"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.”