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
“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
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.”
“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.
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.
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 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.