Dr. Jonathan Beckwith, the leader of the group of researchers at the Harvard Medical School that isolated the first gene in 1969, lectured on "Politics of Genetic Engineering." When the breakthrough was announced, an editorial in The New York Times, “Playing with Biological Fire,” noted the Beckwith team’s concern about its implications and uses, concluding, “It is an act of faith to believe that when and if this new power becomes available it will be used more to benefit than to hurt the human species. But every day’s newspaper provides evidence suggesting that the contrary may be true.”
Harvard University Press published Beckwith’s Making Genes, Making Waves: A Social Activist in Science in 2002.
A bomb threat called in at 11:27 pm interrupted a concert in the Chapel by singer Harry Chapin. Security searched the building and the Arlington branch fire and police were notified. The bomb threat was the first the campus had received in several years.
German-born representational sculptor Walter Erlebacher gave the Class of 1928 Lecture, showing slides and speaking about his work. A sculptor of the human body and teacher at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Erlebacher was married to the modern realist painter Martha Mayer Erlebacher. He returned to Vassar for a lecture in 1982.
Computer scientist Malcolm H. Gotterer from Florida International University lectured on "Selecting Data Base and File Structure Designs."
Obesity researcher Dr. Irving Faust, Rockefeller University, lectured on "Growth and Regulation of Adipose Tissue."
Internationally renowned jazz pianist Keith Jarrett gave a concert in Skinner Hall.
Ramie and Merri Arian, singers associated with the North American Federation of Temple Youth, gave a concert of Jewish folk music.
C. Mildred Thompson ‘03, dean of the college from 1923 until 1948, died at the age of 93. Joining the history department in 1910, she was its chairman until her appointment as dean. Active in the formation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1945, she had served in the 1950s as dean of women at the College of Free Europe in Strasbourg.
Novelist Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers (1974), read from his work for the Matthew Vassar Lecture. Stone’s novel, a complex account of the effects of the Vietnamese war and particularly the heroin trade it stimulated on the lives of returning soldiers, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1975. Stone adapted the book for the film Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978).
Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed on June 19, 1953, by the U.S. Government for conspiracy to commit espionage, lectured on the circumstances surrounding his parents' deaths. Meeropol’s older brother Michael spoke at Vassar on “The Significance of the Rosenberg Case Today” in September 1995.
Professor of Mathematics Nathaniel Friedman from the State University of New York at Albany lectured on "Mathematical Models and Difference Equations."
Dr. Leonard Jeffries, founding chairman of the African-American studies department at the City College of New York, lectured on "Black Studies and the Urban Crisis."
Community activist Marie Tarver from the Poughkeepsie Model Cities Agency lectured on urban problems in Poughkeepsie. The first African-American member, in 1964, of the Poughkeepsie board of education, Tarver received an Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Award for her community service in 1990.
Dr. Leonard Jeffries, founding chairman of the African-American studies department at the City College of New York, lectured on "Black Studies and the Urban Crisis."
Feminist author Carolyn Heilbrun, professor of English literature at Columbia University, lectured on "Marriage: The Modern Discovery." The first woman to be tenured in Columbia’s English department, Heilbrun complemented feminist landmarks such as Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (1973) and Reinventing Womanhood (1979) with ten mystery novels published under the pseudonym Amanda Cross and featuring sleuth Kate Fansler.
French historian Alan B. Spitzer from the University of Iowa gave the C. Mildred Thompson Lecture on "Post-Revolutionary Youth: The French Generation of 1820." His book, The French Generation of 1820, an analysis of the intellectual climate of the Bourbon restoration in France from1814 until 1830, was published by Princeton University Press in 1987.
Over spring break, 25 rooms in Main and two Terrace Apartments were broken into and robbed.
Anthropologist Morton Levine from Fordham University lectured on "The Basques: An Example of Ethnic Stubbornness." A scholar on the subject of Basque isolation, Professor Levine was a faculty member at Vassar from 1963 until 1968.
Swedish physical chemist Dr. Kai Pedersen from the University of Uppsala gave the Matthew Vassar Lecture on "The Importance of the Work of The Svedberg and Arne Tiselius in the Early Development of Modern Protein Chemistry." Dr. Pederson’s subjects were the Swedish biochemists The (Theodor) Svedberg, the early student of colloids and the developer of their study using the technique of analytical ultracentrifugation, and Arne Tisellus, Svedberg’s student and successor, especially in the electrophoresis of proteins. Svedberg received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1926, and Tiselius received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1938.
Economist Estelle James from the State University of New York at Stony Brook lectured on "Income and Employment Effects of Sexual Integration."
Mathematician Thomas W. Tucker from Colgate University presented two lectures: "The Marooned Mapmaker Meets the Euler Characteristics" and "Mathematics and Art: Why Dürer Wasn't Greek."
Activist political scientist and sociologist Frances Fox Piven from Boston University lectured on "The Urban Crisis of the 1970's." Her Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare and Poor People’s Movements: Why they Succeed, How they Fail—both written with Richard Cloward—appeared in 1971 and 1977.
Earle Brown, American avant-garde composer, gave an informal presentation of some of his recent work. Brown experimented both in free or “open" forms, in which instrumentalists and/or the conductor had a range of random choices, and in unorthodox notations, drawing on early techniques as well as the graphic notation of music.
Dr. Ronald Brady, philosopher of science at Ramapo College, lectured on "Goethe's Theory of Science: Some Non-Cartesian Meditations."
Visiting Scholar Walter Allen, British critic and novelist, lectured on "The Comedy of Dickens." Allen’s definitive The English Novel: A Short Critical History (1954) was followed by The Novel Today (1955), Six Great Novelists (1955) and Tradition and Dream: The English and American Novel from the Twenties to Our Time (1964).
Poet, essayist, photographer and publisher Jonathan Williams read from his works for the Class of 1928 Poetry Reading. A native of North Carolina, Williams combined the avant-garde with the “found” language of his native mountains. The Jargon Society and the Jargon Press, which he founded, discovered or nurtured poets such as Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Lorine Neidecker, Charles Olson and Louis Zukovsky.
At the time of his death in 2008 The New York Times quoted Canadian critic Hugh Kenner’s description of Williams as a publisher: he was “the truffle hound of American poetry.”
Dr. James Tobin, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University, gave the Martin H. Crego Lecture on "The Crisis in Economic Policy." A member of President Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisors, Tobin received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1981.
The Crego lecture, part of the Crego Endowment established in 1956 by Jean Crego ’32 in honor of her father, was an annual lecture in the general field of economics under the auspices of the economics department.
Vassar held a "Conference on the Politics of Hunger," featuring nutritionist and hunger researcher Jean Mayer from the Harvard School of Public Health and author Emma Rothschild. An advisor on world hunger to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, Dr. Mayer organized the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health and helped found the National Council on Hunger and Malnutrition in the United States.
Ms. Rothschild’s research and writing on the subject included “The Politics of Food” (1974) and “Running Out of Food” (1974) in The New York Review of Books, “Food Politics” (1976) in Foreign Affairs and “Short Term, Long Term” (1975), an account of the UN World Food Conference held outside Rome in November 1974 in The New Yorker.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced over $4 million in fellowship awards to 308 scholars, scientists and artists chosen from 2,319 applicants. Among those awarded a fellowship was Vassar English professor, Harriett Hawkins, whose research topic was “Tragic and Satiric Studies in the Art of the Insoluble.” Professor Hawkins spent her year's sabbatical at the University of Oxford, where she was a member fo the senior faculty at Balliol and Linacre Colleges.
The British Academy awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize for English Literature to Professor Hawkins's Poetic Freedom and Poetic Truth: Chaucer to Milton (1976) in 1978.
Poet Samuel Menashe, author of the collections To Open (1974) and No Jerusalem But This (1971), read from his work.
Professor Franco Fido from the department of Hispanic and Italian studies at Brown University gave the Matthew Vassar Lecture on “Boccaccio's ars narrandi in the sixth day of The Decameron.”
Vassar held a symposium on "American Biography." The speakers included Justin Kaplan, biographer of Mark Twain; Nancy Milford, Zelda Fitzgerald’s biographer; James David Barber, presidential historian and Martin Duberman, whose subjects had been Charles Francis Adams and James Russell Lowell.
Harry Blum from the National Institutes of Health lectured on "Biological Shape and Visual Science." A former researcher in the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories in Cambridge, MA, Blum was a pioneer in the development of topological algorithms and pattern recognition.
Richard Crowley, architect and historic preservation activist, lectured on the "Rhinebeck Area Historic Survey." Crowley led the mapping and registering of historic buildings and other structures in northern Dutchess and Columbia Counties.
Historian Jean Vilar from the University of Paris-Sorbonne lectured on "Inquisition and Literature in Spanish Golden Age."
African-American poet, painter and experimental novelist Clarence Major read from his poetry for the Class of 1928 Poetry Reading.
Philosopher and cognitive scientist Jerry Fodor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lectured on "Thought and Language." Dr. Fodor collaborated with Thomas Bever and Merrill Garrett on The Psychology of Language (1974), and Harvard University Press published his The Language of Thought in 1975.
Sidney Dickstein, defense attorney for publisher Ralph Ginzburg, lectured on "The Supreme Court vs. Ralph Ginzburg or All's Fair in Sex and Law." The editor of Eros magazine, Ginzburg appealed his conviction on obscenity charges—distributing the magazine along with a “newsletter” called “Liaison” and a “psychological study,” “The Housewife’s Handbook on Selective Promiscuity”—to the Supreme Court.
The Court affirmed Ginzburg’s conviction in1966, and he spent eight months in a federal prison, an experience about which he wrote in his book, Castrated: My Eight Months in Prison (1972), which he dedicated to his wife.
Poet and critic Dr. Hasye Cooperman from The New School for Social Research lectured on "The Yiddish Language in America."
Russian-born German journalist and political scientist Klaus Mehnert, an expert on relations between China and the USSR, lectured on "China Events and Chinese Foreign Policy" and "Observations on American Youth Radicalism."
Pierre Tabatoni, French cultural attaché in New York, gave the Matthew Vassar Lecture on "Pratiques et Mythes de Progrès Social en France."
Philosopher Stanley Rosen from Pennsylvania State University lectured on "Socrates as Midwife." Rosen’s first book, Plato’s Symposium (1967) was published by Yale University Press.
Feminist legal educator and lawyer Nancy Erickson from the Woman's Law Center in New York City lectured on "The Equal Rights Amendment." The author of Woman’s Guide to Marriage and Divorce in New York (1974), Nancy Erickson taught women and the law at New York Law School and Cornell Law School.
Joint resolutions granting women full protection under the law were introduced in both houses of Congress in December 1923, and reintroduced annually until the amendment passed in 1972. Despite congressional extension of the deadline for its ratification by the states, the amendment fell three states short at the final deadline, June 30, 1982.
The following evening Ms. Erickson and Lucinda Cisler, author of Women: a Bibliography (1970), spoke on "The Politics and Impact of the Supreme Court Abortion Decisions."
Ms. Cisler chaired the National Organization for Women (NOW) Taskforce on Reproduction and Its Control from 1969 until 1971 and was the founder and first secretary of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL).
Sociologist and social psychologist Anthony Giddens, fellow of Kings College, the University of Cambridge, England, gave the Savel and Gertrude Folks Zimand Lecture on "Recent Trends in European Sociology." One of the founders of the Social and Political Sciences Committee in the Faculty of Economics at Cambridge, Giddens’s scholarly focus was on the structure and development of the social sciences
Gertrude Folks Zimand ’16 was a lifelong crusader against the abuses of child labor. General secretary and trustee of the National Child Labor Committee and founder of its National Committee on the Employment of Youth, she was married to Savel Zimand, a Rumanian-born international journalist and author.
Hispanist María de la Soledad Carrasco Urgoiti from Hunter College gave the Matthew Vassar lecture on "The Moor of Granada in Literature." Her El problema morisco en Aragón al comienzo del reinado de Felipe II was published by University of North Carolina Press in 1969.
American folk-blues singer Maria Muldaur and singer-songwriter Tim Moore performed a concert in the Chapel. Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis,” from her debut album, Maria Muldaur (1973), achieved eighth place on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart in 1974, and three of Moore’s songs from his first album, Tim Moore (1973), “A Fool Like You,” “Second Avenue” and “When You Close Your Eyes,” received significant play on the radio.
Julliard student Robert Black performed piano works by Lizst, Busoni, and Chopin. Black completed his work at The Julliard School in 1975 and founded the New York New Music Ensemble, the first of several efforts both as concert pianist and conductor to promote the work of new composers.
Poet and filmmaker Gerard Malanga, assistant to Andy Warhol during the making of his films from 1963 until 1970, read from his recent work. Malanga appeared from time to time in Warhol’s films.
Leonard Silk, economics editor for The New York Times, lectured on "Economic News Coverage." A PhD in economics, Silk taught at the University of Maine and Simmons College before joining The Times in 1970. At the time of his retirement from the newspaper in 1992, he wrote in his last column: “I see economics as a branch of philosophy—moral philosophy as it was called in the days of Adam Smith. Its mission was and still is to improve the lot of humanity, especially for the poor.”
Dr. Mark Bieber, National Institutes of Health post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University, lectured on "Essential Fatty Acids, Brain Development, and Parental Nutrition." His research on the working of fats in nutrition and as a founding member of the American Heart Association’s Industry Nutrition Advisory Panel led to the establishment by the association of the annual Mark Bieber Award.
Catholic journalist and bioethicist Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, author of Who's Minding the Children: The History and Politics of Child Care in the U.S. (1974), spoke at Vassar. The founding editor, in 1974, of The Hastings Center Report, Steinfels directed the independent and nonpartisan bioethics research institute’s publication between 1974 and 1980. She and her husband, New York Times religion writer Peter Steinfels, edited the Catholic lay people’s journal Commonweal between 1989 and 2004.
Drew Middleton, military correspondent for The New York Times, lectured on "The Press and the Pentagon." A sports writer for The Poughkeepsie Eagle News in the late 1930’s, Middleton was a foreign correspondent in Europe, first with the Associated Press and later with The Times, throughout World War II. His memoirs, Where Has Last July Gone? appeared in 1973.
In an article on rising college costs in The New York Times, education editor Edward B. Fiske noted President Alan Simpson’s recent chapel speech to the college community about costly campus vandalism, called “Vandals and Vandalism.” Speaking at the request of the College Council, made up of students, faculty members and administrators, Simpson denounced “not only the ‘crazy few’ who were responsible for the vandalism but also the ‘guilty many’ who seemed to tolerate it without active opposition.
“Earlier, a school senate report declared ‘Violence and vandalism in the school has reached a level of crisis.’ It continues, ‘It is perhaps less expected here and therefore more noticeable than on other campuses.’”
American poet Ruth Stone read from her poetry for the Class of 1928 Poetry Reading. Stone wrote the poems for her first book, In an Iridescent Time (1959) when she and her husband, the poet and novelist Walter Stone, lived at Vassar, where Walter Stone was a member of the English department. Her second collection, Topography and Other Poems appeared in 1971, and Cheap was published in 1975.
British social anthropologist and ethnologist Julian Pitt-Rivers from the London School of Economics gave the Matthew Vassar lecture on "Genesis: Myth or History." Pitt-Rivers’s seminal The People of the Sierra (1954) applied the techniques of “tribal” study to Andalusian villagers, tracing habits of class, ownership and subservience to an ancient Mediterranean code of honor and of shame. Writing in The Sunday Independent at the time of Pitt-Rivers’s death in 2001, anthropologist Jonathan Benthall said that in his later work, The Fate of Schechem, or The Politics of Sex (1977), Pitt-Rivers “posited a long continuity in the region dating back to Genesis and the Odyssey and based on this code.”
Prolific African-American science-fiction writer and critic Samuel R. Delany read from his works. Delany’s 11th novel, Dahlgren, was published in January 1975, and his 12th, Triton, and a critical work, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction appeared in 1976 and 1977.
Sovietologist Dr. Robert Tucker from Princeton University offered "Reflections of a Stalin Biographer." An attaché at the United States embassy in Moscow between 1944 and 1953, Tucker published The Soviet Political Mind: Studies in Stalinism and Post-Stalin Change in 1963, and his Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879-1929: A Study in History and Personality and Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above followed in 1973 and 1990.
Actress and author Jane Marla Robbins performed her one-woman play, Dear Nobody, for the Dickinson-Kayden Event. Written with Terry Belanger, Robbins’s play focused on the 18th century English author and diarist Fanny Burney and a number of her “friends,” such as Samuel Johnson, Mme. DeStael and King George III. New York Times theater critic Clive Barnes, reviewing the play’s debut in 1974, said the secret of the play’s great success was “simple but twofold. Fanny Burney happens to be one of the most interesting people one could have wished to meet in the whole of 18th-century London. And, secondly, Jane Marla Robbins, the actress and co-author of the occasion, plays her capitally.”
Mildred Bernstein Kayden ’42 established the Dickinson-Kayden fund in 1966 in honor of the late Professor of Music George Sherman Dickinson.
Professor of Chemistry Dietmar Seyferth from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology lectured on "Organocobalt Cluster Compounds—Carbon in an Unusual Environment." A specialist in the synthesis and characterization of organometallic compounds—compounds containing bonds between carbon and a metal—and in their reactivity and applications, Professor Seyferth was the founding regional editor of The Journal of Organometallic Chemistry between 1964 and 1981.
Michael Wood, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, lectured on "Nice Guys Finish Last: Images of Success in American Movies." Dr. Wood’s America in the Movies was published by Basic Books and Secker & Warburg in 1975.
Spanish lawyer, journalist and playwright Joaquín Calvo Sotelo, a member of the Royal Spanish Academy and author of some 60 plays, lectured on "Personajes Universales del Teatro Espanol."
Social historian, critic and historian of dress Anne Hollander gave the Matthew Vassar Lecture on "Fabric of Vision: The Role of Drapery in the Pictorial Imagination." Hollander’s influential book Seeing Through Clothes appeared in 1978, and Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting was published by the National Gallery in London in 2002.
African-American computer scientist Dr. Milton White, chief executive officer of the processing system company Datanamics, lectured on "Computer Technology and Black America."
Humorist and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald offered advice and encouragement to the graduates at the 116th commencement. “You are the generation,” he said, “of Watergate and Kahoutek. You were raised on Bonanza and Kojak. Walter Cronkite is your godfather, and Nixon was your president. You flopped at streaking, and you blew Earth Day, and you’ve seen war live and in color on television and your previous president said he was not a crook.”
Reflecting on the day Richard Nixon resigned the presidency, Buchwald said, "We’re all going to make it. For 200 years we’ve muddled along. It’s less than a year since a President of the United States was forced to resign...because he lied to the American public. But what is more important was that as it happened, we did not see one tank or helmeted officer in the street. A country of over 200 million people was able to change Presidents overnight, without one bayonet being unsheathed. I believe any country that can still do that can’t be all bad.” Vassar News Office
Associate Professor of English Colton Johnson succeeded Marshall as dean of studies.
Vassar obtained a club license, which allowed the sale of beer, wine and liquor in the College Center's pub.
Vassar was selected from 15 colleges to oversee the Common Application Experiment. This innovation was part of a national effort to streamline the college admission process. All of the colleges involved agreed to use an identical application form known as the "Common Application." This application form allowed high school students to fill out just one application, which they would then send to all of the colleges to which they were applying.
On October 3, 1975, the Miscellany News identified the first student interviewers selected by a special committee: Patricia Brown ‘76, Jeremy Mark ‘76, Alice Markowitz ‘76 and Steven Seltz ‘76. The committee also selected two alternates.
George Lochner served as head of Vassar security from 1986 until 1996.
The college announced the establishment of a research professorship in classical studies in honor of the Harvard classical archeologist, Carl Blegen and his wife Elizabeth Pierce Blegen ’10. Funded at the level of $625,000 by combining a trust fund established by Mrs. Blegen’s will and two small endowment funds, the professorship recognized an increased interest in classical studies at Vassar and among several of Vassar’s peer institutions—“a source of satisfaction to all,” said Dean of the Faculty Barbara Wells, “especially in a time when we are witnessing a national preoccupation with prevocationalism.” The New York Times
Dean of the college from 1923 until 1948, Thompson died on February 17, 1975.