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.