‘53. Predicting that the world would be spared atomic war through “wisdom, patience and unflagging efforts” in that cause, he said, “I have profound faith in the United Nations, despite all its weaknesses and imperfections, for I am sure that in steadfastly pursuing its principles of collective security and international morality, it is leading us along the right and the only sure road to peace and human advancement.” He called upon the 290 members of the graduating class “to strive to eradicate prejudice, bigotry, hatred and national arrogance in relations among people.”
President Blanding announced that the Class of 1953 and their parents had presented a gift to the college of more than $39,000 to found the Alison R. Coolidge Memorial Scholarship in memory of a member of the class who was killed in an automobile accident in her junior year. The New York Times
Professor of Music George Sherman Dickinson retired after 36 years at the college. In an appreciation in the Vassar Alumnae Magazine, Adelaide Ferry Hooker ’25, noted that some 6,000 students had taken his music courses, and in 1934 a student had written home, "Tell Dad it is Dicky I like in music but I like—love—the course [Music 140] too."
Keene Richards, the college’s first general manager and director of Dutchess County civil defense, died after suffering a heart attack. Richards came to Vassar in 1925 as a consulting engineer and over time became responsible for all aspects of its business, buildings and grounds administration.
The United States, North Korea and China signed an armistice, ending the Korean War but not establishing permanent peace. The military death toll included 33,600 American, 16,000 UN allied, 415,000 South Korean and 520,000 North Korean dead. There were an estimated 900,000 Chinese casualties.
Two new interdepartmental courses were offered: The Middle East was taught by members of the political science and geography departments and members of the political science, psychology and economics departments offered Freedom and Authoritarianism.
The college undertook a collaborative course with Vassar Brothers Hospital for student nurses. In place of one formerly given at the hospital, a special course in anatomy and physiology included two classes and four hours of laboratory work each week, using the hospital and the college laboratories.
The Harvard cooperative teacher internship program, financed by a grant from the Ford Foundation's Fund for the Advancement of Education, was inaugurated to provide graduate study as preparation for teaching. Vassar was among the 20 collaborating colleges whose graduates were eligible for fellowships for a fifth year in Cambridge, leading to a Master of Education for elementary-school teachers or a Master of Arts in Teaching for secondary-school teachers.
The 21 collaborating institutions agreed on five basic conclusions: too few qualified graduates of liberal arts colleges were entering primary and secondary teaching; both colleges and teacher-training institutions bore responsibility for improving this situation; broad liberal arts preparation for future teachers was an essential requisite; accurate and current information about salaries, working conditions and opportunities for advancement in public education must be available to education students; advanced training in education for liberal arts bachelors must be intellectually stimulating.
In February, 1952, when the cooperative program was announced, The New York Times reported President Blanding’s emphatic agreement on this last point. “The fellowships, she added, will attract good students who otherwise could not afford a fifth year of study. Although the advantages of a liberal arts education are of fundamental importance, they have usually been discounted because of the emphasis upon specific education courses for teacher-certification.
“As a result, Dr. Blanding explained, the liberal arts colleges have not been in a strong position to present public-school teaching as a career. At Vassar…there were many superior students who could be attracted to public-school teaching if an interesting preparation such as the one proposed at Harvard was offered….”
Fourteen students and four faculty members visited lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to study the effects of burgeoning industrial development in this region. “It’s like being in Rome when it was built,” one student said of the construction and upheaval.
The college opened its 89th academic year with Fall Convocation in the Outdoor Theater. The speaker at Convocation, Professor of History Alma M. Luckau, recently returned from Germany where she served in the Cultural Affairs Division of the United States High Commissioner James Bryant Conant, spoke "on the paramount importance of maintaining our basic freedoms."
Student enrollment stood at 1,414, and the 450 freshmen came from 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Twelve foreign students from Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands and Norway were among the new students, and 77 freshmen shared $70,000 in scholarship aid. The Miscellany News
Open meetings of the New York State Section of the American Physical Society were held at Vassar under the auspices of the Department of Physics and IBM.
A door-to-door survey by 350 students in the departments of economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology and English asked Poughkeepsie residents about the city’s library services. The study hoped to find out what kinds of books and how many were read and why some people didn’t find public libraries useful.
In its annual report of students’ summer employment and earnings, the Vocational Bureau found that more students than ever had worked and that those being paid had earned more money than ever. Seven hundred eighty-five of the 1,412 students enrolled for the fall term, over 55 percent, were employed, and the 652 students in paying jobs earned $181,746. In 1950, 44 percent of students had worked, and the number rose in each succeeding year to 49 percent for 1951 and 54 percent in 1952.
Mildred McAfee Horton '20, former president of Wellesley and director of the WAVES in World War II, gave the twelfth Helen Kenyon Lecture, "Tensions in Organizations: Observations of a Professional Volunteer."
An exhibition to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the founding of the University of Salamanca was opened in the Library with the cooperation of the Department of Spanish.
Bach's Magnificat, performed on Dec. 13 by the Vassar and Hamilton college choirs, was broadcast nationwide over the Mutual Broadcasting System.
Enrollment in field work, formerly restricted to the social sciences, was opened to all academic departments.
Fanny Borden ’98, Vassar librarian between 1928 and 1947, died in Vassar Brothers Hospital, Poughkeepsie. After graduation, Miss Borden worked in the Bryn Mawr College and Smith College libraries, returning to Vassar in 1908, serving as assistant, classifier and cataloguer and reference librarian before becoming head librarian.
Under her administration, the Vassar library collections were greatly expanded and modernized. The opening, in 1937, of the Van Ingen Library, was also under her direction.
In 1934 Borden introduced Vassar senior Elizabeth Bishop ’34 to her childhood friend, the poet Marianne Moore, who became an influential friend of Bishop’s.
Journalist, philanthropist and education activist Agnes Ernst Meyer encouraged an audience of Vassar students to resist the pressures of conformism in an address entitled “Freedom is for the Brave.” “Let not the authoritarians frighten you,” she said, “into a submissive conformist attitude of mind. I know that some college students have allowed themselves to be brow-beaten into a neurotic conservatism. But after years of contact with all age groups, I am confident that for the most part the undergraduates of today are more mature, more critical, more independent than any previous generation in recent times….”
Mrs. Meyer—with President Blanding, one of two women appointed in 1946 to President Truman’s Commission on Higher Education—gave the address at Commencement in 1948. Her daughter Katherine, who was in the Class of 1938, transferred to the University of Chicago.
German-American art historian Erwin Panofsky from the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton gave the Phi Beta Kappa lecture on "Leonardo's Historical Position as a Theorist of Art and Anatomist."
The second annual student-chaplain sponsored Conference on Religion brought philosophers and theologians together to address the theme “Doubt, Dilemma and Decision: Personal Faith and Creative Morality.”
Poet Marianne Moore read from and spoke about her current work, a translation of the fables of LaFontaine, accompanied by illustrations by Marc Chagall. Miss Moore spoke of Jean de LaFontaine, noted Jeanne Unger '54 in The Miscellany News, as the lone representative of "independent poetry of his time in departing from the strict rules of French poetic tradition. She discussed structure and content in relation to her translation of the poetry.... Criticizing translators who take liberties of omission and make changes, Miss Moore insisted on the retention of the pattern of rhythm.... Miss Moore claimed she worked on the fables, 'fascinated by their rhymes and harmonies.'" Some of Marc Chagall's engravings and aquatints for the fables had been shown in an exhibit in the Vassar College Art Gallery in January 1954, prompting Sara Breckinridge '54 to observe, in The Vassar Chronicle, that Chagall's work "is successfully coupled with translations...by Marianne Moore. She and La Fontaine deal in the same brand of whimsical humor that Chagall so zestfully paints." The Fables of La Fontaine appeared from Viking Press in 1954.
A frequent visitor to the college, Miss Moore wrote on February 16 to her cousin, Mary Watson Craig, her sadness at the death, on February 1, of her friend since childhood, the Vassar librarian Fanny Borden ’98, whom she often referred to as “Aunt Ann”: “I am sad not to see Miss Borden again. She was for many years good to [Moore’s brother] Warner & me—parting with college text-books to us when we were in college and couldn’t buy many books…. I did write to her during December saying I was coming to Vassar & would be sure to visit her a little while after my talk.” Bonnie Costello, ed. Selected Letters of Marianne Moore
The Vassar Art Gallery purchased Spring (1954) by American artist William Baziotes as a representative example of abstract expressionism.
Richard Rovere, author, social critic and contributor of the "Letter from Washington" for The New Yorker magazine, spoke on "The Status of Truth in America" in Blodgett Auditorium. Offering one of six lectures sponsored by the political science department on the subject, "Reflections on the 20th Century Political Order," the author—with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.—of The General and the President (1951) said that the era of Americans' belief that "the truth will always prevail in the end" had been usurped in politics by a strategy of "multiple and manifold untruth." Thus, the "currency of discourse" in public life had "been debased."
"Using Senator [Joseph] McCarthy as an example," The Miscellany News reported, "Mr. Rovere said that McCarthy has successfully operated on the idea that if he talks enough we won't know what he is talking about. To rectify his statements would be an impossible undertaking for any one man, since one cannot keep all the elements of falsehood in mind at one time."
Rovere's Affairs of State: The Eisenhower Years appeared in 1956, and Harcourt, Brace published his Senator Joe McCarthy in 1959.
The Vassar College Political Association and the National Committee for a Free Europe sponsored an intercollegiate conference, "Countries behind the Iron Curtain: Soviet Strength and Weakness in the Captive Countries. Is European Federation the Answer?"
The United States Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional, called for the desegregation of all schools in the country.
In his address at Commencement, Adlai E. Stevenson, former Governor of Illinois and Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and again in 1956, warned of the growing pressures of conformity in American society. The “hazard” of conformity, he said, “is a more certain threat to the validity of your education and to your immortal soul than the blandishments of the flesh and the devil….and the wonder is how gladly we pay the price of conformity in order to ‘belong.’”
Alluding to the recent revocation of the security clearance of nuclear energy pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer, chief advisor to the newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission, Stevenson said, “And now, with the strange things that have been going on in our country we wonder if this generation has read the minutes of freedom’s last meeting…. The Oppenheimer case even suggests the weird new science of ‘security’ would deny us the security of science.”
President Blanding conferred the bachelor’s degree on 269 members of the Class of 1954, and Harriet Taylor Mauck ’25, chair of the board of trustees, announced that gifts and bequests to the college in the past year totaled $863,284. The New York Times
To accommodate increasing numbers of returning alumnae, reunion weekend was scheduled separately from Commencement. Eight hundred seventy graduates from ten classes, starting with 1904, were welcomed back for a three-day reunion. Program topics included modern art, music and literature, and individual class dinners were served.
Two faculty-alumnae panels highlighted the reunion’s second day, and at the meeting of all alumnae on the last day alumnae fund chairman Helen Hendrickson Couch ‘24 announced that alumnae gifts for 1953-54 amounted to $475, 321. The establishment of the William H. Danforth Fund, with a gift of $100,000, was also made public. Dorothy Danforth ’17 was the daughter of Mr. Danforth, the founder of the Ralston Purina Company.
Praising the generosity of the alumnae, President Blanding said, “It is important in these difficult days when fear and suspicion stalk the earth that those who love and believe in liberal education renew affection and affirm again their determination that this kind of education, rooted in higher learning and great teaching, shall remain unmolested, that teachers shall be free to teach and students free to inquire about any subject under the sun so long as the final objective is the ultimate search for truth.” The New York Times
The library in Sanders Chemistry Building was opened. The new facility was named in honor of Mary Landon Sague ’07, who taught in the chemistry department from 1908 until 1952, and who was its chairman between 1924 and 1951.
The Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living welcomed family groups, teachers, specialists, students and volunteer community workers from 21 states and two foreign countries to its annual four-week program. An article in The New York Times for July 4 described the institute, begun in 1926, as “the first experiment of its kind in which those involved were both students and the subjects of their own study under conditions approximating scientific standards.”
For the summer of 1954, the institute’s scope, originally focused on family relations, broadened to include courses for improving community living, with field seminars in “Community Organization and Participation” and “Intergroup Relations in the Community.” Parents and children between the ages of two and ten, living in separate residence halls, enrolled in varying programs. Thirty-five undergraduate students from nine colleges, enrolled in a work-study program in “Child Development and Education,” worked in the children’s school under the supervision of Eveline Omwake, directory of the nursery school at the Yale Child Study Center. The New York Times
The child study department held a series of monthly discussion meetings on the topic of “Problems of Learning and Teaching.” The voluntary series was open to seniors in child study courses and staff of the Poughkeepsie Day School, which was used by the department as a laboratory.
A new course, Christianity and Psychodynamics, was offered in the religion department.
American poet Wallace Stevens gave a reading of his work. The Necessary Angel, Stevens’s influential volume of essays that he called “contributions to the theory of poetry,” appeared in 1951, and his Collected Poems (1954) won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1955.
Pakistani Ambassador Syed Amjad Ali, his wife, Begum Ali, his daughter, Mumliqat and her cousin Niloufer Ali visited Vassar as guests of President Blanding. Two other relatives of the ambassador and two embassy attachés were also in his party. The ambassador, his wife and his sister and cousin stayed at the President’s House, and Mumliqat and Niloufer slept in a residence hall.
The group attended the first hall play, The Boy with the Cards, and the ambassador spoke briefly at the opening of an exhibit of Pakistani arts and crafts in the Library. Lunch with students, a trip to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park and a formal dinner with members of the faculty rounded out the visit.
“The group trekked home Sunday morning—leaving new friends for Pakistan behind them.” The Washington Post
Former psychology instructor Lloyd Barenblatt, who had refused in June to answer certain question before the House Un-American Activities Committee, was one of eight previous witnesses indicted for contempt of Congress. Convicted, he appealed, and his appeal went to the Supreme Court, which, in June 1959, upheld the conviction, five to four. Justices Black and Douglas and Chief Justice Warren filed a dissent, and Justice Brennan filed a separate, brief dissent.
Although Barenblatt’s Vassar four-year contract had expired at the time of his appearance before the committee, President Blanding strongly supported the former faculty member.
An overflow crowd of 500 admirers caused a performance by popular Hungarian émigré pianist George Feyer to be moved from Alumnae House to the Students’ Building. Since the very popular lectures on jazz in 1946 and 1947 by Visiting Professor Sterling Brown from Howard University, students had gathered at Alumnae House on Sunday afternoons for music and milk punch.
Salvador de Madariaga, Spanish statesman and man of letters, the brother of Pilar de Madariaga of the Spanish department, lectured on "Peace and Liberty." He spoke at the college in 1938, rallying support for the Republican loyalist cause in Spain and again in 1947 when, speaking on "The Spirit of Europe," he stressed the postwar importance of the historical, cultural and intellectual links between Europe and the United States in the face of the rise of communism.
A scholarship to the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living honoring former president Henry Noble MacCracken was announced at a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel of the board of the Manhattan-Westchester region of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Given by the regional board, the scholarship was in recognition of MacCracken’s years of service “to the cause of good human relations.”
A freshman wrote home, “…I have really been enjoying Vassar since vacation…. I have discovered several girls in the house who are great fun…. Bridge has come into my life…movies are better than ever, too, and so handy to the college, and sometimes, oh horrible! We even go out and have a petite drink.” Ms. letter
The trustees approved The Twenty-five Million Dollar Development Program to raise funds necessary to maintain Vassar's high standard of education in its second hundred years. Fifteen million dollars were sought for faculty salaries and the educational program, and $10 million would go for maintenance and improvement of the physical plant.
The first gifts came from the Ford Foundation, an endowment grant of $934,000, and an accomplishment grant of $579,500. Completion of program was set for 1965, and its public announcement occurred on March 17, 1957.
Giving the thirteenth Helen Kenyon Lecture, “You and Tomorrow,” Anna Rosenberg, consultant to the National Security Resources Board and former Assistant Secretary of Defense, declared “Women are the balance of power in politics today. There can be no world of tomorrow with the active understanding and participation of today's youth, so don't sit on the sidelines."
"Mrs. Rosenberg," reported Rosemary Klineberg '57 in The Miscellany News, "identified the two main issues of modern life as freedom and peace. In the United States, she asserted, there is a widespread fear of unorthodox viewpoints, which has been hacking away at our basic freedoms in the name of security. The right to think freely, she added, is not a luxury, but a necessity; the high price that must be paid for conformity is more than we can afford.
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. Speaking on "Where are Women Today in Public and Economic Life," Anna Rosenberg had delivered the Kenyon lecture at Vassar in 1949.
The first television set on campus was installed in Students’ Building.
Vassar won top honors in a three-sport tournament at the Barnard College gymnasium. With each sport valued at 1 point, Vassar teams scored 1½ points by winning the badminton singles and by posting a 68-67 win over Barnard in basketball. The other teams in the four-way tournament were Bryn Mawr and New Jersey College for Women.
The theme of the Community Religious Association’s 3rd annual conference on religion was “Love.”
The first Sophomore Fathers Weekend was held with an attendance of about one hundred and twenty.
A note in the “Education News” column of The New York Times reported that 76 percent of Vassar’s Class of 1954 was either employed or pursuing graduate study.
Francisco Garcia Lorca, younger brother and biographer of Spanish dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca, lectured on "Los Nombres en el Quijote." A professor at Queens College and the director of the Middlebury College Spanish Summer School, Garcia Lorca taught, in 1955, at Columbia.
The college announced the appointment of Assistant Professor of English Elizabeth Adams Daniels ’41 as assistant dean.
President Blanding participated in a conference at Barnard College that brought the heads of 15 women’s colleges together with members of the Council for Financial Aid to Education, a nonprofit group formed to help keep America’s industrial sector informed about the needs of American higher education. Council member Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., chairman of General Motors Corporation, who had just given $5 million to higher education for physical science research, told the college leaders that they were not planning “big enough.” He outlined what he called “Operation Expansion,” a multi-point strategy that he though the “education industry” should consider.
Noting that individual men had often given generously to women’s education, President Blanding said that such gifts were not enough to keep up with current needs without continually increasing tuition. “The real hope for the future,” she said, “must be reliance upon increased corporate giving and some recognition of the claim of women’s colleges to a due share of corporate gifts.” John A. Pollard, director of research for the council, underscored the institutions’ plight, observing that a study in 1954 of 28 women’s colleges had found that the average annual faculty salary was $4,529. The New York Times
Within a year’s time Vassar was among many colleges receiving funds from foundations established by Ford, Esso and Colgate-Palmolive.
The records of the graduating class showed that 53 percent of the class took one or more courses in religion in their four years, a 75 percent increase over the Class of 1935. Only eight percent of the graduates took no courses in either religion or philosophy.
The student editor of the Vassar Alumnae Magazine wrote, “The products of the Great Depression, we have grown up during the difficult years of World War II, the post-war readjustments, the Cold War and the Korean Conflict. It seems to me that these experiences have had a sobering effect upon us: we hesitate to espouse any cause with enthusiasm; we are careful to look on both sides of any issue, for we have seen too many causes torn apart and have witnessed the breakdown of too many old values. I think this has tended to make us a negative generation; we are not crusaders, for we have seen too many crusades fail….”
At his baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1955, the Reverend Arthur Lee Kinsolving, rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church in New York City and former Vassar trustee, urged the class to “take a positive stand on moral issues as Jesus did.” “We have a great need,” he continued, “of the robust sense of confidence possessed by our forefathers, grounded in deep trust of God and obedience to His laws.” The New York Times
In his commencement address to the Class of 1955, former Governor of New York and two-time Republican presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey had cautious good news for the 291 graduates, saying that “a new, high quality of statesmanship and skill” had upset the Soviet Union’s “timetable of conquest” at every turn. “The ghastly shadow of world conquest which hangs over all of us is, of course, still with us,” he admitted. “It will surely be with us the rest of our lives. But the good news is that freedom has won a steady succession of victories and the spread of slavery has been stopped…. The tyrant has been met by strength and brave action. He has been forced to change his tactics. Of course, we are not so naïve to as to believe the plan for conquest has changed.” The New York Times
Classes returning for reunions learned that alumnae gave a record $398,846 to the college for unrestricted use and that total gifts for the year were $578,248.
A recalculation of gifts for the year ending June 30 appeared in The New York Times in October. Alumnae giving was reported as $452,463, and total gifts came to $1,034,035.
The Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living marked the completion of its 30th annual session with a celebration in Main Building. Begun in 1926 as an extension of the innovative study field called Euthenics, the institute altered with the times, reflecting the country’s changed needs during wartime and, more recently, the rise of community organizing and the recognition of new communities within towns and cities.
By 1955, the number of its “alumnae/i”—women, men, students, and children who enrolled over the years—was more than 3,500.
A new electronic carillon for the chapel was given by Mrs. W.P. Lanctot and Paul E. Van Horn in honor of the three Lanctot sisters, Eleanor Lanctot Van Horn ’30, Sarah Lanctot Rigg ’36 and Katharine Lanctot ’39.
The English department offered a new course, Far Eastern Literature in Translation.
Lillian Smith, progressive Southern writer and educator, lectured to freshmen in the English department on "Writing." Miss Smith, first known for her controversial novel about interracial marriage, Strange Fruit (1944), published Now is the Time, calling for compliance with the recent Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, in 1955. She spent a month at the college under the auspices of the department of English.
Mrs. Barbara Grant Nnoka, educational consultant to the Prime Minister of East Nigeria, lectured on "Nigeria in Transition." At a press conference, Mrs. Nnoka told The Vassar Chronicle that the "period for dilly-dallying is over; Nigeria will have self-government soon," adding that the British, despite having ruled the country since 1885, "realize that their control is limited. Since 1945 progressive steps have been taken toward autonomy in government." And, asked about racial problems, she replied, "There are no problems because there are no relationships between the races. Segregation is social, not legal, and is enforced by custom."
An American and a 1943 graduate of Colby College, Mrs. Nnoka first went to Nigeria in 1954 by appointment of the British Colonial Government. She remained in the country teaching and advocating for women's health programs and education for six years after the country’s independence was achieved in 1960.
The arrest of Rosa Parks, an African American passenger on a bus in Montgomery, AL, for refusing to give up her seat at the front of the “colored section” to a white passenger, attracted both local and nationwide attention. A bus boycott, encouraged by the newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., lasted until the desegregation of the Montgomery buses on Dec. 21, 1956.
The centenary of Sigmund Freud was commemorated by lectures throughout the academic year. Speakers included: Columbia University social psychologist Otto Klineberg, a pioneer in the debunking of racial mental stereotypes; Phillip Rahv, co-founder and editor of Partisan Review: parapsychologist Dr. Gardner Murphy, research director of the Menninger Foundation, and Seward Hiltner, professor of pastoral psychology at the University of Chicago. The celebration ended with a Freud Colloquium conducted by members of the Vassar faculty moderated by Dwight Chapman, professor of psychology.
President Blanding announced the gift to the college of $200,000 in securities from Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller was a graduate in the Class of 1931. The gift was unrestricted, but Mr. Rockefeller wrote that he and his wife “would be happy if the money were to be used for salaries” of faculty and administrative personnel. He added that the recent contributions to American colleges and universities by the Ford Foundation “impressed and inspired” him.
Having identified faculty salaries as the “number one concern” in higher education, Miss Blanding concurred with the Rockefellers’ wishes. An almost immediate use of some of the Rockefeller gift was the establishment of the George Sherman Dickinson Chair of Music in honor of Professor Dickinson, a member of the music department from 1916 until 1953 and for many years chairman of the department. Professor Carl Parrish was the first recipient.
The Vocational Bureau reported that nearly two-thirds of the student body held jobs, paid or volunteer, during the previous summer vacation, earning a total of over $200,000.
Kathleen M. Lea, fellow and vice-principal at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, lectured on "One of Shakespeare's Unpopular Plays, All's Well That Ends Well." Miss Lea was a visiting scholar at Vassar during the second semester.
At a conference sponsored by the Student Science Club, students and faculty from Williams College, West Point, Union College and Vassar heard student papers on chemistry, physics, zoology, biology, plant science and mechanical engineering. After a reception for participants in the late afternoon, Dr. Leon Greenberg, a member of the Center for Alcohol Studies, a unit of the Laboratory of Applied Physiology at Yale University, lectured on "The Fate and Effects of Alcohol in the Body." A dance followed Dr. Greenburg's lecture.
Seventeen academic departments and some 500 students participated in a Renaissance Colloquium, celebrating the art, dance, drama, music, thought and food of the era. The idea, according to the chairman, Professor of Music Elizabeth Katzenellenbogen, was “to create the actual sights and sounds and flavors of Renaissance daily life, as a background for a provocative discussion of Renaissance ideas.”
Erwin Panofsky, professor of art at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, spoke on "Pandora's Box, a Northern Contribution to the Renaissance," and Edward Lowinsky, professor of music, Queens College, discussed "Humanism in the Music of the Renaissance: North and South.” Erich Auerbach, professor of romance languages at Yale, addressed "Humanism and the Vernaculars" and Roland H. Bainton, professor of ecclesiastical history at Yale, spoke on "Petrarch and St. Francis."
Ben Jonson's The Alchemist was presented by the Experimental Theatre under the direction of Professor Mary Virginia Heinlein '25, and 40 student “pageboys” served a dinner whose menu, compiled by an English class, was inspired by a banquet of Henry VIII.
The Pulitzer Prize committee announced that two Vassar graduates had won prizes.
Elizabeth Bishop ’34 won the prize in poetry for her collection Poems: North & South: A Cold Spring (1955).
Frances Goodrich ’12 was co-winner, with Albert Hackett, of the prize in drama for their play, The Diary of Anne Frank (1955), a dramatization of The Diary of a Young Girl, the writings of Anne Frank from a diary she kept during the two years she and her family were in hiding from the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands.
The Eisenhower administration’s foreign policy came under attack from Tennessee senator and presidential aspirant Estes Kefauver in an address to the Vassar student body. Charging that recent suggestions from Secretary of State John Foster Dulles of a larger presence for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were made four years ago by then General Eisenhower, Senator Kefauver said a bi-partisan group endorsed a correction for the “continued disunion” within the Atlantic community in 1949. The West, he said, was “far weaker in April, 1956, than it was in April, 1952.” He urged the President to accept this proposal and to convene NATO partners to “determine what steps they might take to forge unity in the military, economic and political policies.” The New York Times
Eudora Welty, writer of novels and stories about the American South, lectured on "Place in Fiction." Her novel, The Ponder Heart (1954), was awarded the William Dean Howells medal for fiction in 1954.
Forty-one percent of the Vassar faculty was men, compared to 29 percent in 1946.
In her address at Commencement, research director of the Foreign Policy Association and former Vassar trustee Vera Micheles Dean told the Class of 1956 they needn’t be pessimistic about the future of democracy and “assume that totalitarianism is predestined to rule the world.” “On the contrary,” she said, “both in the Communist and non-Communist sectors of the world we see many signs that the trend of world events is moving away from rather than toward totalitarianism.” America, she continued, often failed to consider historical perspective, and thus perceived in communism as large and as permanent a phenomenon as it saw a short generation ago in Nazism and fascism. “This is a danger,” she said, “to which many of us who reject communism, as we once rejected Nazism and fascism, are peculiarly prone.”
Mrs. Dean urged the 277 members of the Class of 1956 to review history and realize that no revolutionary movements are static, that change and revision are their inevitable aftereffects and that their eventual movement is toward accommodation, the consolidation of gains and the elimination of errors. The New York Times
A note in the “Education News” column of The New York Times summarized the generosity of Vassar alumnae:
“Vassar College alumnae have contributed a record sum of $700,000 during 1955-56. The unrestricted gifts during the past year totaled $382,370, compared to $93,000 in 1948-49. Some 1,000 alumnae are scheduled to attend the annual fund meeting at Vassar today. The twenty-fifth reunion class will give the college a gift of $60,000, the largest gift ever given a woman’s college from a reunion class. In comparison to size, the alumnae group of Vassar is outstripping the efforts made by graduates of Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and other men’s colleges.”
The Times reported the following day that the exact total of the annual alumnae gift was $775,505.
The college’s conversion from direct to alternating current was partially complete. “Converters were a dime a dozen in Josselyn, Jewett and the Quad Houses, where we can now plug the victrola right into the wall!” a student reported in the Vassar Alumnae Magazine.
The college completed the change, expected to save the college $20,000 annually, in 1959.
The Russian department offered a course, Soviet Literature in Translation, for students who had substantial backgrounds in the history, political structure and economics of the Soviet Union.
A junior described her room:
“The Haitian corner boasts an outlandish potted palm which would lend respectability to the most fashionable funeral parlor. The effect is rapturous by day and overwhelming by night, owing to indirect lighting, an extravagance born of the inevitable excess of lamps accumulated by four people in the space of two years! This hides behind a straw chair and to complete the grouping, there hangs a great stone face which throws horrible ritualistic shadows on the wall behind, which is, alas, still spootch-colored!.... [One roommate] has contributed an expanse of white carpet…and a lean, low blond coffee table…” MS letter
Sir John Rothenstein, director of the Tate Gallery, London, lectured on "British Painting Today."
A Conference of Undergraduate Russian Clubs, the first of its kind, was held under the auspices of the Department of Russian. Vassar was host to 105 students from 16 colleges and universities. The keynote speaker was Professor Michael M. Karpovich of Harvard University, whose topic was "The Meaning of the Recent Changes in the Soviet Union."
A student analyzed her studies in her junior year:
“My work is almost sheer recreation. Except that the supposition is that you delve where you previously dabbled, I could be a lady-of-leisure amusing herself. Music, a survey course which doesn’t allow for much independence of attack, Northern Painting—wonderful…. Aesthetics, which neatly ties up the painting and the music, and narrative writing and contemporary poetry…. Both are well-taught. ‘Narrative’ requires on paper a week with intermittent reading (the reading done with a positively surgical approach—word by word—and in poetry, sound by sound). The reading tempers your way of going about writing so directly that after every class hour, I feel that I would have gone about that week’s paper a little differently, had I had in hand my newest tools. It is most gratifying to feel progress so quickly, but I am beginning to understand that there is no scholarship without patience, and that is must come slowly. I will have to learn to mind waiting less, and I suppose that is a part of ‘growth’ too. …it is nice to have the library as your oyster rather than your chief ogre….” MS letter
The annual report on student summer jobs from the Vocation Bureau showed that two-thirds of Vassar students held paying jobs in the summer of 1956 and that they earned a record $265,217.
A rally for the Hungarian students who fought for freedom in nationwide uprisings (Oct. 23-Nov. 10) raised over $2,000 to aid students who escaped to Austria.
The centenary of the death of Robert Schumann was observed with two programs of his piano, vocal and instrumental music, and recollections by his grandson, Robert Sommerhoff, a Poughkeepsie resident. A special exhibition in the Music Library included unpublished manuscripts, essays and poems written by Schumann at age 17.
Rosemary Klineberg ’57 participated in the New York Times Youth Forum, a televised discussion of the question “Can the World Achieve Arms Control?” The guest participant, Philippine Ambassador Carlos P. Romulo said, “There must be arms control. We have to devote all our energies, heart and soul, to this paramount problem.” His son, Roberto, a student at Georgetown, concurred as did the other student participants, a cadet from West Point and students from Fairleigh-Dickinson University and from Clark University. Miss Klineberg differed from Cadet Richard White’s view that a United Nations “police force” might gradually achieve arms control. She favored world disarmament in stages, but, she said, “it should be part of a complete plan.” The New York Times
The board of trustees announced a new faculty pay scale for 1956-57, providing increases of up to 23 percent. Based on a study of pay inequities relative to the consumer price index from 1939 to 1956, the new scale, which included full pension benefits in place of one-half pension benefits, addressed inequities which, the survey showed, were greatest in the upper ranks—professors and associate professors. With the pension benefits, the new top salaries were $5,655 a year for instructors, $6,460 for assistant professors, $7,495 for associate professors and $13,015 for professors and represented increases of 11, 16, 20 and 23 percent, respectively. The New York Times
"Human Longing and Fulfillment" was the theme of a lecture series given under the auspices of the Community Religious Association and the chaplain. Lecturers in November were Dr. W. Norman Pittenger, professor of Christian apologetics at the General Theological Seminary and Sterling Power Lamprecht, emeritus professor of philosophy at Amherst College. Panelists were Dr. Pittenger, Professor Lamprecht and Dr. Robert E. Terwilliger, rector of Christ Church, Poughkeepsie.
In February, Father Gustav Weigel from Woodstock College, Woodstock, MD, spoke, and in April, Rabbi John Cohen of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism lectured.
Earl Clement Attlee, British postwar Prime Minister, lectured on "Today's World."
The mathematics department, with the cooperation of IBM, inaugurated a teaching program in electronic computing, with a course in numerical analysis taught by Dr. Willard Bouricius, the director of the IBM Research Laboratory. The following year, as Priniciples in Digital Computing, the course was adopted by the mathematics department.
Another course, Math 385b, Studies, introduced in January 1959, combined both classroom study and hands-on computer work and was taught by Dr. Sullivan G. Campbell from IBM. The Miscellany News
The faculty authorized the appointment of a Coordinating Committee on Educational Policy, succeeding its Assessment Committee. A two-year study of the college as a whole was made, with emphasis on Vassar's educational objectives and the implications of its being a residential college.
An exhibition of paintings by American artist Wendell Jones opened in Taylor Hall. Succeeding Clarence Chatterton, Jones was a member of the art department from 1948 until his death, while on a faculty fellowship in Rome, in 1956.
In celebration of the end of British colonial rule in Ghana, on March 5, 1957, the Anthropology Club invited two Ghanaian students to visit the campus.
American poet Robert Lowell read from his poems and commented on them. A student said, after talking with him about his work, “Where else would I have had such an opportunity? We talked about Robert Lowell and his poetry for many days after the reading—over dinner, in the Retreat, walking between classes. Both our discussion and our intellectual lives were richer for the experience.” The Vassar Alumnae Magazine
Lowell’s Life Studies (1959) won the National Book Award for poetry in 1960.
British economist and writer Barbara Ward, former foreign editor of The Economist and a Carnegie fellow at Harvard University, gave the 14th Helen Kenyon Lecture on "Asia and the Atlantic Community."
The Vassar Political Association held a conference on "The Changing South." The speakers included: Hodding Carter, Pulitzer prize-winning editor and publisher of The Greenville [MS] Delta Democrat; political scientist and historian Carl B. Swisher of Johns Hopkins University; Hugh D. Comer, head of the progressive Avondale Mills in Birmingham, Alabama; Benjamin D. Segal, Southern organizer for the American Federation of Labor and professors Sterling A. Brown and E. Franklin Frazier of Howard University.
The college publicly announced The Twenty-five Million Dollar Development Program approved by the trustees in 1955, adjusting slightly the program’s original divisions. Of the total, $16.5 million was to be devoted to the educational program, particularly faculty salaries and scholarships, and $8.5 million was for physical plant maintenance and improvements, among which were a new residence hall, new biology building, a foreign language building, an addition to the Library and restoration of Main Building.
The total raised to date was $1,250,000, with an additional $1,300,000 anticipated from the Ford Foundation for faculty salaries. Announcing the development program, President Blanding said, "In 1961 Vassar College will celebrate her 100th anniversary not by extolling past acheivements, but with a commitment for the future. When we talk about the highest standards in education, what we really mean can be described simply enough: the best students, the best teachers and the finest relationships between them."
The co-trustee chairs of the program, to be completed by 1965, were Elizabeth Hyde Brownell ’26 and Mary St. John Villard ’34. President Alan Simpson announced the program's successful completion in November 1964 The Miscellany News
General Carlos P. Romulo, Philippine ambassador to the United States and representative to the United Nations Security Council, lectured on "The New Strategy of Communism in Asia." Writing in The Miscellany News, Midge Pasco '60 said Romulo 'feels that Russia's actual attack on the free world is just beginning and that it is America's duty to create 'channels of productive world developments and trade...for the promise of alternative to a new Dark Age of Communist totalitarianism' for the young countries of Asia and Africa."
Nevitt Sanford, director of the Mary Conover Mellon Foundation for the Advancement of Education, was quoted in The Lady’s Home Journal on the Mellon program’s work. “…we made a study [at Vassar] to find out what distinguished good students from poor ones; and we found out that the most important factor among good students was that their mothers had intellectual interests and aspirations.” Dr. Sanford also noted some features of student culture at Vassar: “Toward one another, students are expected to be friendly, co-operative, pleasant. Toward the faculty, polite, dutiful, impersonal. The college work is to be taken seriously, but not too seriously…. The emphasis is on moderation, keeping everyone on the same level of behaviour and accomplishment…. With respect to ideas and issues, the thing is to be open-minded and non-controversial, above all to avoid unpleasantness. If an ethical decision is to be made, the proper course is to find out what others think.”
A Yale student group interested in showcasing college talent brought ten student singing groups, including the Vassar Night Owls, to Carnegie Hall by in a concert called “The College Sound.” Other groups included the Colgate Thirteen, the Princeton Tigertones, the Smith Sniffenpoops, the Brown Jabberwocks, the Yale Baker’s Dozen, the Bowdoin Meddiebempsters and Cornell’s Cayuga’s Waiters.
The Vassar Experimental Theater produced E. E. Cummings’s play, Him (1927). A non-drama student involved in the production wrote, “we got fascinated with the play which is very weird and stylish and typically Cummings, the way all Cummings is! Miss [Mary Virginia] Heinlein ['25]…is a remarkably gifted director albeit a tyrannical one, and it was exciting to watch her in her transmission of the play and what it meant to her, to the actors, some of them extremely talented, some of them lifeless and insipid as could be. As she screams her directions from the back of the auditorium she is sometimes in a sort of trance-like state of communion with the person on the stage, and what she says, half the play and half Heinlein sounds remarkably like the prophetic ravings of the Delphic Oracle! Very impressive for the novice, of course.” MS letter
The Experimental Theater produced the play once before, in December, 1944.
The election of Frederica Pisek Barach ’25 as chairman of the board of trustees was announced. A former literary editor of The Review of Reviews and executive secretary during World War II of the Writers War Board, Mrs. Barach was the first editor of The Vassar Alumnae Magazine. A trustee since 1951, she was on the English faculties of Sarah Lawrence and Barnard.
Professor of Natural History Arthur H. Compton from Washington University in St. Louis spoke to the 303 members of the Class of 1957, their guests, the faculty and trustees at the college’s 93rd Commencement. The recipient of the 1927 Nobel Prize in physics said that while nuclear obliteration of the world’s nations could probably be ruled out, international conflicts, some even more grave than the current turmoil in the Middle East, were inevitable. A “great venture of faith is needed,” to remove international strife. “It is this venture, based on the faith that great new things can be done in which one will share with many others, that has brought strength and prosperity to the nations that now lead.” The New York Times
Writing in The New York Times, Milton Bracker reported that 132 of the 310 living members of the Class of 1932 attended their 25th Reunion. A survey showed that 90 percent of the class had been married at least once, and there were 27 divorces and 16 remarriages. Fourteen of the 25th reunion class had been widowed. After due consideration, the class, broke a long tradition, and husbands were invited to join them Sixty-six men had accepted the invitation.
Many of the husbands admitted originally first coming to Vassar “on another mission,” and Bracker recorded “one conversation that suggested a one-act play:
“SCENE: an overheated lawn outside Cushing Hall. Dramatis personae: A Boston psychiatrist, his wife and a visitor.
VISITOR (to wife): Did your husband have dates at Vassar when you were a student?
WIFE (firmly): He did, but not with me.
VISTOR (to husband, who is taking it in with a sort of watchful innocence): Do you know where the girl you first dated is today?
HUSBAND (with a gulp): Yes.
WIFE (cutting in, with some emphasis): So do I. (Then, after a pause, and with a delicate touch): She’s still single.”
The class’s experiment was “by all odds…a success,” Bracker reported. “A harmonizing influence was the presence of Herbert S. (Hub) MacDonald and his banjo.” MacDonald, a recently elected Superior Court judge from Connecticut, strummed “songs of what someone described as the ‘Tea for Two’ era. The serenade was so popular that ‘Good Night Ladies’ was repeated well into the morning.”
At Reunions, the college reported that total annual alumnae giving, including bequests, totaled $992,500, a record. The total in 1956 was $810,000.
Two bulls and 93 cows and heifers, part of Vassar’s Guernsey dairy herd, were sold at auction, bringing some $50,000. The dairy operations on the Vassar farm had supplied milk to the college for some 60 years, but Vassar’s general manager, Louis L. Brega, explained that rising operating costs made the college dairy too costly to sustain. Another 157 head of cattle were scheduled for sale in the fall.
Vegetable farming on the 500 acre farm, Mr. Brega said, would continue. The New York Times
A former trustee and former president of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College, Florence Clothier Wislocki M.D. ’13, was appointed assistant to President Blanding. Having been staff psychiatrist at the prestigious New England Home for Little Wanderers, she was asked by the Alumnae News Letter why she would abandon that practice to become assistant to Vassar’s president. “Because,” she replied, “Vassar is an exciting place, a place occupied with independent thinking, a place where the liberal arts are preparing women for creative lives, a place, in short, where the goals of education and preventive psychiatry are one.”
A priority assignment for the new administrator was as executive officer in charge of planning the college’s 100th anniversary in the 1960-61 academic year.
Nine black students entered Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, under the protection of nearly 1,000 United States Army paratroopers. An earlier attempt by the school board in Little Rock and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was blocked by Arkansas’s segregationist governor Orville Faubus, who deployed the National Guard to block the students’ entry.
A senior wrote to her parents: “I have been doing some fascinating reading for my central English course, in which our first section of study is devoted to the handling of time in contemporary literature; we were referred to Bergson, St. Augustine, T. S. Eliot, by way of background, and are reading Eliot’s Four Quartets, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Mrs. [Agnes Rindge] Claflin’s nineteenth and twentieth century p’t’g. is fun because it’s hers, and she is a delightful, if scatter-brained, lecturer, owing to her special sense of humor combined with a quality of the worldliness that Mother was talking about the other day, a soupçon of which is essential to any real personality. My other courses are Contemporary Drama…and a required course on the development of the language. UGH—and please no philosophical mish mash on its ultimate value!" MS letter
Soviet scientists launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik I. The 184-pound sphere circled the earth approximately every 11/2 hours at an altitude of 140 to 560 miles above the earth.
Irish-born British dancer Dame Ninette de Valois, founder and director of the Royal Ballet, known as the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, gave the 15th Helen Kenyon Lecture on "History of the Royal Ballet." Dame Ninette explained the British perference of classical ballet over modern dance, reported B. J. Lockhart '58 in The Miscellany News, was "that the English have always had so much ballet. Not only within the country but from the Continent as well."
"When asked about experimentalism in ballet, Dame Ninette said that it could come only if a dancer has a strong background of classical discipline.... 'The freedom you get from a discipline is the only freedom that matters...[classical discipline] is the longest approach, but in the end it's the freest.'"
Russian-American novelist and translator Vladimir Nabokov, professor of comparative and Russian literature at Cornell University, lectured on "The Art of Translation." His best-known novel, Lolita, appeared in 1955.
The Anthropology Club held a conference on "Changing Patterns in the Caribbean." Lecturers were Caribbean anthropologist Sidney W. Mintz of Yale University and Maya Deren, a pioneer in experimental film. Deren recounted her extensive filming of Haitian Voudou ritual and dancing for her film, Meditation on Violence (1948), in her book, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (1953).
Andean and Incan anthropologist John V. Murra, professor of anthropology at Vassar, chaired a panel discussion, and the conference ended with a Calypso performance under the direction of Percy Borde of the Trinidadian Pearl Primus company.
Emily C. Brown, professor of economics, spoke on "A Vassar Economist's Research in Russia on Soviet Labor Relations." This was the first of a series of Vassar faculty scholars’ lectures. The other lecturers were: Inez Scott Ryberg, professor of classics, whose topic was "Art and Ideas in the Service of World Empire;" Mildred Campbell, professor of history, who spoke on "The First Comers: a Study in American Origins" and H. Marjorie Crawford, professor of chemistry, who entitled her talk "A Journey into Space.”
Later speakers in the series were Professor of Art Adolf Katzenellenbogen, who explained "The Personification of the Church in Mediaeval Art;" A. Scott Warthin, professor of geology, who explored "Dissolving Islands and Other Impossibilities;" Professor of Italian Maria Piccirilli, whose topic was "Dante's Mysterious Lady;" Mary Giffin, professor of English, who spoke on "King Arthur and the Round Table in Poetry and Politics" and Professor of Child Study L. Joseph Stone, who discussed "The Deaf Child."
The national “soul-searching,” as The New York Times put it, provoked by the Soviet Union’s launch of two satellites into earth orbit and the publication of a two-year survey by the Office of Education showing a serious lag in science education, led the newspaper to solicit comment from leading educators. President Blanding spoke for Vassar: “Traditional liberal arts colleges have consistently maintained that the well educated person has some familiarity with each of the great areas of knowledge. Therefore, Vassar requires study of both physical and biological sciences as well as the arts and humanities. The danger of imbalance is lessened when such curricular provisions prevail.”
"The Partnership of Man and Nature," a conference sponsored by the Helen Gates Putnam Division of Conservation, included lectures by: Paul B. Sears, chairman of the Yale University Conservation Program; physicist M.L. Trytten of the National Research Council; economist Eli Ginzberg, director of the Conservation of Human Resources Project at Columbia University; William A. Albrecht, professor of soils at the University of Missouri; land use and reforestation expert Gordon R. Ayer of the U.S. Geological Survey; geologist Cornelia C. Cameron of the U.S. Geological Survey and New York State Assemblyman R. Watson Pomeroy, conservationist and chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Natural Resources.
In his keynote address, “Man and Nature in the World Today,” Dr. Sears, reported The Miscellany News, observed that the “people of the United States received the wealth of an untapped continent…but we are wasting this wealth through impractical use of our minerals and an unchecked characterized as ‘urban sprawl…. Up to this time, the record has not been too encouraging, but,’ Dr. Sears continued, he had ‘immense faith that man will do something to set it right.’” Addressing “The Problems of Scientific and Technical Manpower,” Dr. Trytten “stressed the importance that technical manpower has in the light of current events. He said that Russia’s new scientific achievements such as their submarine fleets, their air power and Sputnik emphasizes America’s need for more trained personnel.” Dr. Ginzberg “pointed out that although essentially there is little difference between manpower and womanpower, there are many barriers to the most effective use of women in our society.”
Yale, Vassar and Smith began a cooperative experimental teacher training program, enrolling not more than five juniors from Vassar to do their fourth year of work for the Vassar degree at Yale. The work included graduate courses in the subject the students planned to teach, a senior seminar and a special interdepartmental course in the philosophy and social history of American education. Housed in a residence hall for women graduate students, Vassar and Smith students in the program were the first undergraduate women to study at Yale. They received their bachelor’s degrees from their home institutions.
A fifth year consisted of full time paid teaching in public high schools in the vicinity of New Haven, supervised by members of the Yale faculty and cooperating master teachers, accompanied by a seminar at Yale based on actual teaching problems. The degree of Master of Arts in teaching was awarded at the end of the fifth year.
Given by Nellie Ferrell Cushing '97 in honor of her mother, Mary E. Brown Ferrell, and her sisters, Minna Ferrell Johnson '89 and Mary Estelle Ferrell '94, Ferrell House, a residence for the chaplain, was completed, Goldstone & Dearborn, architects.
The College Government Association, formerly Students’ Association, disbanded, owing to the organization’s unwieldy size, the amount of routine work and students’ lack of interest in participating. Student interim committees took over the association’s former duties.
The student reporter for The Vassar Alumnae Magazine explained: “Recently one of my professors stated that girls our age were interested in becoming civic leaders…. He couldn’t have been more wrong. This is exactly what we aren’t interested in becoming. Since I have been at Vassar I have seen the focus of students and the college as a whole become more conspicuously academic…. Vassar now costs $2,500 a year. You can become well-rounded for much less money. You go to college because you enjoy study, not for the job it will get you later, or some future ‘civic activities’ for which it will prepare you. It has to be. Preparing for a future which could be destroyed through the whim of a man in Moscow who can push a button seems pointless.”
Joseph Szigeti, Hungarian violinist, gave three recitals featuring twelve sonatas of the twentieth century.
Delivering the Phi Beta Kappa lecture, "The Geophysical Year and International Cooperation," Kirtley F. Mather, Professor Emeritus of Geology from Harvard University explained the history and unique importance of the International Geophysical Year, a cooperative effort involving 67 countries and extending from July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958. The field of geophysics, he explained, encompassing eleven scientific sub-fields, requires an international scope for its studies. "He explained," said The Miscellany News, "that the things which a geologist studies can be designated to certain countries, but when one is deaing with ocean currents, the atmosphere and earth tides, 'no nation can go it alone'; there has to be international cooperation for an effective scientific study in these fields."
In addition to his accomplishments as a geophysicist, Dr. Mather—descended from the distinguished New England clerics—was a lifelong social activist on issues ranging from evolution and academic freedom to McCarthyism, and he shared some of these views on other occassions with Vassar audiences. A consultant for the defense in the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," he spoke at the college in 1927—as "Harvard Professor of Theology"—on "World Unity Through Science and Religion." "Professor Mather," reported The Miscellany Newsi, "immediately arroused interest when he stated that he was both an evolutionist and a man of religion. Contrary to general opinion religion is not opposed to science, but directly connected to it in a search for truth. 'We must cut through the husks of tradition, to the kernels of truth.'" In his keynote address at Vassar's Eastern Colleges Science Conference in 1947, "Together We Enter the Atomic Age," posed two questions which, said The Miscellany News, "set the tone" for the conference: "Man possesses for the first time in human history the ability to commit collective suicide.... What will he do with the new power?.... Will he use social principles to promote righteousness and happiness?"
Lionel Trilling, Professor of English, Columbia University, lectured on "English Literature and American Education." Trilling’s collections of essays, The Liberal Imagination (1950) and The Opposing Self (1955) established his as a leading voice in contemporary humanist thought and cultural criticism.
President Blanding announced that construction would start shortly on a new foreign language center, to be called Chicago Hall in recognition of the work done by alumnae in the Chicago area to secure the $675,000 required to build it.
Billy Graham, evangelist, lectured in the Chapel on "A Vital Faith for Today." All tickets for the program were taken five days before the event, and the president of the Religious Association reported that the majority of the students were inspired by the man, if not convinced by his message.
A conference on "The Nuclear Age: Its Effect on Aspects of Our Culture" was held under the auspices of the Political Association. On the program were William Laurence, science editor for The New York Times; Dr. J.V. Langmead Casserley, professor of dogmatic theology at the General Theological Seminary; Dr. Harry B. Williams, technical director of the Committee on Disaster Studies of the National Academy of Sciences—National Research Council; Dr. Benjamin Haggott Beckhart, professor of economics at the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and economic consultant to the Equitable Life Assurance Society; Colonel George A. Lincoln, professor of social sciences at West Point; Thomas P. Whitney, foreign editor and former Moscow bureau chief for the Associated Press; Max Ascoli, publisher and editor of The Reporter and former dean at the New School for Social Research; Dennis Flanagan, editor of The Scientific American; Professor of Physics Monica Healea and Professor Emeritus of English Helen D. Lockwood.
At the its close, a student remarked, “The conference enlarged my dilemma.” The Miscellany News
Some 200 students began a survey of the out-of-school activities of teen-agers in the Poughkeepsie and Arlington schools. The goal was to collect data from one of every four teens in the two school districts.
The Experimental Theatre presented the first performance in America of To Damascus, an adaptation by Professor of Drama Leon Katz of August Strindberg's trilogy, directed by Professor George B. Dowell with designs by John Kurten.
American poet Richard Wilbur read from and commented on his poems. Wilbur’s Things of This World (1956) won both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award for poetry in 1957.
A student wrote home, “He is of the new up-and-coming LUCID as a reaction to-the-last generation’s esotericism, which means that his poetry is very understandable, but still has mystery to it…. He was introduced by Miss [Barbara] Swain [’20, professor of English], who is of course quite equal to him in matters of charm and verbal eptitude.” MS letter
A concert in memory of E. Harold Geer, professor of music between 1916 and 1952 and director of the Vassar College Choir from 1920 until 1950, featured Johannes Brahams’s A German Requiem, performed by the Vassar College Choir and the Wesleyan University Choral Society, under the direction of Professor Donald M. Pearson and with an orchestra of students from the Juilliard School of Music.
Professor Geer died in 1957.
“I firmly believe in the metaphysical experience of staying up all night every once in a while in an academic capacity. It is nothing like staying up all night to go to a party, or to go to a party after going to a party, which I have done before…. The night is much shorter, paradoxically, than if you were doing it voluntarily. First it is one o’clock, as it frequently is, and then it is three-thirty and finally, much later, it is five and then suddenly it is ten minutes past seven and all the other people are beginning to crawl out of bed having slept all night, a fact which you scorn, and are looking simply terrible,—much worse than you, and you have the feeling that life has been passing them by whereas you, YOU know the value and meaning of everything. Knowing how long the night is, exactly, and how much can be accomplished in that time, and what time the sun comes up in the latter part of May, is a little bit like knowing how long life is.” MS letter
The Vassar Experimental Theatre presented the first American performance of Franz Kafka's Amerika, dramatized by Professor Leon Katz and directed by George Brendan Dowell.
The seventh annual New York State Science Congress was held at Vassar. It was sponsored by the New York State Science Teachers' Association. 39 high school students attended.
A curricular innovation came to public notice in an article in The New York Times about Dr. Frederick P. Brooks’s Mathematics 385b, Principles of Digital Computation, in its second year. Dr. Brooks, an International Business Machines Company employee, devised the course at the suggestion of Jane Johnson ‘35, the head of Vassar’s Vocational Bureau. Several of his 12 students in the Class of 1957 were employed by firms such as I.B.M., General Electric and Westinghouse.
The class in 1958 consisted of five registered students, one student auditor and Professor of Mathematics Abba Newton. “Since I’m a math major and programming is one job possibility for me,” said Marcia Appeltoft ’58, “I wanted to find out before applying for such a position whether I would like this type of work.” Another senior, zoology major Anne Lunning, thought the course would be useful “in any future work, particularly correlating biology and math.”
Dr. Brooks’s services were donated to the college by I. B. M. as was the Model 650 magnetic drum computer used by the class. When his I. B. M. duties required it, the class was taught by his wife, physicist Nancy Greenwood Brooks.
After a tumultuous year and the defection of some of the nine black students who enrolled in the fall, Ernest Green became the first black student to graduate from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and winner of the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize, historian and diplomat Lester B. Pearson told the 299 graduating members of the Class of 1958 that Canada was “a little touchy” about sometimes being overlooked by the United States. “You are citizens of a great nation,” the leader of Canada’s Liberal party said, “on whose leadership and power rests the fate of hundreds of millions outside your own borders.” That fact, he continued, “provides a test of the value of your education; in the wisdom and understanding you will show in reaching the judgments which are your minimum share in controlling national—and because of your country’s position—world policy.” Noting the “unbelievable capacity for destruction” of a nuclear power, he cautioned “one mistake—political, economic or strategic— by the colossus and the rest of us may be dangerously, and even fatally, affected.”
Frederica Pisek Barach ’25, chairman of the board of trustees, announced a gift from members of the graduating class and their parents of $26,082 would be used for faculty salaries. The New York Times
Discontinued for financial reasons, the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living, founded in 1926 as the Vassar Summer Institute of Euthenics, held its last session. This was the first and last session for the institute’s new director, Dr. Mervin Freedman.
The college announced that alumnae gifts for the year ending June 31 totaled $2,060,974. The total for the previous year was $976,349.
The college subsequently announced that all gifts for the year totaled $3,701,362, another record amount. The New York Times
Hoping to reduce anxieties for applicants, the colleges in the Seven College Conference—Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley—began fall consideration of high-school seniors’ applications. All candidates for early consideration were required to certify that they submitted only one application.
On September 12, the Supreme Court ordered Little Rock, AR, to proceed with its integration plan, and on the 15th, under special legislation allowing him to close schools and to lease them to private school corporations, Governor Orval Faubus ordered the four public high schools in Little Rock, AR, to close. On September 16, Adolphine Fletcher Terry ’02 formed the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, with 48 original members.
After the committee’s overwhelming defeat on September 27 in a special election called for by Terry’s group, the Little Rock Schools remained closed for a year.
The college established the Eloise Ellery Chair of History in honor of Miss Ellery ’97, a student of Lucy Maynard Salmon who taught in the history department from 1900 until her retirement in 1939. This faculty chair was part of the $25 million Vassar Development Program, as was that established in 1956 in honor of Professor of Music George Sherman Dickinson
The Ellery chair was first held by Professor of History Mildred Campbell.
Emma Hartman Noyes House, a residence hall, was dedicated. The building was made possible by gifts to the Vassar Development Program of Katharine F. Jansen '08 and Nicholas H. Noyes in memory of their mother, a member of the Class of 1880. Built at a cost of $1,400,000, the modern building, designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, contained 54 single and 51 double rooms.
Mr. Saarinen, the husband of Aline Bernstein Saarinen ’35, spoke about the building at its dedication.
Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, gave the 16th Helen Kenyon Lecture, "Knowledge and the Structure of Culture." His lecture was published by the college.
Mrs. Alla Butrov, staff member of the Washington Embassy of the USSR, lectured on "The Status of Women in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics."
English poet W.H. Auden gave two lectures, "The Things that Are Caesar's" and "The Hero in Modern Poetry," under the auspices of the departments of English and religion. He also visited classes, held informal discussions and gave a poetry reading.
After protracted litigation by first cousins of Nina F. Raynor ’05, her bequest of her entire estate to Vassar in honor of her mother was upheld by a Pennsylvania court. The college said that the Sarah Mills Raynor Fund—ultimately $401,639— would be added to the faculty salary endowment. Miss Raynor, who died in October of 1957, taught classics at the Horace Mann School in New York City for many years.
“Just how far the change in college students has gone,” said an article in The New York Times, “is dramatized by what has happened in the seven leading women’s colleges.” The former image of students at the seven colleges, the Times reported, of “daughters of the well-to-do” was supplanted by “a common characteristic: a working student body.” Scholarship students at the Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley were, respectively, 39, 30, 22, 26, 20, 33 and 25 percent of the student bodies. Scholarship aid at all these colleges required additional student contributions from work during the summer or during the school term.
The college announced a grant of $250,000 from the Rubicon Foundation in memory of Helen Morris Hadley ’83. The gift was added to the Faculty Salary endowment.
Mrs. Hadley, the wife of Yale President Arthur Twining Hadley and a former trustee, died in 1939.
A survey of alumnae giving for the previous year by the American Alumni Council was reported in the “News in Education” column of The New York Times. Listed in order of amount given, the top nine institutions were Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Vassar, Colgate, Chicago, Notre Dame and Pennsylvania.
Faculty and students joined in a Baroque Symposium. Speakers at the event included Henri Peyre, Sterling Professor of French at Yale, who spoke on "Classicism and the Baroque in 17th Century French Literature;" Rudolph Wittkower, chairman of the department of art and archeology at Columbia University, who spoke on "Decorum and Allegory in Dynastic Monuments of the Baroque" and Henry Guerlac, professor of the history of science at Cornell University who discussed "Reason and Unreason in 17th Century Science." The lecture by Professor of Ecclesiastical History George B. Williams, from the Harvard Divinity School was entitled "Paradise or Wasteland? "
The Vassar Experimental Theater presented John Milton's The Masque of Comus (1634), directed by George Brendan Dowell, with designs by John Kurten. Special exhibitions in Taylor Hall included The Baroque Illusion: Stage Designs, 1650-1850 from the Cooper Union Museum, curated by Richard P. Wunder and circulated by the American Federation of Arts, and Rembrandt etchings from the Vassar College Collection, given in 1942 by Mrs. Felix Warburg.
President Blanding welcomed CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow to Vassar via television, as his "Person to Person" interview program visited the President's House. The Miscellany News had alerted the campus to preparations for the event: "On Monday afternoon the director of the show interviewed Miss Blanding in preparation for the program, and on Friday 25 people from CBS will be on campus to make the technical arrangements for the broadcast. In order that students may watch the program, a third television set will be installed on the stage of Students' Building to complement those in the Child Study and Old Council Rooms."
The President introduced Murrow to her sister, whom he called "Miss Ellen" throughout the interview, and she showed the audience both family and college treasures, including Matthew Vassar's beer mug, bearing an image of his brewery and one of his country home, "Springside." Asked about the most pressing challenge to education, as she saw it, Blanding replied that one desperate need was improvement in American secondary school education, and, in response to her saying that "the real key" to improving academic performance was to "raise the level of expectancy," Murrow quoted his previous interviewee of the evening, author and playwright Budd Shulberg, who had told him, "It's never a mistake to expect too much." President Blanding agreed.
Launched by Murrow in October 1953 to "revive the art of conversation," the series conducted live remote interviews from the homes and workplaces of newsworthy people ranging from boxer Rocky Marciano and actor Marlon Brando to McCarthy investigator Robert F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro. Murrow's innovative technology stationed large television cameras in several rooms of the house and equipped Miss Blanding with an early high-frequency wireless microphone.
Edward R. Murrow spoke on the topic, "American Is an Island" in a lecture at Vassar in October 1949, and a retrospective of his life and work was given at the college under the auspices of the Poynter Program in September and October 1974. He died in April 1965.
Fire caused by use of an illegal electric hot plate broke out on the fourth floor of Davison House at 8:50 pm, forcing the evacuation of 125 students. Confined to the fourth floor and attic, the blaze and associated water damage, estimated at $151,000, required that the building be closed until September.
The fire was brought under control within two hours, and one student with slight burns was treated in the infirmary.
Models by Leonardo da Vinci, lent by International Business Machines, were displayed in Taylor Hall.
The reorganization of the College Government Association, suspended since February of 1958, was completed with the election of officers. The Senate and Legislative Assembly were abandoned, along with cumbersome processes for the formation and disbanding of student groups. The Community Religious Association became the Inter Club Council.
The college announced the appointment of the Rev. William Baillie Green, assistant chaplain and a member of the religion department since 1957, as chaplain, succeeding the Rev. Robert H. Bonthius.
Middle East expert Harold B. Hoskins, director of the Foreign Service Institute, spoke at the dedication of Chicago Hall, a audio-visual laboratory and center for instruction in modern languages, Winston Elting and Paul Schweikher, architects. Funds for the building were raised by alumnae of the Chicago area, under the leadership of Marion Musser Lloyd '32.
Chicago Hall was the third building in the modern style built during President Blanding’s presidency; the others were Ferry House (1952) and Noyes House (1958).
The sermon preached in the Chapel by former Vassar faculty member Rev. Mary Ely Lyman from Union Theological Seminary was called "Into All the World."
Jean Schneider ’21 was among the prizewinners announced by the Pulitzer Prize Committee. She shared the prize in history with Leonard D. White for The Republican Era: A Study in Administrative History, published by Macmillan in 1958.
Sigma Xi Club was inaugurated at the college as the first step toward establishing a Chapter of Sigma Xi, an honorary scientific fraternity open to faculty members with associate membership for outstanding students. Vassar established an active chapter of Sigma Xi in 1995.
An alumna wrote: “The longer I live, the more firmly I believe that a Vassar education is a state of mind rather than a four year curriculum.” The Vassar Alumnae Magazine
A 5-4 decision in the Supreme Court upheld the contempt of Congress conviction of Lloyd Barenblatt, former member of the Vassar psychology department. Indicted in November, 1954, for refusing to answer five questions put to him the House Un-American Activities Committee about his associations when a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Barenblatt was fined $250 and given a six-month jail term.
Writing for the majority, Justice John Harlan said that rigorous respect for academic freedom did not make an educational institution “a Constitutional sanctuary from inquiry into matters that may otherwise be within the Constitutional legislative domain merely for the reason that inquiry is made of someone within its walls.” For three minority justices, Justice Hugo Black said the majority decision made it seem as if the Firs Amendment read: “Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of speech, press, assembly and petition unless Congress and the Supreme Court reach the joint conclusion that on balance the interests of the Government in stifling those freedoms is greater than the interest of the people in having them exercised.” Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., who joined only one point of Justice Black’s opinion, submitted a brief minority opinion of his own.
At their weekend reunion, some 1,100 alumnae from 13 classes, ranging from 1904 through 1956, learned that the alumnae gave a record $916,530 in the current academic year.
Major remodeling of the Main Building was started, Goldstone & Dearborn, architects. In anticipation of the college's 1961 centennial, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller '31 donated funds to start this work, particularly its major object, the removal of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Annex, the three-story addition added to the front of trhe building in 1894 to provide additional library and other academic space. Called by students in its early days "Uncle Fred's Nose" and later, because of the extensive use of veined marble in its lower floor, "the Soap Palace," the addition's main function was superceded in 1905 with the opening of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Library, a gift from the late trustee's wife. The removal of the annex, Warden of the College Elizabeth Drouilhet '30 told the Miscellany News, was intended to restore the "purity" of architect James Renwick Jr.'s original design.
The renovation also provided space at the building's rear for an expanded college store, enlargment of the Retreat, including an outdoor patio, and allowed rearrangement of administrative quarters in the building's ground floor and the center of the second floor.
After nearly a year of agitation, violence and litigation, the Little Rock, Arkansas, high schools reopened on an integrated basis. A month later, in a note, entitled “Leading Lady,” to her article in The New York Times Magazine, “Act III Opens in Little Rock,” Gertrude Samuels said:
“Much of the credit for the reopening of Little Rock’s schools must go to the woman who led the resistance to the Faubusmen long before most men of the community found their voices. She is 76-year-old Mrs. Adolphine Terry [Adolphine Fletcher ‘02], a gentlewoman of sparkling eyes and young spirit who lives in an ante-bellum house filled with Civil War portraits.
“A year ago she organized the Women’s Emergency Committee, with forty-eight members, to fight the rabble rousers on radio and television, with fliers and house-to-house surveys. Today the W. E. C. has 1,600 members.
“’Whether we like it or not, human slavery and segregation are dead,’ Mrs. Terry says. ‘We are living through the most exciting time of the world, because the soul of man everywhere is demanding more rights and more recognition—and, most of all, more human dignity.’”
Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, in New York State in observance of the 350th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River, visited the college. Senior class president Gail Jarvis ’60 escorted the Princess to the President’s House, where she was met by President Blanding and Mrs. Franklin D Roosevelt, at whose Val-Kil Cottage in Hyde Park she spent the night.
The Library mounted a special exhibition in honor of the Hudson-Champlain Celebration.
The New York State Department of Education released a report on the rising costs in the state of both private and public higher education. Comparing costs at 44 private institutions between 1953-54 and 1959-60, the study found increases ranging between 8 and 51 percent, the median percentage being 28. Vassar was among the four schools showing a rise of more than 20 percent: Colgate, 51 percent; Hamilton, 37 percent; New York University, 44 percent; Vassar, 28 percent. At $2,535, Vassar’s comprehensive fee was at least $350 more than fees at the three other institutions in this group. The New York Times
The Schiller Bicentennial was observed by a special program including a lecture by Professor Walter Silz of Columbia University, under the auspices of the German Club, and scenes from Don Carlos, Maria Stuart and Die Jungfrau von Orleans by the Experimental Theatre, directed by Norris Houghton.
American poet Robert Frost visited the college for two and a half days and lectured on "The Peril of Newness." He also talked informally with the majors in the Department of English. He previously lectured at Vassar in 1925 and 1952.
Dean Marion Tait announced a revised curriculum for the next academic year. It introduced an experimental program "in depth" for superior students after the freshman year, and an honors program for qualified juniors and seniors. Changes in admission requirements and in distribution and concentration requirements were also announced. Dean Tait said of the changes, "The purpose of Vassar College is to educate young women of superior ability, interest and achievement." The Vassar Alumnae Magazine, March 1960.