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.