In recognition of the centennial, Connecticut social activist Dr. Emily M. Pierson ’07 gave the college “The Controversial Book Shelf,” a collection of material concerning controversial contemporary issues. An ardent suffragist and, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, a progressive socialist, Dr. Pierson commented at the time of the gift, “I don’t think I would bother with this gift except that I have noticed that the mountain of ignorance and prejudice over which the world must struggle year by year is a grave menace to peace, even to the very existence of the world.”
The book shelf, a collection of books and pamphlets acquired over the years by Dr. Pierson and housed in the basement of Rockefeller Hall, was a gesture of gratitude, Dr. Pierson said, to another radical, Matthew Vassar. "Vassar taught me one thing," she was quoted in The Miscellany News as saying, "not to be afraid of honest investigation, wherever it might lead."
The New York State Board of Regents approved a proposal that the state grant $200 annually to state residents enrolled in a private or sectarian college in the state, in order to allow colleges to raise tuitions to meet their own needs without further burdening students. This was a device to circumvent the constitutional prohibition of public funds being given to religious institutions. President Blanding said, “I am not at all sure that this proposal to grant a subsidy which would then come to the independent college is a sound one,” given the questionable inclusion of sectarian institutions. She continued, “I don’t like to see the long-held and traditional separation of Church and State broken down.” The Miscellany News
Vassar presented “The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door,” an exhibition of 200 photographs, engravings, lithographs, posters, and drawings illustrating 100 years of higher education for women, at the I.B.M Gallery of Arts and Sciences in New York City. Nationwide circulation was under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, and the exhibition was mounted on campus in the Aula in early May.
Vassar's centennial celebration began on "Charter Day," the day on which, 100 years earlier, the regents of the State University of New York granted a charter to Vassar Female College. An editorial in The New York Times recognized the day, saying, in part: “Vassar College is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding today. There is good reason also for the nation to honor the date because Vassar was the first adequately endowed college in the United States to offer women an education equal to that generally available to men.
“This is an occasion to look backward: to review the long struggle, now all by won, to gain for women equal rights and opportunities in every field, a struggle in which Vassar and its graduates have played so conspicuous a part….
“This is good time also to look ahead: to explore the way in which education, especially that of women, can best keep pace with, and furnish leadership for, the profound changes of the future, so many of them upon us even now.
“For Vassar, the year’s events will help those who control its destiny to evaluate the college in the light of its first 100 years’ experience and to set new goals toward which the college will steer in the next 100 years. These President Sarah Gibson Blanding has well characterized as comprising ‘the best possible education for young women in a rapidly changing world.’ May the year’s events amply serve such aims.”
In Poughkeepsie, Secretary of the College Theodore H. Erck spoke on "Vassar College and Poughkeepsie" at the January Chamber of Commerce Contact Club breakfast. At the breakfast, the chairman of the Contact Club Breakfast Committee, Paul D. Tower, presented President Blanding with the Chamber's Achievement Award, honoring Vassar for its 100 years of high standards and excellence in education.
On campus, the 100th anniversary of the granting of the charter was celebrated with a Charter Day party at which President Blanding and the board of trustees honored the employees and staff. President Emeritus Henry Noble MacCracken gave the Salute to Employees, and those with more than 25 years of service received citations.
A special exhibition, "The Body Corporate," was shown in the Library.
President Blanding accepted an invitation from Lylas Good ’61 and Joan Page ’61 to tea and a housewarming in the igloo they had carved out of the snow piles in the Main Building parking lot. Professor of political science C. Gordon Post accompanied the president, and the group was joined later by Gwendolyn Hamilton of the music department, Jean Fay, curator of the Art Museum and Martha M. Wyman ’18, head resident of Main. "The girls," The Miscellany News reported, "spent 14 nights digging out this colossal snow structure."
The class of 1961 celebrated Vassar’s 100th Birthday Party, hosted by Martha McChesney Wyman ’18, assistant to the warden and head resident of Main, and Mabel Victoria Ross, assistant to the warden, and directed by Centennial Coordinator George B. Dowell and Jane Alexander ’61. Alexander wrote the lyrics for both the festivities and the proposed new Alma Mater which was premiéred, causing President Blanding to exclaim, "I've waited fifteen years for this!"
Matthew Vassar (Dowell) attended, along with his niece Lydia Booth (Ross) and Vassar's first Lady Principal Hannah Lyman (Wyman), who sang "Matthew Vassar, we thank you for the dough/ Were it not for you, we intellects would have no place to go." A “Musical Cavalcade of the Century” presented “Vassar Girls” from different periods in history, including a Southern belle from the 1860s, a suffragette from the 'teens and, according to The Miscellany News, a "Bette Davis type" from the '30s who took her tune from Gershwin: "It ain't necessarily right/ For every young girl to be bright./ It may be her teacher's unable to reach her/ 'Cause she's taking courses at night!"The event concluded with a cake replicating the original Main Building. "At first, no one wanted to eat the cake, for fear of destroying its beauty. Finally, however, it was cut, every senior trying to eat her own room." The Miscellany News
In what chairman Phoebe Jane Wood '63 called the "most gala event on the Vassar social calendar so far this year," the sophomore class presented "College All-Around Weekend," a program of events ranging from an address by American contralto and UN delegate Marian Anderson to a performance by comedian Shelley Berman and an original musical, "When Better Men Are Found." A member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee since her appointment in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower, Anderson, who had recently sung at the inauguration of President John Kennedy, spoke on Friday evening in the Chapel on "A Step Towards Peace."
Saturday afternoon commedian Berman—a frequent guest on the Jack Parr and Perry Como television programs—performed in the Students' Building with musical support from folk-singers The Cumberland Three. In the evening the curtain rose on "When Better Men Are Found," a musical by Bonnie Baskin '63, Sue Buck '63 and Judy Welles '63. The cast was supported by a 17-voice chorus, five dancers and music by Phoebe Wood and Jackie Awad.
The play centered around "five girls' search for a C. A. G. [College All-around Guy]" that took them from a Vassar committee room to two Ivy colleges, "Hale" and "Yarvard," the Biltmore Hotel and a beatnik pad in Manhattan, "and to rustic Pickahick Falls, Arkansas," according to The Miscellany News. "As the Organizer of the search says, 'We'll not leave any men's rooms untouched.'"
Following the performance, a dance was held to the music of the Yale Six Pack from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. "As an added attraction, 2:30s taken for this occasion will not be counted.... The weekend's final event will be a milk punch party on Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at Alumnae House. The Spizzwinks, of Yale fame, will furnish the music to drink by." The Miscellany News
In a Centennial event, the Vassar College Choir and the Harvard Glee Club, with the Brass Ensemble from the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and the Wind Orchestra from Harvard's Bach Society Orchestra, presented a concert at Emanuel Church in Boston. Included in the program, under the direction of Elliot Forbes and Frederic H. Ford from Harvard and of Donald M. Pearson from Vassar, were two motets from the Symphonie Sacrae of Giovanni Gabrieli and the Mass in E Minor of Anton Bruckner.
The program was repeated at Vassar on April 18.
Thirteen Vassar students participated in the "Student Turn Towards Peace" demonstration in Washington D.C., sponsored by Robert Pickus’s Turn Toward Peace organization, whose goals were to end atmospheric nuclear testing, to persuade the government to find alternatives to the arms race and to call for disarmament. The students picketed the White House, in what The Miscellany News reported was "the largest peace picket of the White House in 20 years." The group met with Senate members, congressmen, labor leaders and foreign emissaries, conducted a march to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and held a mass rally at the Washington Monument, at which socialist leader Norman Thomas and others spoke.
A group of about "Young Americans for Freedom" carrying signs bearing slogans such as "They're Not Red, They're Yellow," "Pacifism Is Cowardice" and "I Like Nike," counter-picketed at the White House.
Dr. Gladys Hobby '31, chair of the department of infectious diseases of the Veterans Administration Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey, gave the third lecture, entitled “Twenty Years with Antibiotics,” in a plant science series. "Miss Hobby," said The Miscellany News, "divided her lecture into an historical introduction to the field of antibiotics and a description of the steps and problems involved in the production of an antibiotic All of our major antimicrobial drugs of both biological and chemical origin were discovered within a span of twelve years. Miss Hobby was primarily influential in the discovery of two of these, terramycin and biomycin."
In 1940, working at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia, Dr. Hobby had developed the first doses of penicillin to be tested on humans.
Guest speakers, faculty and students joined In a centennial celebration, a “Festival of the Mid-Nineteenth Century.” Residence halls were decorated in 91th century styles, students supplied tableaux appropriate to the presentations and lectures and a Soiree de Gala in the Students' Building—"free champagne in a 'meadow of asphodel'"—celebrated the event. A special exhibition was mounted in the Library, and the Vassar Experimental Theater presented Ibsen's A Doll's House.
An exhibition in the art gallery, “Samuel F. B. Morse, Art and Science,” opened with the reading of a poem commissioned for the occasion, “S.F.B. Morse Sits for His Portrait at Locust Grove,” by poet Samuel French Morse, professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a descendent Samuel F. B. Morse, a founding trustee of the college. Professor Morse's talk was preceded by a student sketch about Morse under the chairmanship of Babs Currier '63, entitled "Lightning in the Line."
The author of The House of Intellect (1959), Jacques Barzun, dean of faculties and provost at Columbia University, claimed a "new conciousness" must arise from the current "deliberate meaninglessness of modern artists" in the Phi Beta Kappa Lecture, "The Cultural Revolution and Its Victims," which was introduced by "The Magnificent Enterprise—A Colloquy." Written by Esther Wolf '62, Jane Wright '62 and Professor John A. Christie from the English department, the sketch presented a dialogue between Matthew Vassar and Milo Jewett, the founding president of the college. The dialogue included five student tableaux presenting contemporary reactions to the founding of the college: John Ruskin and two students; Vanity Fair magazine and a young girl; Madame Sewell "of the reactionary school" and a gentleman; John Stuart Mill and his father, the Scottish philosopher and historian James Mill; Florence Nightingale, Voltaire, a Vassar girl and a French gentleman, portrayed by Professor of French Louis Pamplume.
A lecture, "Lamarck, Darwin and Butler: Three Approaches to Evolution in the Nineteenth Century," by George Gaylord Simpson, professor of vertebrate paleontology at Harvard University and a leading scholar of evolution, was introduced by "Ape or Angel: A Presentation of the Huxley and Wilberforce Debate." The student examination of the famous exchange on Darwinism at Oxford in 1880 between Thomas Henry Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce was chaired by llsa Roslow '63.
In "A Time of Crisis" Civil War historian Bruce Catton, senior editor of American Heritage, analyzed both Abraham Lincoln's pragmatism and his idealism in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. And identifying the emancipation and the founding of women's education with a contemporary liberalizing movement in American in the 1860s, he echoed his introduction, the student sketch "Songs of the Brothers' War," which included Civil War songs, sung by Jane Alexander '61, "with intermittent narration about Poughkeepsie happenings at the time of the war."
On Sunday, the Rev, H. Richard Niebuhr, Sterling Professor of Theology and Christian Ethics at the Yale Divinity School, addressed "The Radiance of the Infinite." The Miscellany News
A radio discussion program focussing on the life of Matthew Vassar and produced by Vassar students Marsha Teller ‘61, Elizabeth Orton ‘61 and Edith Johnson ’61, debuted on Poughkeepsie radio station WEOK. The program ran for the next 12 Sundays and, featuring guest drawn from the Vassar faculty and the larger Poughkeepsie community, subsequent topics were drama, politics, music, college admission and current events. The Miscellany News
Commander Grace Murray Hopper '28, director for research programming for Remington Rand UNIVAC, gave the first Centennial Mathematics Lecture, on "New Languages." "Research consists in discovering the obvious," she began, adding, according to Babs Currier '63, writing in The Miscellany News, that mathematics gives researchers in pursuit of the obvious "the special ability to think by different means in solving problems." Currier found it "fascinating to realize that computers can be taught a language rather than numbers which can be manipulated by familiar operations in order to solve problems involving a conglomeration of data."
A commander in the Naval Reserves, Hopper was working to transform her compiler-based FLOW-MATIC programming language into the new language, COBOL, which became the fundamental business programming language. In 1967, Hopper became director of the Navy Programming Group responsible for the COBOL standardization for the entire Navy.
Eminent historian of American art James Thomas Flexner spoke about Samuel F. B. Morse, a founding trustee of the college, in a lecture entitled "Samuel F. B. Morse and the American Aesthetic Dilemma." Flexner completed his three-volume history of American art in 1962.
Foreign students held an informal meeting entitled “Nigeria Today.” They hoped to acquaint the college community with the foreign student sand the countries from which they came. Lina Makinwa ’64, from Nigeria, was the principal speaker.
"A Doll's House", a play by Henrik Ibsen, was performed by the Vassar Experimental Theater.
The college announced a development program seeking $25 million in new funds. "In 1961 Vassar College," President Blanding said, "will celebrate her 100th anniversary not by extolling past achievements 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. We believe that independent liberal arts colleges have a continuing responsibility to improve the education given to young people, to pose new educational questions, and to develop an educational program that meets their needs. Vassar's primary concern is and will continue to be improvement of its curriculum and its teaching. No college or university today can afford to rest on laurels of past accomplishments, however distinguished these may have been. Higher education has suddenly come face to face with a demanding present and an even more demanding future. To meet them both simultaneously requires bold planning and action." The Miscellany News
Dorothy Stickney gave excerpts from her one-woman play about Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17, "A Lovely Light," at a luncheon honoring the “conspicuous excellence” of Sarah Gibson Blanding. The event, held at the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf-Astoria, was sponsored by the Vassar Club of New York and Vassar clubs of the region. In her remarks, President Blanding was pessimistic about the future of women’s colleges and unsparing on the profligacy of American higher education.
“I believe,” she said, “I am on firm ground when I predict that of the hundred or more women’s colleges now in existence no more than ten will be functioning in the year 2061.” Despite their present “splendid achievements, present high social esteem and the influence and loyalty of their alumnae,” Miss Blanding said, the question could be raised “whether independent colleges—both those for men and those for women—will continue.
“There is little doubt that, if asked, the deans, the faculties and presidents of these hundred institutions would wish their colleges to survive essentially as they are today. To assume that this will be the case is sheer folly unless drastic changes are effected.”
Agreeing with Jacques Barzun, dean of Columbia’s graduate faculties, the “next to hospitals, American colleges and universities are the worst administered private establishments in the land,” Blanding outlined the institutions’ “wastes:” of facilities, used “about seven hours of the day, five days a week and eight months of the year;” of faculties’ time, through “the multifarious committees that exist in the name of democratic process;” of student ability and interest, “because we insist that the four-year college course is sacred…and because we do not put enough responsibility on the student to get along with her own education” and of “contemporary usefulness,” because of “concentration of study, almost exclusively upon Western culture. ”President Blanding announced that a team of Vassar trustees, faculty and administrators was at work on a ten-year plan intended to address the serious issues she had raised. The New York Times
Other speakers included: Alva Myrdal, Swedish Ambassador to India and noted sociologist, author and teacher; Indian Deputy Minister of State Lakshmi Menon; American philosopher Susanne K. Langer, professor of philosophy at Connecticut College and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Vera Micheles Dean, distinguished American author and lecturer, editor for the Foreign Policy Association and former Vassar trustee.
Panelists included Egyptian social worker and family planning pioneer Zahia Marzouk; Nigerian barrister and businesswoman J. Aduke Moore; British politician and diplomat David Owen; former Pakistani delegate to the U. N. Commission on the Status of Women Begum Anwar Ahmed; former Indian Minister of Health and president of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Rajkumari Amrit Kaur,; Argentine economist and educational historian Dr. Elba Gomez del Rey de Kybal; Greek author and educator Ketty Stassinopoulou, vice-president of the International Council of Women; Danish Judge Helga Pedersen; Christian Democrat member of the German Bundestag and Federal Minister of Health Elisabeth Schwarzhaupt; Indonesian Minister of Health Hurustiati Subandrio; Korean educator Helen Kim, president of Ehwa Womans University; Margaret Ballinger, the first president of the South African Liberal Party and former member of the South African Parliament; Chilean educator and women’s rights advocate Irma Salas de Silva; Lebanese writer and educator Salwa C. Nassar; Yugoslavian composer and teacher Lala Spajic; Polish biochemist Alina Szumlewicz, a specialist in tropic diseases; Parvin Birjandi, the first dean of women at the University of Tehran, Iran; Dutch lawyer and diplomat Jeantine Hefting, former alternate delegate to the U. N. Commission on the Status of Women and Mexican jurist, playwright, journalist and ambassador Amalia de Castillo Ledón.
Discussion leaders included United Nations Under Secretary Ralph Bunche, Professor Emeritus of Economics Mabel Newcomer, foreign affairs expert Dr. Dorothy Fosdick, eminent teacher and critic Germaine Bree and Connecticut College President Rosemary Park.
The Voice of America, the United States government’s external broadcasting service, taped nearly half of the conference participants, and the interviews were broadcast in many countries. The proceedings of the conference, edited and with commentary by the journalist, foreign correspondent and editor Emmet John Hughes, were published in 1962 by Harper and Row as Education in World Perspective: the International Conference on World Education, Celebrating the Centennial of Vassar College.
The fibulae—brooches or fasteners— were part of the collection of the late Benito Mussolini and were acquired by Vassar through a grant form the International Fibulary Society.
President Kennedy sent 400 American Green Beret “special advisors” to train South Vietnamese soldiers in counterinsurgency warfare.
In the evening, a centennial dinner for about one thousand people honored Vassar and capped the days events in the Field House of the IBM Country Club. The college received an unrestricted gift of $29,550, from members of the Poughkeepsie community.
Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, author of The Conscience of a Conservative and chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, lectured in the Chapel on the advantages of local versus federal support of schools. In preparation for his presentation, Assistant Professor of History Clyde Griffen presented a critique of The Conscience of a Conservative.
Asserting that Sen. Goldwater believed that "the constitution...is an instrument above all for limiting the functions of government," Mr. Griffen criticized the book's positions on both national and international issues. While he he managed to, in the words of The Miscellany News, "poke holes in the Senator's condemnation of graduated income tax as a 'confiscatory tax' and of government intervention as leading to 'welfarism' and evil," Griffen was most concerned that Goldwater's suggestion that the United States withdraw recognition of communist countries. "Mr. Griffen felt this would only 'put us in an embarrassing position without any advantage'.... He said, 'The book, in terms of political theory, is incoherent.'"
Testing new laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel, more that 1,000 student volunteers began taking bus trips through the South, as “freedom riders,” provoking attacks by angry mobs. The program was sponsored by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
An estimated 6,000 alumnae and spouses from the United States and ten foreign countries participated in Vassar's centennial reunion. Representatives of Vassar classes from as far back as 1889 joined in the parade led by a car containing Jenny Mae Wickes ’89, Henrietta Houston Hawes ’91 and Louise Lawrence Meigs ‘91.
President Blanding announced that alumnae centennial gifts reached “the magnificent sum” of $1,352,680, the largest annual alumnae gift in the college’s history. The alumnae, “the pride and glory of the college,” the president said, “have insured freedom and vitality for the college to grow and change.” Another gift, announced at an earlier date, was an enlarged steel engraving, 17 by 20 inches, of the south front view of the White House, in a shadow-box gold frame with antique velvet matting. President Blanding read the enclosed message from Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, ex-’51:
“I am proud to have been a student at the first large woman’s college in the United States to achieve its 100th birthday. I know Vassar will continue to instill in each student, along with the love of knowledge, a desire to serve her family, her community and the nation. The President joins me in congratulating you today.”
The reunion events included two short comic operas “Mardi Gras,” by Mildred Kayden '42, and “Trial of the Dog,” adapted from The Wasps of Aristophanes by Martha Alter '25, and a pageant of college life, “The Colors of the Day,” by Muriel Ruykeyser ’34 in the Outdoor Theatre. The centennial photographic exhibition, The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door, continued. The New York Times
The drawings were gathered together by Belle Krasne Ribicoff ’45, and A. Hyatt Mayor, curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, headed a selection committee consisting of Louisa Dresser ’29, Katharine Kuh ’24 and Aline B. Sarrinen ’53. Proceeds from the New York exhibition went to the Art Gallery’s Agnes Rindge Claflin Purchase Fund, and the show’s comprehensive catalogue was also dedicated to Professor Claflin, a gesture that John Canaday thought appropriate, because her “teaching accounts for much of the interest that has led Vassar graduates to own drawings.” The New York Times
Under the direction of Professor John Johnsen of the department of geology, Vassar held a National Science Foundation summer earth science program for high school students.
The college opened for its second century with the largest enrollment in its history, 1,493 students, of whom 434 were freshmen.
The college instituted the Matthew Vassar scholarship to be given to sixty students, fifteen in each class. Up to $ 2,500 was awarded to the students as either financial aid or an honorary scholarship.
Also in the audience were British Shakespearean actor Sir Ralph Richardson, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Joseph Pultizer, Jr., Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles, David Rockefeller and Henry Cabot Lodge, former United States representative to the United Nations. Dr. James G. McManaway, senior staff member of the Folger Shakespeare Library and editor of The Shakespeare Quarterly, noted that President Kennedy now joined his predecessors Lincoln, Jefferson and Adams in his demonstrated love of Shakespeare. The New York Times
In his remarks, President Emeritus Henry Noble MacCracken characterized the colorful procession as “a pious pilgrimage of scholars bringing tribute t this temple of learning.” In the principal address, Radcliffe President Mary Ingraham Bunting ’31, speaking on the theme of "Cultural Evolution," urged imagination and innovation in educating the young around the world. “It is indeed one race,” she declared, “and in countries all over the world, I believe, youth senses this and feels a loyalty to the human condition that far outweighs allegiance to any intermediate governmental groups.” The New York Times
Poet and critic I. A. Richards, professor of English at Harvard University and influential proponent of in the "New Criticism," read from and commented on his own poetry. A former lecturer in English and moral sciences at his Alma Mater, Magdalene College at Cambridge, Richards had early on advocated a "practical criticism" based on semantics and unannotated "close reading" of texts, grounded in such works as The Meaning of Meaning (1923; with C. K. Ogden), Principles of Literary Criticism (1924) and Practical Criticism (1929). He had spoken twice before at Vassar, comparing, in 1941, passages from Dryden's "To the Pious Memory of the accomplished young Lady, Mistress Anne Killigrew" and "An Anatomy of the World, the First Anniversary," by John Donne and answering the question, "What is general education?" in 1947 by describing his course at Harvard based solely on the Iliad, certain books of the Old Testament and the philosophy and writings of Plato.
Turning to the writing of poetry in the last decades of his life, Richards's prompted a writer in The Miscellany News to approach his reading with caution. "When a critic and teacher as influential as Dr. Richards,"she wrote, "publishes his own poetry for the first time quite late in life there is bound to be a great deal of interest in seeing how he has 'practiced what he preached.'" The event, however, held no discord. "His reading," she observed, "was highly personal, and his comments witty, so that from the beginning the audience had a sense of informality which seems to be so helpful when poetry is read, since appreciatioin can involve a personal understanging as well as a grasp of what is said.... Dr. Richards indicated at the end of his reading that his theme had been 'personal identity.' He described poetry as a 'spirit-calming ceremony' which operates in the 'silences' of a poem." The Miscllany News
In 1972, he travelled to Vietnam with Jane Fonda ex-’59, and they were married the following year.
In 1972, he travelled to Vietnam with Jane Fonda ex-’59, and they were married the following year.