The Committee on College Life and the Residential Life office proposed a new plan for the residence halls, pairing them into two-house “units”—e.g. Cushing-Noyes, Jewett-Lathrop, etc.—with three faculty house fellows instead of the current four and a new position, “house advisor,” for each unit. Professor John McCleary, a house fellow in Davison House, explained that “with the new house advisor, mechanical details will be handled by someone whose full-time job is that, so it will make life easier for the house fellows.”     The Miscellany News

The proposed advisors would be young professionals with masters’ degrees in a variety of fields pertinent to collegiate residential life who would assist the faculty house fellows with planning and programming in the houses. 

Mathematician Colin Conrad Adams, a specialist in hyperbolic 3-manifolds and knot theory, lecturing as his character “Mel Slugbate” spoke on "Real Estate in Hyperbolic Space."  A widely respected expositor of mathematics to general audiences, Dr. Adams appeared as the sleazy real estate agent Slugbate, who, while peddling his real estate—elucidated the nature of hyperbolic space, a type of non-Euclidean geometry.

Adams’s The Knot Book: An Elementary Introduction to the Mathematical Theory of Knots appeared in 1994, and in 1998 he was awarded the Haimo Distinguished Teaching Award from the Mathematical Association of America, awarded to mathematicians who are “extraordinarily successful in their teaching” and who “have had an influence beyond their own institutions.”

Biographer and jazz pianist Mark Tucker from Columbia University performed and spoke on "Duke Ellington: Piano in the Foreground" in a Dickinson Kayden event.  The author of two standard volumes of Ellington scholarship, Duke Ellington: The Early Years (1991) and The Duke Ellington Reader (1993) Tucker performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution as well as with jazz repertory groups.

At the time of his death in 2000 Tucker was vice president of the Society for American Music.  The society’s annual Mark Tucker Award recognizes “an outstanding student paper presented at the annual SAM Conference.”

Mildred Bernstein Kayden ’42 established the fund in 1966 in honor of the late Professor of Music George Sherman Dickinson.

Novelist John Irving, author of The World According to Garp (1978),  The Cider House Rules (1985) and A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) gave the annual Alex Krieger Memorial lecture, readings from his unpublished novel A Son of the Circus (1994).  Michael Bird ’96, who attended the lecture, told Miscellany News that “Irving’s writing is funny, intelligent, and honest. It’s as if there’s no pretense or literary overtures. It’s just stories and people and laughter, all very direct.” Irving explained to the audience that his humor is “not something I do consciously, I want to be frightened, amused, entertained.”     The Miscellany News

 The Alex Krieger Memorial Fund was started by his parents in memory of Alex Krieger ’95, who died in his freshman year in an automobile accident while driving to Pennsylvania for an ultimate Frisbee match.  The annual lectures were intended to bring eminent American humorists and cultural critics to Vassar in recognition of Krieger’s keen appreciation of these genres.


Particle physicist Leon Lederman spoke on "The Innerspace/Outerspace Connection: History and Progress Report."  The discoverer, in 1968, of the muon neutrino and of the bottom quark, in 1977, Lederman was co-recipient—with his colleagues Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger— of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1978, “for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino.”    John W. Wright, ed., The New York Times Almanac

The Environmental Studies correlate sequence was approved by the faculty, fostering multidisciplinary study in disciplines such as history, literature, geology, biology, chemistry and political science.  “There has been a general response to student interest and the correlate is a crystallization of that response,” explained Biology professor and chair of the environmental science steering committee Robert Fritz, “when we were charged with coming up with an environmental sciences program, we started to ask what it takes to be an environmental scientist.”

The multidisciplinary degree program in environmental studies was approved by the faculty in 1999.



African-American historian Barry Gaspar from Duke University spoke on "Gender and Resistance: Women in Slave Society and the Caribbean."  A specialist on comparative slave systems, Dr. Gaspar’s A Turbulent Time: The Greater Caribbean in the Age of the French and Haitian Revolutions appeared in 1997.

New York alternative rock bands Madder Rose and Belly performed in the All Campus Dining Center.

Elizabeth Daniels ‘41, professor emerita of English and college historian, lectured on "Henry Nobel MacCracken and the Modernization of Victorian Vassar (1915-1946)."  Her study of Vassar’s 5th president, Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College was published in 1994.



Ethicist Tu Wei-Ming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy at Harvard University, spoke on "Beyond the Enlightenment Mentality: Exploring Confucian Ethics for the Global Community."  A central figure in the exposition of the “New Confucianism” an a prolific author in both English and Chinese, he edited China in Transformation from Harvard University Press and The Living Tree: Changing Meaning of Being Chinese Today from Stanford University Press in 1994, and his inaugural Wu Teh Yao Memorial Lectures (1995) at The Centre for the Arts at the National University of Singapore appeared as A Confucian Perspective on Human Rights in 1996.



Deborah Dash Moore, professor of religion, appeared on “The Ruth Jacobs Show” on New York City radio station WEVD-AM to discuss her book, To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A. (1994).



Robert Farris Thompson, professor of African and Afro-American Art History at Yale, spoke on "Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of the Black Atlantic World” in Taylor Hall.  The master of Timothy Dwight College at Yale, in 1974 Thompson organized the revolutionary African Art in Motion exhibition for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, that demonstrated the existence of an African esthetic vocabulary and its importance in the interpretation of African art.  His subsequent exhibit, “The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two Worlds,” at which he was at work when speaking at Vassar, introduced in 1981 an large and almost unknown body of works from the former Kingdom of Kongo and demonstrated their influence on the visual culture of the United States.

In 1983, Thompson published Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy, which identified the sources of contemporary Black Atlantic aesthetics in the cultures of Africa, the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.  His Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas was published in 1993.

In awarding Thompson its inaugural award of Distinguished Lifetime Achievement for Art Writing in 2003, the College Art Association acclaimed him as a ““towering figure in the history of art, whose voice for diversity and cultural openness has made him a public intellectual of resounding importance.”      “Yale University to Honor Art Historian Robert F. Thompson,” Yale Bulletin (2009)

Thompson spoke at Vassar in March, 1980.




“At the moment there are two good reasons for anyone interested in art to visit Vassar College,” said New York Times art critic Roberta Smith in a review richly praising the second good reason, a traveling exhibit, The Golden Age of Florentine Drawing, from the National Institute for Graphic Art at the Villa Farnesina in Rome at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. 

Her first reason was the center itself.  “The show,” Smith wrote, “provides an especially apt occasion to get to know Mr. Pelli’s beautiful building.  Nestled discretely next to the neo-Gothic Van Ingen-Taylor Hall, which previously housed both Vassar’s collection and its art history department, the Loeb Art Center’s materials echo the limestone-and-redstone exterior of its elder.  But its restrained post-modernism moves past Gothic, to the Renaissance….  Inside the Loeb Art Center, the high ceilings of the central hallway and the main galleries have cathedral-like clerestories that bathe nearly 500 artworks, from Chinese ceramics and Egyptian sculptures to paintings by Joan Miró, Jackson Pollack, Arthur Dove and Mark Rothko, in soft natural light.”

“Vassar’s collection,” Smith added, “is especially strong in works on paper and there are three small wood-paneled galleries designed for their display….  The intimacy of these rooms makes the already compressed power of great drawings even more palpable.”     The New York Times



Senior Judge Constance Baker Motley found Vassar guilty of discrimination against former biology professor Cynthia Fisher when it failed to promote her to associate professor in 1985.  The college was ordered to reinstate Fisher and review her again after two years; the court also awarded Fisher $626,876.12 in damages.  Vassar’s attorney, John Donohue said that the decision was “a shock to the college.”

Judge Motley’s decision was reversed in 1995 by the Second Circuit of the New York State Court of Appeals.




Dr. Bernadine Healy ’65, the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health, delivered the address at Vassar’s 128th Commencement.  Noting the advances made by medical technology in the last 50 years, she said, “Today we are confronting the economic challenge—the dollar cost—of the extraordinary success of the wonders of biology and medicine.  But tomorrow we will confront ethical, social and moral challenges that will make the problems of economics we are facing now seem very easy.”     The New York Times

Ferry Cooperative House was closed by residential life after a health inspection that cited unhealthy living conditions and a general lack of respect for the house.  Ferry remained closed for over a year while complete renovation and upgrading of every aspect of the 1951 building was completed, in consultation with architect Herbert Beckhardt, who as a young man had assisted the building’s architect, Marcel Breuer, in the original design and construction.  Vintage photographs allowed for the replication of the original interior of the building.



With approval from the board of trustees and the faculty, the Dean of Student Life position became the Dean of the College, with responsibility for most offices working individually with students, both academically and co-curricularly. Former dean of studies and Acting Dean of Student Life Colton Johnson was apointed to the new post, which oversaw the activies of: the offices of the dean of studies and the dean of students; the newly created campus concerns office; the house fellows program; the Intercultural Center; religious activities and chaplaincy services; campus dining services; security; career development; and campus activities. Johnson explained in a statement to The Miscellany News that his new position combined areas he knew from his work as dean of studies with other areas affecting students' "academic and co-curricular lives.”

“Hey Kids, Let’s Put On a Show,” an article by Patricia Volk in The New York Times, told the story of the 10 years’ summer collaboration between the college and New York Stage and Film, a theatre group located in New York City.  “The Vassar campus,” Volk observed, “looks as if someone waved a wand and said, ‘I’ll take one of everything.’  The architecture goes from Renwick to Gothic to Pelli.  Still, by New York standards, it’s bucolic.  A John Patrick Shanley play runs 10 minutes longer here because everyone is relaxed.  Eventually, people adapt to birdies and falling asleep without car alarm blasts.  Most live simply in the dorms.  Sometimes they nest.  Ron Rifkin put in a wine cellar.  Mr. Shanley likes to decorate.”

Recounting Vassar history for Volk, Dixie Massad Sheridan ’65, vice-president for college relations, observed that the college and theater dated back to 1925 and that T. S. Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes had its premiere at Vassar in 1933.  “The making of theater," Sheridan said, “is educational.  It requires constant problem solving.  It feeds the mind and soul.  And it’s good publicity for Vassar, too.”  Actor-director Mark Linn-Baker, just turned 40, was also in a reminiscent mood, telling Ms. Volk, “Ten years ago, we were the young voices and now we’re not.  Now people come back with their children.  We talk about calling it New York Stage and Film and Day Care.”     The New York Times

The Coal Bin Theatre, a “black box” theater exclusively for student productions, opened behind and below the Powerhouse Theater.  A part of the renovation of the old facilities buildings behind Main Building made possible by the opening of the new Buildings and Grounds Services Center at the south end of the campus, the space was designed by architect Jeh V. Johnson, senior lecturer in art, in consultation with several representatives of student dramatic groups.

The facility, where programming was primarily the responsibility of Philaletheis, was renamed a few years later as The Susan Stein Shiva Theater.




A new security system employing electronic card entrance was installed in all residence halls as a part of a general restructuring of Vassar's security plan. The new system replaced keyed locks and allowed for greater flexibility in granting and gaining access. Sasha Zabinski '97 reflected positively on the changes, “I definitely notice an increase in security since last year. It’s reassuring…Security’s especially more strict in buildings that see a lot of students and serve multiple functions, like the library, the music hall, and the Main Building.”    The Miscellany News

Dr. Robert Gooding-Williams, professor of black studies and George Lyman Crosby 1896 Professor of Philosophy at Amherst College lectured on "Black Cupids, White Desires: Race and the Representation of Racial Difference in Casablanca and Ghost."  The editor of Reading Rodney King: Reading Urban Uprising (1993), Professor Good-Williams published Look, A Negro!: Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture and Politics in 2006.

Robert Giroux lectured on "The Genius of Elizabeth Bishop." Bishop’s publisher at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Giroux edited The Collected Prose (1984) and a collection of her letters, One Art (1995). His lecture was a part of a weekend-long symposium featuring a series of presentations and reflections sponsored by the Elizabeth Bishop Society. “Whether their exposure to Bishop had been brief, or lifelong, or only through her work, each member of the symposium had been touched by her in some way and kept her with them,” remarked Stephanie Block ‘96.    The Miscellany News

Peruvian folk artist Nicario Jiménez spoke on "Art and Popular Resistance in the Andes."  A sculptor of retablos, portable boxes filled with brightly colored figurines arranged into narrative scenes, Jiménez translated the antique genre developed by Andean people from the portable religious shrines carried through the mountains by Catholic priests into contemporary narratives sometimes containing police cars and buses and having as many as a dozen individual scenes.



American novelist, historian and playwright Sarah Schulman, a founding member in 1992 of the New York City activist group, The Lesbian Avengers, lectured on "The Movement Under Reagan and Bush and the founding of the Lesbian Avengers."  The foreword to Schulman’s book My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years (1994) was by Urvashi Vaid ’79.



The Scottish alternative rock band, The Jesus and Mary Chain, performed in Walker Field House as a stop on their tour with Mazzy Star and Velvet Crush. Ric Menck, drummer for retro-pop band Velvet Crush, spoke with Nevin Martell '97 about his band's relationship to the "nostalgia movement" before taking the stage for the night: “I think people think that we sit around all day and listen to old records and try to write songs like that, but it’s really not like that. We really just do what comes out of us. We write what’s in us.”     The Miscellany News

AIDS activist and journalist Ann Northrop '70 offered "A History of AIDS Activism."  A former writer-producer for the American Broadcasting Company’s Good Morning America and producer of the CBS Morning News, Northrop left broadcast journalism in 1987 to become a gay issues and AIDS educator.  Joining the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP/New York), she was one of 111 protestors arrested in the “Stop the Church” protest in December 1989 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
The White House announced that Patricia Stubbs Fleming ’57 had been appointed White House director of AIDS policy.  A former assistant to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Ms. Fleming told the President and AIDS workers at the White House, “For the first 12 years of the AIDS epidemic, I stood on the outside of the Administration looking in, shouting to be heard and banging on the doors of a bureaucracy that too often turned a deaf ear….  Today, I am proud to stand here beside you, inside the door.”

One of the AIDS activists at the ceremony, Delna Fraser-Howze, executive director of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, said of the appointment, “It is significant that an African-American woman has been put in this job because African-American issues have been neglected in the past in this epidemic.”
Brazilian-born producer, director and screenwriter Tânia Cypriano spoke about "AIDS on Screen: A View From the Third World."  Her film Odô Yá! Life with AIDS, the story of how the Afro-Brazilian religion, Candomblé, became a source of strength for a group of Brazilian AIDS victims and how the innovative sexual education program,  Odô Yá! worked with local populations, was released in 1997.

Students in biology professor Mark Schlessman’s course in the botany of North American Indians, who in the spring had planted a demonstration garden of culinary plants, with emphasis on plants of the Eastern woodlands, harvested Iroquois white flour corn and Osage brown flour corn, among other crops.