Vassar’s eighth president, Virginia B. Smith, announced her retirement at the end of the 1985-1986 school year. Dr. Smith, the second female president of the college, came to the college in 1977. She chose this time to retire because she felt the college would need strong leadership in the upcoming years, as the fundraising for the second phase of the Development Program would be at a critical point. “I believe it is only fair to Vassar to decide now to stay through that period or to leave early enough to allow a new president to develop knowledge and contacts prior to that crucial period.” Smith said she planned to “to undertake new projects involving research, writing and teaching.”

The legacy of Smith’s leadership included the repair of Vassar’s relations with alumnae and achievement of greater national visibility for the college.  Smith was particularly pleased to have fostered cooperation among college constituencies.  “We have refined the notion of shared governance,” she told  Edward Fiske of The New York Times shortly after her announcement, “so that everyone is involved—students, faculty, alumnae/i, all of them.”    The New York Times, The Poughkeepsie Journal andThe Miscellany News