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