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?"