April 28, 1978
Vassar hosted a three-day commemoration of Venetian polymath Elena Lucrezia Cornaro-Piscopia (1646-1684), the first woman to receive a doctorate. Fluent in seven languages including Latin, Greek and Arabic, she was also an expert musician—playing the harpsichord, clavichord, harp and violin and composing in several forms. She also lectured in mathematics.
Denied examination for the doctorate in theology by church authorities because of her sex, she received the doctorate in philosophy from the University of Padua on June 25, 1678. The Cornaro window, installed in the Thompson Library in 1906, depicted Elena Lucrezia, dressed in the Vassar colors, rose and gray, answering the examination questions of scholars from the principal Italian universities.