Carole Merritt ’62, a staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was jailed, along with five other SNCC workers, in Canton, MS. In all, nearly two dozen members of SNCC and CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) were arrested in Mississippi over a two-week period in late January and early Feburary on charges ranging from conspiring to intimidate a family to publishing libel and burning trash without a permit. Charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in connection with a boycott of white merchants, Merritt was fined $500 and sentenced to six months in jail.
At an emergency meeting on January 27, called by Susan Finnel '66, the chairman of the Vassar Committee on Civil Rights (VCCR), President Blanding stated the college "cannot take an official stand on this issue" since "we have people in this college that are not in favor of integration." The President declared however that Vassar would "strongly support any member of its community who takes a stand sincerely.... I feel so deeply that our students, our faculty, our employees, should all be concerned about these things. We should do anything we can to better the situation." At a meeting on January 31, the president advised students about effective measures individuals might take to aid Merritt, including contributions to the legal defense fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—specifically designated to aid Miss Merritt, if the donor wished—and letters to senators and congressmen from students' home state favoring the civil rights legislation currently before Congress.
Sponsored by VCCR and addressed to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, a petition with 986 signatures was delivered to Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall, and letters were sent to New York Senator Javits, Mississippi Sentor Eastland and Senators Lausche and Young from Ohio, Merritt's home state. The petition requested a federal investigation into the "harassment, intimidation and arrest" of civil rights workers in Canton.
Miss Merritt was released on an appeal bond on February 22. Saying she was "delighted to speak at Vassar," she returned to the campus on May 5 and spoke of her experiences in the South. Anticipating Merritt's visit, Adraenne Bernstein '65, the Vassar SNCC coordinator said, "I think it will be very beneficial to the Vassar community. Carole is someone with whom students can identify, yet she has had the kind of experience that is remote to most members of the community. I hope that the 986 people who signed the petition will attend the meeting to hear her speak." The Miscellany News, The New York Times
Professors Albert Van Ackere and William Rothwell co-directed the Vassar Experimental Theatre's production of Alessandro Scarlatti's two-act opera The Triumph of Honor (Il trionfo dell'onore, 1718), a joint production of the Vassar music and drama departments in Avery Hall. Reviewing the production in The Miscellany News, Susan Lysik '64 found it, if "not quite the triumph of the music and drama departments...certainly a charming and pleasant entertainment." Noting the lighting by Mary Barlow '64 and the period costumes of Catherine Pawclyn '65, the reviewer concluded, "the directors, cast, designers and entire production staff deserve congratulations for combining their diverse abilities in a charming opera." The Miscellany News
When accepted, his recommendations pushed the cost of American support of the war to $2 million per day.
Dr. John Rock, professor emeritus of gynecology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Rock Reproduction Clinic, gave the Martin H. Crego Lecture.
The Crego lecture, part of the Crego Endowment, established in 1956 by Jean Crego ’32, in honor of her father, sponsored an annual lecture in the general field of economics, under the auspices of the economics department.
On a tour of campuses showing his directorial debut, a feature film called The Young Lovers, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. spoke with students after a showing of the film in Blodgett Hall. The film intrigued the students, who “especially” liked —according to Eugene Archer, writing in The New York Times—“a scene in which young Sharon Hugueny’s mother returns home unexpectedly to find her daughter’s beau, Peter Fonda, taking his early morning shower.”
Mr. Goldwyn defended his choice of young and unknown actors, although it made finding funding for the film even more difficult. “Everyone said, get Tony Curtis,” Goldwyn said, “but he isn’t an adolescent. Where can you find teen-age stars today?” The students sponsoring the event confided in the young director that they had formed their own company, “Carborundum Films,” and they asked his advice about how they should go about making a film. “I try to encourage them,” he said, “but I also…try to tell the truth. Making experimental films in 16-mm., using college friends and faculties in the cast so they’ll have a ready-made audience, is a fine idea. Then they ask how they can get the film distributed outside their college and make a profit…. I tell them I have exactly the same problem myself.” The New York Times
Scholar of early French Medieval sculpture Willibald Sauerländer, a professor at the University of Freiburg and visitng professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, lectured on "The Sculpture of Reims Cathedral," particularly the influence of ancient works on Reims figures of the 1220s and 30s. "In the period between 1220 and 1230," wrote Ann Thomas in The Miscellany News, "sculpture at Reims entered a new phase of influence. Not only is it closer to the normal Gothic style, as seen in the elevation of the Virgin to a position of prominence in the decorative scheme, but in several instances it bears resemblance to antique prototypes. Professor Sauerländer feels that, while there was not a wholesale antique revival, a few artists were strongly influenced by studies of antiquity.... Unfortunately, Professor Squerländer in his lecture did not answer the question of how the Reims sculptors came to be influenced by antiquity, and what antique monuments were available for observation."
Professor Sauerländer's Gotische Skulptur in Frankreich (Gothic Sculpture in France, 1970,1971) established him as a leading historian in his field. He became director of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, in 1970.
At Commencement, president-elect Alan Simpson told the members of the Class of 1964 and their families and guests that the “brains and energy of women is our most neglected national asset.” Urging the graduates to claim their rightful places in the professions, Simpson said, “There are countries today in which women play a far more conspicuous part in the national life and national dialogue than they do in ours. The question in countries like ours is whether you will be content to occupy all the lower-echelon jobs or whether you will be interested in scaling the heights.”
Students, faculty and Mr. Simpson also paid tribute to Sarah Gibson Blanding and her 13 years of service to the college. Mr. Simpson told the graduating class "If I have one last wish for you as you graduate it is that you may have as much gallantry and gaiety, as much pride and as little pomposity, as much capacity for work and enjoyment, as Sarah Blanding. In plain, in heroic magnitude of spirit, she has few equals.”
John Wilkie, chairman of the board of trustees, announced the board's approval of a new faculty housing complex to be built between Raymond and Hooker Avenues. The New York Times, The Miscellany News
In response to purported attacks on American vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin, ten miles off the shore of North Vietnam, United States bombers destroyed oil facilities and naval targets in North Vietnam. “We Americans know,” President Johnson said in a nationwide telecast, “although others appear to forget, the risk of spreading conflict. We still seek no wider war.”
Three days later, Congress passed almost unanimously the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,” put forth by the White House, allowing the President to “take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force” against further attacks on U. S. forces.
Opening Vassar's 100th academic year, its new president, Alan Simpson, gave the address at Fall Convocation. One of his concerns was with the nature of “style.” “Style,” he told the students and faculty, “is the form imposed by art on life. A great deal of life has been and is without style: an aimless scurrying of matter, a dull scratching of itches, a wearisome struggle for survival. There is obviously no style without leisure, without exposure to good models, without a passion for improvement.
“Style is not a veneer; it is not a dressing; it is not a nice frosting on a poor cake; it is not make-up. Style has to be built into the motion of the mind by passion and practice.”
A record 1,162 students were enrolled, and the 451 freshmen included women from 21 foreign countries.
Alan Simpson, Oxford-educated historian and former dean of the college at the University of Chicago, was inaugurated as Vassar’s 7th president. Some 4,000 alumnae, faculty, students and guests, including representatives from over 300 American and European colleges and universities and 90 representatives from Alumnae clubs, filled the Outdoor Theater on a perfect Indian summer afternoon, as Mary St. John Villard ’34, chairman of the inaugural committee, introduced the speakers.
Charles C. Griffin, professor of history, brought greetings from the faculty; Katharine E. McBride, president of Bryn Mawr, greeted the new president on behalf of the women’s colleges; Herbert G. Nicholas, professor of American history and Fellow of New College, Oxford, spoke for the European universities; W. Allen Wallis, president of the University of Rochester carried best wishes from American colleges and universities and George Wells Beadle, president of the University of Chicago, spoke on behalf of Mr. Simpson’s former institution. Also in attendance were Sarah Gibson Blanding, Simpson’s predecessor, and Henry Noble MacCracken, president of the college between 1915 and 1946.
In his remarks, President Simpson, noting Vassar’s “special duty to consider the minds, aptitudes, and goals of women in an age where women everywhere are seeking new directions for their energies,” declared that it also shared with other colleges responsibility for the grand traditions of liberal learning. “The American university,” he said, “was once a one-story building with a few graduates in the attic. Today it’s often a one-story building with a lot of undergraduates in the basement.” The best liberal arts colleges, privileged to focus on providing undergraduates with individual programs and instruction and on offering breadth of knowledge instead of pedantry, “the characteristic vice of scholarship,” bore the responsibility for defending and strengthening these traditions.
The New York Times included some personal notes on Vassar’s new president in its coverage of the event, including his fondness for composing clerihews—four-line biographical verses beginning with the subject’s name; his preference for “Mr.” instead of “Dr.,”arising from his academic upbringing in England, “where members of the faculty do not ‘Doctor’ each other;” his plan to teach an advanced history class on revolutions in 17th century England in the spring term (“I always got great pleasure out of teaching.”) and his anticipation of taking part in a residence hall reading of Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, where he was cast as the devil. The New York Times
The New York Times reported that Vassar was among five colleges and universities in New York State collaborating as test sites for the innovative new approach to teacher education advocated by former Harvard president and United States Ambassador to Germany James B. Conant. Conant proposed making colleges and universities responsible for teacher certification rather than the states, making classroom performance the major factor in certification, siting more practical training in local schools and giving state authorities responsibility for supervision of practice teaching. Most controversially, Conant’s plan, outlined in his book The Education of America’s Teachers (1963), called for the replacement of “how-to-teach” classes with “learning through teaching,” leaving more classroom time for teaching and learning in subject matter fields.
To avoid prolonged theoretical debate about his proposals, Conant enlisted as a test bed five quite different institutions with established commitment to teacher education in New York State. In addition to Vassar, Brooklyn College, Cornell University, Colgate University and Fredonia State College agreed to implement the plan, which already had the blessing of James E. Allen, Jr., the state’s commissioner of education.
“The problem is,” Conant told The Times, “to get the professors of the various disciplines to sit down with the professors of education and to appraise what is now taught and what should be taught.” Equally important, he added, was a commitment from the professors to examining classroom teaching in the schools and evaluating how well their subjects were presented to students.
Defending the liberal arts and praising "the educated woman" at the Washington Vassar Club, President Simpson announced that the college had met, nine months before the deadline, the $25 million goal set in 1955 for a 10-year development program. The majority of the donations came from alumnae, and of the total $16,500,000 was earmarked for the educational program, with emphasis on faculty salaries and scholarships, with the remainder intended for improvements to the physical plant.
Upholding the ideals of a liberal education against the pressing claims for a less broad and my professional curriculum, Simpson also asked, "What can the educated woman do for this world?" "Her stake in life," he replied, "is the biggest because it's the longest. She needs less reminders than men that we are born for purposes larger than ourselves. She is the natural conservationist of tested values; the best interpreter of change; the last generalist in our intensely specialized civilization. She can also claim a larger role for herself as explorer, manager and governor. She can be invited to study countries in which the male fortresses are more battered than they are in ours, and where some of them have been reduced to the picturesque irrelevance of a medieval castle in a modern city."
Since the program’s inception faculty salaries were substantially improved, a new residence hall and a modern language center built and significant improvements made to Main Building, the Library and the Art Gallery. The president noted that the college was currently attempting to meet a $2.5 million 3-to-1 challenge grant from the Ford Foundation. Success in this effort would, he said, further enhance faculty salaries and academic programs as well as starting to address further physical plant needs, such as a biological sciences building, a laboratory theater, new faculty housing and residential facilities for students. The Miscellany News
Southeast Asian specialist and author Dr. Virginia Thompson Adloff '24 gave the inaugural C. Mildred Thompson Lecture, "Unity and Disunity in the Third World: Southeast Asia and Negro Africa," in Skinner Hall. An officer with the Office of War Information in Southeast Asia during World War II and a professor at the University of California between 1961 and 1972, Dr. Adloff and her husband, Richard Adloff, a former State Department officer, published prolifically on East Asian and African issues after the war.
The Thompson lectureship, given to the college in 1963 by an anonymous donor, honored American historian C. Mildred Thompson '03, who taught in the history department from 1910 until 1923, when she became Vassar's dean, a position she held until her retirement in 1948. On December 16, 1964, President Alan Simpson wrote to Dean Emeritus Thompson, who came from her home in Atlanta to attend the inaugural Thompson Lecture. "From all sides," he said, "have come reports of the success of the first C. Mildred Thompson Lecture. Virginia Adloff did herself and you proud.... Mary [Mrs. Simpson] and I thoroughly enjoyed your visit and the opportunity of coming to know Vassar's famous Dean Thompson—a distinquished scholar!" Vassar Controller's file F0006
Dean Thompson died in 1975.
Dick Gregory, African American comedian, author and civil rights activist, was featured at Christmas House Parties Weekend. Noted by The Miscellany News for "his ability to make people laugh and then think about why they're laughing," Gregory aimed his humor at targets ranging from the snow on campus—"I like snow; it's about the only white thing we can step on"—to his daughter's reflection of the shifting status quo in American families—on telling him he must knock before entering her room: "'I'm three years old, I've got rights.'" She also, he said, no longer believed in Santa Claus, because "'No white man's coming to our neighborhood after midnight.'" The Miscellany News
A frequent visitor to Vassar, Dick Gregory appeared on campus in November 1976, February 1981 and March 1999.