April 15, 1978
Virginia B. Smith was inaugurated as Vassar’s eighth president at the Chapel. The ceremony began with an academic procession from Main Building to the Chapel. Members of the procession included representatives of other colleges, Presidents Emeriti Sarah G. Blanding and Alan Simpson, the faculty, speakers, the Inauguration Committee, and both former and current trustees. Seniors in academic robes lined the march.
Executive officer for the inauguration committee Elizabeth Drouilhet ‘30, former dean of residence, noted that Smith’s inauguration involved far more members of the Vassar community than President Simpson’s had. Student invitees, for the first time, were seated on the main floor of the Chapel. SGA President Kathy Smith ‘78 made history as the first student to speak at an inauguration.
While President Smith was inaugurated inside the Chapel, 350 students on the Chapel Lawn protested Vassar’s investments in corporations supporting South African apartheid. The Coalition for Social Responsibility, the rally’s sponsor, said that the time and location of the demonstration was not meant to disrespect the new President, but to capitalize on the presence of the trustees and press. Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makatini of the African National Congress, Mzomke Xuza of the Pan-African Congress and Rhodes Gzoyiya of the American Committee on Africa spoke at the rally.