After protracted litigation by first cousins of Nina F. Raynor ’05, her bequest of her entire estate to Vassar in honor of her mother was upheld by a Pennsylvania court. The college said that the Sarah Mills Raynor Fund—ultimately $401,639— would be added to the faculty salary endowment. Miss Raynor, who died in October of 1957, taught classics at the Horace Mann School in New York City for many years.
“Just how far the change in college students has gone,” said an article in The New York Times, “is dramatized by what has happened in the seven leading women’s colleges.” The former image of students at the seven colleges, the Times reported, of “daughters of the well-to-do” was supplanted by “a common characteristic: a working student body.” Scholarship students at the Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley were, respectively, 39, 30, 22, 26, 20, 33 and 25 percent of the student bodies. Scholarship aid at all these colleges required additional student contributions from work during the summer or during the school term.
The college announced a grant of $250,000 from the Rubicon Foundation in memory of Helen Morris Hadley ’83. The gift was added to the Faculty Salary endowment.
Mrs. Hadley, the wife of Yale President Arthur Twining Hadley and a former trustee, died in 1939.
A survey of alumnae giving for the previous year by the American Alumni Council was reported in the “News in Education” column of The New York Times. Listed in order of amount given, the top nine institutions were Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Vassar, Colgate, Chicago, Notre Dame and Pennsylvania.
Faculty and students joined in a Baroque Symposium. Speakers at the event included Henri Peyre, Sterling Professor of French at Yale, who spoke on "Classicism and the Baroque in 17th Century French Literature;" Rudolph Wittkower, chairman of the department of art and archeology at Columbia University, who spoke on "Decorum and Allegory in Dynastic Monuments of the Baroque" and Henry Guerlac, professor of the history of science at Cornell University who discussed "Reason and Unreason in 17th Century Science." The lecture by Professor of Ecclesiastical History George B. Williams, from the Harvard Divinity School was entitled "Paradise or Wasteland? "
The Vassar Experimental Theater presented John Milton's The Masque of Comus (1634), directed by George Brendan Dowell, with designs by John Kurten. Special exhibitions in Taylor Hall included The Baroque Illusion: Stage Designs, 1650-1850 from the Cooper Union Museum, curated by Richard P. Wunder and circulated by the American Federation of Arts, and Rembrandt etchings from the Vassar College Collection, given in 1942 by Mrs. Felix Warburg.
President Blanding welcomed CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow to Vassar via television, as his "Person to Person" interview program visited the President's House. The Miscellany News had alerted the campus to preparations for the event: "On Monday afternoon the director of the show interviewed Miss Blanding in preparation for the program, and on Friday 25 people from CBS will be on campus to make the technical arrangements for the broadcast. In order that students may watch the program, a third television set will be installed on the stage of Students' Building to complement those in the Child Study and Old Council Rooms."
The President introduced Murrow to her sister, whom he called "Miss Ellen" throughout the interview, and she showed the audience both family and college treasures, including Matthew Vassar's beer mug, bearing an image of his brewery and one of his country home, "Springside." Asked about the most pressing challenge to education, as she saw it, Blanding replied that one desperate need was improvement in American secondary school education, and, in response to her saying that "the real key" to improving academic performance was to "raise the level of expectancy," Murrow quoted his previous interviewee of the evening, author and playwright Budd Shulberg, who had told him, "It's never a mistake to expect too much." President Blanding agreed.
Launched by Murrow in October 1953 to "revive the art of conversation," the series conducted live remote interviews from the homes and workplaces of newsworthy people ranging from boxer Rocky Marciano and actor Marlon Brando to McCarthy investigator Robert F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro. Murrow's innovative technology stationed large television cameras in several rooms of the house and equipped Miss Blanding with an early high-frequency wireless microphone.
Edward R. Murrow spoke on the topic, "American Is an Island" in a lecture at Vassar in October 1949, and a retrospective of his life and work was given at the college under the auspices of the Poynter Program in September and October 1974. He died in April 1965.
Fire caused by use of an illegal electric hot plate broke out on the fourth floor of Davison House at 8:50 pm, forcing the evacuation of 125 students. Confined to the fourth floor and attic, the blaze and associated water damage, estimated at $151,000, required that the building be closed until September.
The fire was brought under control within two hours, and one student with slight burns was treated in the infirmary.
Models by Leonardo da Vinci, lent by International Business Machines, were displayed in Taylor Hall.
The reorganization of the College Government Association, suspended since February of 1958, was completed with the election of officers. The Senate and Legislative Assembly were abandoned, along with cumbersome processes for the formation and disbanding of student groups. The Community Religious Association became the Inter Club Council.
The college announced the appointment of the Rev. William Baillie Green, assistant chaplain and a member of the religion department since 1957, as chaplain, succeeding the Rev. Robert H. Bonthius.
Middle East expert Harold B. Hoskins, director of the Foreign Service Institute, spoke at the dedication of Chicago Hall, a audio-visual laboratory and center for instruction in modern languages, Winston Elting and Paul Schweikher, architects. Funds for the building were raised by alumnae of the Chicago area, under the leadership of Marion Musser Lloyd '32.
Chicago Hall was the third building in the modern style built during President Blanding’s presidency; the others were Ferry House (1952) and Noyes House (1958).
The sermon preached in the Chapel by former Vassar faculty member Rev. Mary Ely Lyman from Union Theological Seminary was called "Into All the World."
Jean Schneider ’21 was among the prizewinners announced by the Pulitzer Prize Committee. She shared the prize in history with Leonard D. White for The Republican Era: A Study in Administrative History, published by Macmillan in 1958.
Sigma Xi Club was inaugurated at the college as the first step toward establishing a Chapter of Sigma Xi, an honorary scientific fraternity open to faculty members with associate membership for outstanding students. Vassar established an active chapter of Sigma Xi in 1995.
An alumna wrote: “The longer I live, the more firmly I believe that a Vassar education is a state of mind rather than a four year curriculum.” The Vassar Alumnae Magazine
A 5-4 decision in the Supreme Court upheld the contempt of Congress conviction of Lloyd Barenblatt, former member of the Vassar psychology department. Indicted in November, 1954, for refusing to answer five questions put to him the House Un-American Activities Committee about his associations when a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Barenblatt was fined $250 and given a six-month jail term.
Writing for the majority, Justice John Harlan said that rigorous respect for academic freedom did not make an educational institution “a Constitutional sanctuary from inquiry into matters that may otherwise be within the Constitutional legislative domain merely for the reason that inquiry is made of someone within its walls.” For three minority justices, Justice Hugo Black said the majority decision made it seem as if the Firs Amendment read: “Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of speech, press, assembly and petition unless Congress and the Supreme Court reach the joint conclusion that on balance the interests of the Government in stifling those freedoms is greater than the interest of the people in having them exercised.” Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., who joined only one point of Justice Black’s opinion, submitted a brief minority opinion of his own.
At their weekend reunion, some 1,100 alumnae from 13 classes, ranging from 1904 through 1956, learned that the alumnae gave a record $916,530 in the current academic year.
Major remodeling of the Main Building was started, Goldstone & Dearborn, architects. In anticipation of the college's 1961 centennial, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller '31 donated funds to start this work, particularly its major object, the removal of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Annex, the three-story addition added to the front of trhe building in 1894 to provide additional library and other academic space. Called by students in its early days "Uncle Fred's Nose" and later, because of the extensive use of veined marble in its lower floor, "the Soap Palace," the addition's main function was superceded in 1905 with the opening of the Frederick Ferris Thompson Library, a gift from the late trustee's wife. The removal of the annex, Warden of the College Elizabeth Drouilhet '30 told the Miscellany News, was intended to restore the "purity" of architect James Renwick Jr.'s original design.
The renovation also provided space at the building's rear for an expanded college store, enlargment of the Retreat, including an outdoor patio, and allowed rearrangement of administrative quarters in the building's ground floor and the center of the second floor.
After nearly a year of agitation, violence and litigation, the Little Rock, Arkansas, high schools reopened on an integrated basis. A month later, in a note, entitled “Leading Lady,” to her article in The New York Times Magazine, “Act III Opens in Little Rock,” Gertrude Samuels said:
“Much of the credit for the reopening of Little Rock’s schools must go to the woman who led the resistance to the Faubusmen long before most men of the community found their voices. She is 76-year-old Mrs. Adolphine Terry [Adolphine Fletcher ‘02], a gentlewoman of sparkling eyes and young spirit who lives in an ante-bellum house filled with Civil War portraits.
“A year ago she organized the Women’s Emergency Committee, with forty-eight members, to fight the rabble rousers on radio and television, with fliers and house-to-house surveys. Today the W. E. C. has 1,600 members.
“’Whether we like it or not, human slavery and segregation are dead,’ Mrs. Terry says. ‘We are living through the most exciting time of the world, because the soul of man everywhere is demanding more rights and more recognition—and, most of all, more human dignity.’”
Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, in New York State in observance of the 350th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River, visited the college. Senior class president Gail Jarvis ’60 escorted the Princess to the President’s House, where she was met by President Blanding and Mrs. Franklin D Roosevelt, at whose Val-Kil Cottage in Hyde Park she spent the night.
The Library mounted a special exhibition in honor of the Hudson-Champlain Celebration.
The New York State Department of Education released a report on the rising costs in the state of both private and public higher education. Comparing costs at 44 private institutions between 1953-54 and 1959-60, the study found increases ranging between 8 and 51 percent, the median percentage being 28. Vassar was among the four schools showing a rise of more than 20 percent: Colgate, 51 percent; Hamilton, 37 percent; New York University, 44 percent; Vassar, 28 percent. At $2,535, Vassar’s comprehensive fee was at least $350 more than fees at the three other institutions in this group. The New York Times
The Schiller Bicentennial was observed by a special program including a lecture by Professor Walter Silz of Columbia University, under the auspices of the German Club, and scenes from Don Carlos, Maria Stuart and Die Jungfrau von Orleans by the Experimental Theatre, directed by Norris Houghton.
American poet Robert Frost visited the college for two and a half days and lectured on "The Peril of Newness." He also talked informally with the majors in the Department of English. He previously lectured at Vassar in 1925 and 1952.
Dean Marion Tait announced a revised curriculum for the next academic year. It introduced an experimental program "in depth" for superior students after the freshman year, and an honors program for qualified juniors and seniors. Changes in admission requirements and in distribution and concentration requirements were also announced. Dean Tait said of the changes, "The purpose of Vassar College is to educate young women of superior ability, interest and achievement." The Vassar Alumnae Magazine, March 1960.