Iran released the 52 American hostages after 444 days in captivity, just 28 minutes after President Jimmy Carter left office and Ronald Regan became president. The final leg of the hostages’ journey home took them from Weisbaden, West Germany, to Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York—only twenty miles from the Vassar campus.

Author and artist Angelica Bell, the niece of Virginia Woolf, visited Vassar and lectured on “Vanessa Bell’s Family Relations,”as part of a tour to raise money to restore Charleston House, which her parents Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant decorated. Charleston was the summer retreat of the Bloomsbury group of writers artists, and intellectuals, of which Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were members, along with E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry, Clive Bell, T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

Bell spoke candidly and in detail about her mother's troubled relationships with her sister Virginia and with others both in the family and in the group of artists and intellectuals who gathered at Charleston.  Both sisters were strongly influenced by their father, the formidable author, editor and historian of philosophy, Sir Lesle Stephen, the first editor of Britain's Dictionary of National Biography. When tensions arose, Vanessa tended, wrote Peggy Hayes '83 in The Miscellany News, "to retreat into silence.... In this way, Vanessa was very much like her father, whom Virginia feared greatly."  With the death of Vanessa Bell's son Julian in the Spanish civil war, she "disintegrated and lost all faith in the good life," returning only after the "sheer perseverance and..great love" of Duncan Grant, Vanessa's lover and Angelica's father, to a "melancholy equilibrium."  Angelica Bell, however, recalled most fondly her mother's engagement with the "thrill and importance of the visual world." Her most vivid memory of Vanessa was of her "in an old summer dress and espadrilles, standing before the canvas, poised tentatively, before she makes that firs and most important mark on the canvas."

In conjunction with Angelica Bell's visit, the art department presented the exhibit in Taylor Hall, Aspects of Bloomsbury, featuring the art of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Angelica Bell.  The exhiibit was first mounted when Angelica Bell spoke at Vassar in January, 1980.

"Vassar is indeed very sensitive to the Third World," said Prof. Norman Hodges, chair of the Africana Studies Program, as the month-long First Annual Festival of Third World Arts and Culture began with the Dinizulu dancers and a speech by the Rev. Ben Chavis. The Dinizulu Dance Company, founded in 1953 by Nana Yao Opore Dinizulu and his wife Alice restored and performed the dancing, singing and drumming of the Ashanti people of Ghana.  As part of the observance of National Black History Month, the troupe performed at Vassar in February 1980.

Civil rights activist Chavis, a member of the Wilmington Ten—a group convicted by the state of North Carolina in 1971 of arson and conspiracy— spoke on February 8th about "Human Rights and Political Prisoners in the United States."  Chavis and nine others spent nearly a decade in prison, drawing international concern until a federal appeals court overturned their conviction in 1980. He spoke again at Vassar in November 1981.

Chavis also led a morning chapel service, to which the congregation of Beulah Baptist Church congregation was invited. Assistant Professor of Religion and Africana Studies Lawrence H. Mamiya said that this was “the first time that Vassar college has invited an area church to join in chapel worship. This will mean greater exposure for us to a sector of Poughkeepsie long neglected by the Vassar community. For members of the Beulah Baptist Church, this will be one of the few times that they have felt welcome at Vassar.”    

Other events in the festival included a poetry reading by Nikki Giovanni on February 14 and a concernt by the Boys' Choir of Harlem on February 21.      The Miscellany News

Jon Tenney '84 and Lisa Zane ' 83  starred in David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974), in a continuation of the theater series in Matthew's Mug begun earlier in the year by the student troupe, Stageblood Productions.  Praising the production's "fine quality of acting" in The Miscellany News, Elizabeth Blye '84 said, "Jon Tenney's Danny developed nicely with the experiences of love and disillusionment he underwent.  He seemed almost too human in this play.  Lisa Zane in the role of Deborah provided moments of humor and displays of inner frustration."


The Composers String Quartet—the quartet-in-residence at Columbia, co-founded by former Vassar music instructor Matthew Raimondi—performed the last three quartets of Beethoven’s Opus 18. The concert was part of a series, begun earlier in the seaon, in which, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Skinner Hall of Music, the quartet presented the complete cycle of the Beethoven quartets. The cycle was completed in a concert in Skinner on October 25.

Photographer Janet Beller spoke in the College Center Gallery, where 26 of her photographs— formal black and white portraits taken over a three-year period of sidewalk eccentrics in New York City—were on display. Comparing, in The Miscellany News, Beller's work with that of photojournalists, James Gardner '83 wrote, "Beller...is a portraitist, though her subjects, rather than sitting stiffly in tuxedos at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, are prtrayed in their habitual clothes (or carrying them in shopping bags), as they proceed through New York City on their daily voyage of determined extravagancy.... She is always careful to represent individuals, rather than anonyous participants in the drama of the street, or statistical embodiments of one or another societal trend."

Reviewing Beller’s Street People, published by Macmillan in 1980, in The New York Times, Michael deCourcy Hinds asked “Where else but on the sidewalks of New York could you bump into the Lone Ranger, Macbeth, Uncle Sam and Betsy Ross?  Or see the Snake Lady twist boa constrictors around her neck and get a quick review of the last 100,000 years of the ‘History of the Human Family?’”

Addressing a packed Chapel crowd as "the biggest bunch of dumb nuts on the face of the earth," activist and comedian Dick Gregory delivered a 3-hour lecture as part of The First Annual Festival of Third World Arts and Culture at Vassar. Speaking on "Social Problems Anti-or Social" Gregory told the crowd, "they all just keep rippin' you off and you don't even know it." "They," reported Catherine Shumate '81 in The Miscellany News, were "the social and political manipulators.... 'It's a handful of rich, rich elite aristocrats that determine your fate... Greedy old white men that pit white folks and black folks against each other and white folks and black folks [that] allow themselves to be powerless.'”  "You'll have a big job and not time enough," Gregory told his audience, "You've got to get your act together because recess is just about over."    

A frequent visitor to the college, Dick Gregory first appeared at the Christmas House Party weekend in 1964, and he spoke again on campus in 1990 and 1999. Among the events in the month-long festival were an address by the Reverend Benjamin Chavis, a reading by poet Nikki Giovani and concerts by the Nana Dinizulu African Dance Company and the Boys Choir of Harlem.     The Miscellany News

As part of the Third World Arts and Culture Festival and with former member, Douglas Holley '85, as MC, the Boys Choir of Harlem gave a "lively and enticing" concert, ranging from Bach and Mozart to Bernstein and "contemporary, upbeat" selections. "As I sat in the Chapel," wrote Jennifer Carey '86 in The Miscellany News, "I was brought into a trance: the voices were extraordinary and highly sophisticated, and the choreography was polished.... Moreover, there was a sense of cohesiveness and an omnipresent attitude of enthusiasm.... The members of the Choir gave the obvious impression that they were enjoying themselves tremendously."

A student forum was held in the College Center to discuss the chaplaincy and the decision-making process of the board of trustees. Speakers at the forum urged restraint, asking members of the community not to disrupt the upcoming trustees meeting, but instead to lodge their complaints peacefully.

The VSA agreed, saying, “There are problems with the ways things are run at Vassar and many times the bureaucracy can be frustrating. However, we feel that it would be a shame if what has been accomplished toward uniting the students and the trustees is destroyed by certain irresponsible actions.”     The Miscellany News

Playing in the Intercollegiate Squash Championships at Yale against ranked teams from the United States and Canada, the men’s squash team, led by Captain Jimmy Citrin '81, defeated players from Yale, Wesleyan, Trinity, Columbia and the University of Toronto. The team was awarded the Barnaby Award trophy as the most-improved team, and it rose to the rank to 12th in the nation.

Vassar men's squash won the Barnaby Trophy again in 1987 and 1990.

Professor of Drama William Rothwell presented "a madcap misadventure of movie madness" in his production of Once in a Lifetime (1930), the first of several collaborations by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.  Writing in The Miscellany News, John Delorey '81 praised the ensemble acting of Rothwell's 27-member cast and their "panache, style, grace, energy and immaculate sense of timing." Singling out Jon Cantor '81 ("George Lewis"), Joan Moynagh '81 ("May Daniels") and Allen Newman '81 ("Jerry Hyland") for particular notice, Delorey also cited "Sara Ziegler's ('81) wailing stage mother, Jon Karas's ('80) tormented producer, Brett Goldstein's ('81) frenetic foreign director and Georgia Papastrat's ('82) imploringly sophisticated Variety columnist," all of whom, he said, "dazzle the audience." "The showstopper," he concluded, "is Janet Warren's costumes.  They're a sensuous treat. She has transformed bolts of material and boxes of feathers into striking shifts and flowing boas and gives us the '20s we've always dreamed of."     The Miscellany News

A student/faculty/administrator/trustee committee for the review of the Urban Center for Africana Studies recommended that the center close because its location was too far from campus for adequate student engagement and its cost was too high. Opened on Mill Street in Poughkeepsie in the fall of 1969 as part of the college's response to demands by African-American students and faculty arising from the students' takeover of part of Main Building the previous April, the Urban Center subsequently moved to larger quarters on Winikee Avenue.

The review committee consisted of four students (two in each semester): Bala Jahumpa '80, Janice McDonald '80, Alicia Franklin '82 and Michele Lanchester '81; four alumnae: Dr. Mary Ingraham Bunting '31, Dr. Joan Morgenthau Hirschhorn '45/44, Dr. Marian Gray Secundy '60 and Mary St. John Villard '34; two administrators:Dean of the College H. Patrick Sullivan and Director of Field Work Helen Miringoff; and two faculty members: Professor of History and Africana Studies Norman Hodges and Professor Emeritus of Biology Frances Ranzoni.  Submitted after 15 monthly meetings, their report recommended closing the center (Africana Studies courses had moved back to the main campus in 1972), moving its Black history library to Thompson Library, selling the Winnikee Avenue property and placing the proceeds and the center's current operating funds in an endowment fund to, according to the campus alternate newspaper Unscrewed, "promote and support third world studies and culture at Vassar." 

The trustees accepted the committee's recommendation and the Urban Center for Africana Studies closed at the end of the academic year.  "In closing the Urban Center," Unscrewed observed, "Vassar is losing a valuable opportunity to maintain a vital presence in the Poughkeepsie community."

Director of Athletics John Wallace resigned because of a policy that subordinated him to chairman of the physical education department, Professor Jean Appenzeller. “It is totally unacceptable to me,” Wallace told The Miscellany News, “that I have to report back to the Department Chairman....I felt that I couldn’t do my job with Appenzeller undermining me.”     The Miscellany News
President Virginia Smith announced that tuition and fees would rise 18% to a total of $9,360. “Whether or not to increase tuition,” Smith said, “is a question we no longer have the luxury to consider.…  Today the disquieting question is not, whether, only ‘how much.’”     The Miscellany News
Vassar pianist Todd Crow spoke on “Bartok’s Fourteen Bagatelles: Thoughts from a Performer’s Perspective” in Thekla Hall. The editor in 1976 of Bartók Studies, a compilation of commentary on the work of Béla Bartók from The New Hungarian Quarterly, Crow presented a paper on the Hugarian composer at the International Bartók Congress held in March, 1981, in observance of the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Victor Lloyd Tomseth, one of the 52 hostages held in Iran for 444 days, lectured on "444 Days in Captivity: Why America Was Held Hostage" in the Chapel. Senior Political Officer at the United States Embassy in Tehran, Tomseth was taken captive when Islamic students and militants stormed the building on November 4, 1979. Released on January 20, 1981, just as President Reagan was being inaugurated, Tomseth "held a Vassar audience captive," wrote Carl Strom '82 in The Miscellany News, with the vivid account of his ordeal.  "I had no idea of the emotional involvement of Americans in the hostage crisis," Tomseth said, "until I got out of Tehran," adding that he thought the overall handling of the incident by the Carter administration was "by and large very good."

After winning the Regional College Bowl Championship, the Vassar College Bowl team: Paul Bartlett ‘81, Neil Buchanan ‘81, Chuck Harris ‘81, William Hoffman ‘83 and Saiyid Abu Rizvi ‘81, competed in the National College Bowl Championships. Defeated in the first round of the national competition, Vassar tied with eight other teams for last place.

A popular radio program, the College Bowl, competitions—"The Varsity Sport of the Mind"—were broadcast between October 1953 and December 1955. Two four-person teams from college's and universities competed in each episode of the program, answering questions on a range of topics, from literature, history and philosophy to science, the arts and religion. Revived for televison in 1959 by the General Electric Company, the games appeared on Saturdays and Sundays through June of 1970. Competition was reinstated under the sponsorship of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) and continued until 2008.

Vassar's 1981-82 team lost a play-off with the University of Wisconsin for third place and fourth place nationally, and the Vassar team for 1983-84 tied with Princeton for third place.

The sudden death of Helen Miringoff, director of the Office of Field Work for 30 years, prompted appreciations from students, faculty, alumnae/i and many members of the Poughkeepsie community.  Remembering Miringoff at the April 4th  faculty meeting, Associate Professor of Anthropology Lilo Stern said, “She taught our students much and she taught them well. Not the things we teach them, not matters of the mind, but she taught them about matters of the heart. She spoke out boldly about what is right and what is wrong, about what is good and what is bad. It is not fashionable today to speak openly about morality. But that didn’t bother Helen at bit.”    

A Helen Miringoff Memorial Weekend, held on campus in November, featured an address by author, political activist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and the college established an annual Helen Miringoff Award "for a substantial contribution to an agency or the community through field work."    The Miscellany News

The Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Elizabeth Eisenstein '45/4, spoke on “From Scriptoria to Printing Shops,” as part of the Curtis Lecture Series.  Citing early adoption of printing by ecclesiastic and university communities, Eisenstein observed that "Within these intellectual communities, critics began to challenge the practices of theology, law and medicine through the new medium of print." After her lecture, Brown University social and cultural historian Natalie Zemon Davis commented on Eisenstein’s remarks and added thoughts of her own.     The Miscellany News  

Eisenstein’s two-volume The Printing Press As An Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe (1979) established the parameters of modern print culture studies.

Dr. Eisenstein visited Vassar in 1978 and again in 1988.

Lecturer in English Brett Singer '74, author of The Petting Zoo (1979), read from her novel-in-progress, tentatively named “Pandora’s Box,” in the Josselyn living room. "What it means to be a woman in America," wrote Nancy E. Frank '82 in The Miscellany News, "and the relationship between sex and love—and death—are the primary themes of Singer's new work." Noting that much of the work was about sex, Singer said "it's quite a change when the raciest event on campus is an English department reading."

Singer published her second novel, Footstool in Heaven, in 1986.

The Composers String Quartet—the quartet-in-residence at Columbia, co-founded by former Vassar music instructor Matthew Raimondi— presented the “Rasumovsky” Quartets, Op. 59, by Beethoven.
John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan as Reagan left the Washington Hilton Hotel after giving a speech.
The faculty approved three curriculum changes: a required “freshman course,” to be offered throughout the curriculum, intended to “emphasize reading, writing, and oral comprehension skills”; a two-year foreign language equivalency requirement; the creation of multidisciplinary “college courses” that discussed “significant ideas, thinkers, institutions, and problems of culture.”

Susan Diller ‘83 won second prize in Mademoiselle magazine’s college fiction competition for her short story “Exorcising Ghosts.” Mademoiselle said, ‘this is a powerful story…what a pleasure for us to find such an outstanding piece of fiction among all those hundreds of submissions!” Asked by Miscellany News news editor Peter Cummings '83 if the story, "about the end of high school, death of friends....the breakup of various relationships and 'the end of a sort of world,'" was based on her own experience, Diller replied, "I'm a big liar...so it's not really true. But it's based on truth, just changed around in my own head."     The Miscellany News

"College students," wrote Lydia Belateche '84 in an article, "Sex,Leather and Feather," in The Miscellany News, "are not often given the opportunity to explore their own sexual drives by means of a campus-sponsored lecture, especially one dealing with as stimulating a topic as 'sexual fantasies.'" This was precisely what psychologist Jane Dorlester offered students in a discussion sponsored by CHOICE (Campus Health Organization for Information, Contraception and Education).  Dorlester's "casual introduction and straightforwardness made the audience feel relaxed and open for discussion," the reporter noted, but for some the candor raised problems.  "Dorlester announced," the reporter said, "that she would try to get each member of her audience to actually experience a sexual fantasy, so that everyone could detect whether or not he or she had a healthy sexual state.  At this point, Dorlester lost half of her audience."  But, she concluded, "for those Vassar students present that evening, the encounter proved to be both enjoyable and enlightening."     The Miscellany News
Women’s Weekend, focusing on “Women and Their Bodies,” included discussions, lectures, films and concerts, highlighted by feminist rhythm and blues singer Teresa Trull, a “Voice Festival” and a slideshow and lecture by Women Against Pornography member Dana Lobell.  Lobell presented images from movies, rock music promotions and publications—ranging from Vogue magazine to Hustler, Playboy and Slam, "an adolescent pornography magazine," Lisa A. Verge '84 explained in The Miscellany News—to demonstrate the debasement and sexual objectification of women.  “Pornography,” Lobell told her audience, “tells lies about women and their bodies, and promotes violence against women.”     The Miscellany News
The Vassar College Choir, under the direction James Armstrong and accompanied by vocalists Carol Wilson, Rose Marie Freni-Pallo, John Davis, Andrew Wentzel and members of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, performed Mozart’s Requiem in Skinner hall.  Reviewing the concert in The Miscellany News, Charles Billings '83, noting its "daring" relative brevity ("This work lasts well under an hour") and recent deficiencies in Vassar choral music, declared "Mr. Armstrong raised an inspiring phoenix for a rapt audience.... The choir performed with verve and polish, emotion was controlled and diction was sharp and precise.... The effect of the youthful chorus singing about death was somewhat ironic and otherworldly."

The author of Pulitzer Prize winning The Optimist’s Daughter (1972) and National Book Award winning The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1980), Eudora Welty, read and commented on her fiction in the Chapel to a crowd of 1,200 students. "Welty pointed out," wrote Douglas MacKay '82 in The Miscellany News, "'Southern writers are all very much themselves and between them there isn't much cousinin' around. All of us have our own different approaches to the South, and each of us has discovered the best way for interpreting our vision.'"

Summarizing her third Vassar visit, Welty said, I really enjoy this place, and I’m so impressed that ya’ll seem to keep gettin’ smarter and smarter as time goes by. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m gettin’ on and I feel everybody’s gettin’ smarter.”     The Miscellany News

Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie performed with pianist Dwike Mitchell and bassist Adjunct Professor of Music Willie Ruff as part of a Dickinson-Kayden event in Skinner Hall. Gillespie, wrote Ken Franklin '82 in The Miscellany News, "blew the roof off Skinner Hall," with "an inspired repertoire ranging from Duke Ellington standards to some original compositions by Dwike Mitchell.  Mr. Gillespie, despite his age [63], still blows his bent-up trumpet as sweetly as ever....  He commented during the show that it's tough playing with the young guys.  He was referring to the absolutely incomparable piano of Dwike Mitchell, whose playing the audience will never forget."

A graduate and faculty member of the Yale University School of Music, Professor Ruff performed, frequently with Dwike Mitchell, with the Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras and was one of the first jazz ambassadors to the Soviet Union and to the People's Republic of China.  Among his ethnomusicological studies—according to his Yale School of Music résumé—were "an international conference on the Neurophysiology of Rhythmic Perception," creation of "computerized music based on the theories of seventeenth-century astronomer Johannes Kepler" and a "project on congregational line singing" leading to a conference at Yale "comparing the traditions practiced in Alabama, Kentucky, and the Gaelic-speaking Free Church Presbyterians in the Scottish Highlands."

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

Poet, children’s author, and Lecturer in English Nancy Willard spoke in Josselyn Living Room on “Truths the Devil Told Me: Poems and Parables.”  Introducing her theme, said Nancy E. Frank '82 in The Miscellany News, Lindbloom "told...a parable about writing poetry.   The story concerned the devil's school, hidden in the hills of Iceland, a school where magicians, poets and holy men learned their respective crafts.  While the school exists only in Lindbloom's imagination, she noted 'though (the story's) outside dress is false, I hope the inside is true and of such lies may we all be guilty.'"

"As Lindbloom brought her lecture to a close," Frank wrote, "she returned to the devil's school, to fulfill the 'conditions set by the devil at the beginning of this lecture: Write a poem about the moon.' Lindbloom read two of her poems inspired by the moon, 'The Photographer and the Moon' and 'Night Light': 'It is time to turn on the moon./ It is time to live by a different light,' she quoted—and she does."

Nancy Willard Lindbloom's collection of poems, A Visit to William Blake's Inn (1981) won the prestigious Newbery Medal as the year's most distinguished contribution to American children's literature.

The Urban Center and the department of drama presented To Be Young, Gifted and Black (1968), directed by Lecturer in Africana Studies and Drama Anthony D. Hill, in Avery Hall. The play, adapted by her husband, Robert Nemiroff, from the writings of playwright Lorraine Hansberry who died in 1965 at the age of 34 appeared in book form as To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words in 1969.  Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959), the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway, received the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Play.
One of a dozen participants, the biographer of Edna St. Vincent Millay '17 and biographer-in-residence, Nancy Milford, gave the keynote address, "The Fevered Heroine," of "The Biographer's Art," a five-day colloquium sponsored by the AAVC and the English department. Other participants included Merle Miller, biographer of Presidents Truman and Johnson, who spoke on oral biography; Visiting lecturer in English, New York Times writer Lucinda Franks ‘68, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for her reportage on the life and death of Diana Oughton, member of the Weathermen; Professor of English Elizabeth Daniels’ 41, author of Jessie White Mario, Risorgimento Revolutionary (1972); New York Times reviewer and author of How to Get Happily Published (1978), Judith Appelbaum ’60; Geoffrey Wolfe, author of Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby (1976); Visiting Lecturer in English Brett Singer ‘74; Associate Professor of English Beth Darlington, editor of My Dearest Love: Letters of William and Mary Wordsworth (1981); Assistant Professor of English Thomas Mallon, author of Edmund Blunden (1983) and of A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries (1984); and  Phyllis Rose, associate professor of English at Wesleyan University and author of Woman of Letters: A life of Virginia Woolf (1978) and Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages (1983).

After a protracted dispute involving the role and nature of the chaplaincy at Vassar, George Williamson Jr., Vassar chaplain for 11 years, left the college. An active and popular presence on campus since his hiring in the fall of 1970, Williamson was informed that his third, three-year appointment would be his last, owing to a rule, dating back to the inauguration of the post in 1938, that individual tenure in Vassar's chaplaincy was limited to 10 years.  In April 1979 President Virginia Smith acknowleged that the rule was problematic, extended Wiliiamson's contract for one year and created a committee to review the role and nature of the college chaplaincy, but not, specifically, to review the incumbent.  

Not fully operational until the spring of 1980, the committee, chaired by Sara Huntington Catlin '34, presented its recommendations to the trustees that fall, primary among them the unanimous opinion "that the chaplaincy at Vassar College should be continued."  The committee also opined that the 10-year tenure limit was "arbitrary and meaningless," recommending instead a five-year term for the chaplain, with evaluation of the incumbent by a multiconstituent review committee as an appointment drew to an end. Also that fall, five house presidents and 36 faculty members petitioned President Smith and the board of trustees to renew Williamson’s contract, reflecting a widely-held campus view supported also by a petition signed by some 700 students.

At their October meeting, the trustees accepted the main recommendations of the Catlin committee, deciding, however, to open a national search, directed by a search committee consisting of four trustees, two senior faculty members and two students, as each five-year term drew to a close.  A month later in an open letter to the committee, Chaplain Williamson withdrew his name from consideration in the search, saying “The recent decisions regarding the Chaplaincy seem to me so to compromise the nature of that office that I cannot in good conscience become a candidate for your open search.... The majority members on the present committee are Trustees.  At Vassar, only presidential searches have received so much attention from so many Trustees. To make the chaplain so directly vulnerable to the governing body seriously compromises the calling of the ministry."

In December 1981 the trustees modified both the protocol for a chaplaincy search and the composition of the search committee, approving a resolution that "the appointment will be for a term of five years, with eligibility for reappointment."  Future search committees would be comprised of "the vice president for administrative and student services, three members of the faculty elected by the faculty, three students chosen by the students and one member of the counseliing services."  "It's the first time since I've been here," said Vassar Student Association (VSA) President Katie Doyle '82, "that faculty and students have gotten together on an issue."    The Miscellany News, Unscrewed 

For the concluding production of the academic year, the drama department presented a double bill, Noel Coward’s Fumed Oak (1935), directed by Professor William Rothwell, and Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck (1913) under the direction of his senior colleague Professor Evert Sprinchorn. "The drama department," wrote Elizabeth Blye '84 in The Miscellany News, "certainly knows how to leave you wanting more. They have chosen to end this season with an evening of two, short, totally opposite plays.... They make up one of the most satisfying and intense theatrical experiences to be seen." Blye had particular praise for Armiger Jagoe III '82 and Tracy Hannigan '81 as Henry and Doris Gow, the corrosive couple in what Coward called his "unpleasant comedy in two scenes"—roles originally played by the playwright and Gertrude Lawrence—and for the "dynamic and moving" portrayal by Rees Pugh '83 of Franz Woyzeck, "an army private who is constantly being humiliated by everyone," in Büchner's 28-scene "fragmentary play." "Under the direction of Evert Sprinchorn," she noted, "it flows smoothly, building on Woyzeck's inner and outer conflicts until they inevitably explode with terrifying results. The multiple scene shifts fade in and out, in contrast to the harshness of the events occuring in them... The emotional impact of Woyzeck left me breathless and shaken.  It is a powerful and disturbing play. Together with Fumed Oak, a fulfilling and intense end to the drama season."

Coward’s short play was one of ten that comprised Tonight at 8:30, a cycle performed across three evenings, and Büchner’s work, left unfinished at his death in 1837, was reworked and “finished” by Karl Emil Franzos, who published his version in 1879.  The play was first performed in Munich in 1913.

Former Carter administration Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Patricia Roberts Harris delivered the 1981 commencement address. United States Ambassador to Luxembourg in the Johnson administration—the first African-American woman to serve as an ambassador—Harris spoke about the Reagan administration's cuts to social programs saying, “It appears we have abandoned the War on Poverty in order to prepare for a War on People.... Instead of being an example to the world of democracy’s ability to be strong and humane,” Harris observed,” we now say we cannot afford a humanitarian government if we are to protect ourselves.”

Retiring Chair of the Board of Trustees Mary St. John Villard ’34 also spoke at the college's 115th Commencement.

Vassar leased a new computer, an "interactive" IBM 4331 system with video screens, replacing an IBM 370/125 that processed "batch" printouts from data on punched cards.  Available initially only for administrative uses, the 4331 was replaced the following year by a DEC VaxII/780, which processed data 10 times faster and allowed "interactive" computing for both administrative and academic uses.

Vassar hosted the fifth triennial Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. Over 1,500 scholars participated 136 lectures, panel discussions and workshops on topics ranging from “The Female Body and Reproduction in the Greco-Roman World” to “A General Theory of Women in History.” The conference also discussed the double challenges faced by black women, on account of their gender and color.

Professor of English Elizabeth Daniels ’41 and Associate Professor of English Barbara J. Page spoke as part of a panel on women in higher education. Visiting Professor of Women’s Studies and History Barbara Harris ‘63 and Women’s Studies coordinator Beth Darlington also participated in the conference. Principal speakers at the conference participants included keynote speaker Professor Joan W. Scott, American scholar of French history and the founder of Brown University’s Pembroke Center for the Teaching and Research on Women; Professor of History Gerda Lerner of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said to have taught the first women’s history course, at the New School for Social Research in 1963 and John Jay College’s Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook, the definitive biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Berkshire Conference began in 1928.  When male historians would not allow female historians to participate in a proposed convention, female historians held the rival Berkshire Conference. Veterans of the early “Berks,” former Vassar history professors Mildred Campbell and Evalyn A. Clark ’24, attended the 1981 conference.

Mary St. John Villard '34 retired as chair of the Vassar College Board of Trustees and was succeeded by Mary Draper Janney '42, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Washington and Washingtonian magazine’s 1975 “Washingtonian of the Year.”

Mary St. John Villard served on the Board of Trustees for 26 years; upon her retirement the Green and Gray room was renamed the Mary St. John Villard Room.

Reverend Sandra A. Wilson ’75 became acting chaplain of the college after the chaplaincy search committee failed to fill the vacancy left by Reverend George Williamson. Concerning the controversy over the college's failure to renew Williamson's contract, Wilson said she wanted “to spend some time with a lot of the people who were at odds with one another last year over the whole issue of the chaplaincy.”     The Miscellany News

The Vassar Art Gallery opened Splendors of the Sohites, a satirical exhibit of works “excavated” in the Soho district of Apple (formerly New York City) by “archeologist Evangeline Tabasco” and Sam Wiener, “director of the “Metropolitan Container of Art” (a large dumpster). Discovering a “hermaphrodite amulet” (a soda can pull-tab) in lower Manhattan, Tabasco unearthed evidence of a culture, either annihilated “or they may have just moved away” that neither farmed nor conducted commerce.  When not worshipping their amulets, they created works of art obsessively: masks, gilded document cases, some containing scrolls (shattered VCR cases) and an array of breast plates containing the dual motifs, sun and sex (flattened soda cans).  Bishop and Wiener both spoke at the opening ceremonies.

The exhibit, first shown in New York City in 1980, traveled to ten museums across the country.

Competing before 20,000 spectators in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, Judy Horowitz ’82 won the World Frisbee Disc championship, the first Vassar athlete to win a world championship. Among the prizes and endorsements associated with the championship was having her name on every WHAM-O frisbee made during her reign.  Conceding that hers wasn't yet a household name, Horowitz said, "If I need to show someone identification when I use my MasterCharge card I'll just show them a frisbee."

 The previous year, she was the women’s champion at the fourth annual national intercollegiate Frisbee championships in Atlanta, and she claimed the world title for a second time in 1985.     The Miscellany News

"The most interesting of the recent developments in the athletic program," said The Miscellany News as a new academic year started, "is Vassar's entrance into the national organizations that govern collegiate sports." The college joined Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for men’s sports and the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) for women’s sports. Other developments were also encouraging. Progress on the new Walker Field House was "steadily being made," and four new squash courts and two racquetball courts were replacing the single indoor tennis court in Kenyon Hall.

Acting Director of Athletics Richard Becker and the chair of the physical education department, swimming coach Bob Colyer, were also enthusiastic about two new full-time coaches and three part-time appointments.  Andrew Jennings, the new soccer coach, former assistant coach at soccer Division I William and Mary, and the new women's field hockey coach, Pat Fabozzi, had recently led the Indiana University women to a Division III championship. Jennings said that his Vassar players "show good potential, have the same fundamentals and some of them could play Division I soccer." About her players, Fabozzi said, "These girls have a lot of talent and put in a lot of time.  The team will speak for itself."

"In the handbook that is given to the entire coaching staff," concluded The Misc., "there is one simple directive stated: 'Academics are first, Athletics are second.' While that order of priority remains, the distance between the two is becoming shorter.

Vassar joined the College Venture Program, a consortium of colleges based at Brown University that helped students planning to take time off from school explore careers that might interest them. The consortium developed internship placesments across the country in a wide range of fields, counseling students at member campuses about the values of interrupting their undergraduate education to gain knowledge of specific fields of interest. Later developments included the establishment of an Urban Education Semester program, in which selected students worked in primary and secondary schools in New York City while earning credit at Bank Street College.

Founded in 1974 and originally based at Northeastern University, the program included Brown, Bates, Mt. Holyoke and Wesleyan among its early member institutions. Maintaining offices at Brown since 1978, membership after Vassar's entry into the consortium included Oberlin, Swarthmore, Chicago, Syracuse, Sarah Lawrence, Franklin & Marshall and the College of the Holy Cross. After 35 years and recognizing the changed perceptions of undergraduate leave-taking, the consortium disbanded in 2009, its resources and accomplishments integrated into Brown's Engaged Life Partnership initiative.

Playing the quartets, Op. 130, 132 and 133, the Composers String Quartet—the quartet-in-residence at Columbia, co-founded by former Vassar music instructor Matthew Raimondi—gave the fifth in a series of six concerts devoted to the complete cycle of Beethoven's string quartets.

During a three-day visit to Vassar, preeminent American lyric tenor Paul Sperry gave an informal lecture/demonstration on the relation between musical setting and texts, conducted a Master Class and gave a recital in Skinner Hall. Sperry's visit was sponsored jointly by the departments of English and music.

College organist and Professor of Music Donald M. Pearson presented a recital of Bach, Mendelssohn, Couperin, Frescobaldi, Langlais and Vierne in celebration of his 35th year in service to the college.

The conservative group Tertium Quids sponsored a lecture by the editor of El Salvador's largest daily newspaper, El Diario de Hoy, Enrique Altamirano, on "Why the United States Should Be Concerned About El Salvador.” Altamirano asserted that terrorists, not the country’s government, were responsible for the ongoing civil war in El Salvador between the government and the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). And thus, he said, the United States should assist the Salvadoran government militarily.

Abram Feuerstein ’84, founder of Tertium Quids, characterized Altamirano’s audience as “large but antagonistic.”     The Miscellany News

President Reagan saw the populist leftists as a Communist threat and thus backed the Salvadorian government with military aid. The civil war ended in 1992.

Inviting all former music majors to campus, the music department celebrated the 50th anniversary of Skinner Hall with a series of lectures and concerts.

The celebration began with a public conversation among Austrian-American composer and former Vassar professor (1939-1942) Ernst Krenek, Professor of Music Richard Wilson and Professor of Music on the George Sherman Dickinson Chair Robert Middleton. In the evening, the music faculty offered a program of Krenek’s works. On Saturday, the 10th, faculty and alumnae gave four half-hour presentations on musical subjects, followed by a panel discussion on "Vocations in Music" and two "informal musicales" in Skinner: one featuring alumnae/i and the other faculty performers.

An alumnae/i choir performed at the Sunday morning Chapel service, and an afternoon concert in Skinner by the Vassar College Choir and the Madrigal Singers, conducted by James I. Armstrong, brought the celebration to a close.

Vassar filmmaker Ralph Arlyck’s An Acquired Taste (1981) was shown in Avery Hall. "The 'taste' referred to in the title," said a reviewer in The Miscellany News, "is the taste for success, which Arlyck calls, 'that obsession with making it built so deeply into the culture we an barely distinguish it from working, loving, eating or any of life's principle activities.... Among the scenes which were filmed at Vassar are a frisbee match between Vassar and Columbia, an exam in Rockefeller 201 and a faculty football game.  Arlyck says his film is 'no sociological documentary'....This journey winds through slogans, advertisements, competitive sports, dreams and awards.  It is, according to Arlyck, 'a whimsical peek just behind the smil of self-congratulation at the genuine fear it masks.'" The wry and very personal look at American urgencies from the vantage point of a 40-year old filmmaker won First Prize and a Silver Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

"An Acquired Taste,” wrote New York Times film critic Vincent Canby, “is only 26 minutes long, but it is a feature-length delight…a loving, funny movie.”

"An unlikely team formed at Vassar College," Brooke J. Kamin '84 wrote in The Miscellany News, when Professor Penn Kimball from the Columbia School of Journalism, Martin Arnold, veteran New York Times reporter and assistant editor of the New York Times Magazine and former New York Daily News columnist Michael Daly participated in a panel discussion on "Issues of Integrity in News Reporting.”  The discussion was moderated by Richard Wager, the publisher of The Poughkeepsie Journal. "A middle-aged journalism professor and a 30-year-old street-wise columnist," Kamin went on, "paired off again another associate—the assistant editor of a magazine."  Kimball and Daly took the position that the journalistic rigor and energy of even The New York Times—facing circulation and financial declines—had lessened, as the paper sought a more suburban, affluent and disengaged readership.  To this, Arnold replied, "There is no such thing as a little loss of integrity.  It's like being a little pregnant—impossible."  The discussion's "main subject," Kamin concluded, "was a newspaper's economic viability versus its editorial position."

The panel’s topic was timely and the discussants apt.  In April, just after receiving the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for an article in The Washington Post, reporter Janet Cooke had resigned after admitting that “Jimmy’s World” and the eight-year old heroin addict featured in it were, along with the Vassar degree on her résumé, fabrications.  Michael Daly had resigned from The Daily News earlier in the year after admitting that the narrator and much of the quoted material in a story he had reported from Northern Ireland were also fabrications. Penn Kimball was at work on a book, The File (1983), detailing his discovery and intense investigation of a government file of rumors and insinuations about his political affiliations that had been accumulating secretly since he’d left college.

The Composers String Quartet—the quartet-in-residence at Columbia, co-founded by former Vassar music instructor Matthew Raimondi—completed its Beethoven cycle with a performance of Op. 131 and Op. 135.

Visiting Lecturer in English Lucinda Franks ‘68’s Contemporary Press class visited The New York Times, where Ms. Franks was a staff writer. Touring the newsroom (twice), the culture section "(referred to as 'Culture Gulch' by the guide),"reported Bonnie Stollowitz '84 in The Miscellany News, the sports and science areas and WQRZ, the newspaper's classical music station, the class also met with Deputy Managing Editor Arthur Gelb and Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal.  "Gelb emphasized the 'accuracy, fairness and completeness' which has always and will continue to characterize the paper's image. 'There is no paper as good as the Times, noted Gelb, in answer to a student's question.  'If there were, I wouldn't be working here,' he added."

The Helen Miringoff Memorial weekend honored the late director of fieldwork Helen Miringoff, who was very active in Jewish studies and cultural activities, both on campus and in Poughkeepsie. Holocaust survivor, author and founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council Elie Wiesel spoke in the Chapel. “To be Jewish,” Wiesel said during his speech, “is to dance in spite of suffering.”

The Quiet Riot, mimes Bill Mettler and Kevin O’Conner and lighting/sound designer David Mettler, performed their improvisatioinal show, Out of Control, at Vassar. The troupe, founded in 1979, specialized in involving the audience in their mimicry, and they "broke away from many of the conventional ideas of mime," wrote Lori Mason '85 in The Miscellany News, "with new forms involving music, improvisation, lighting and story-telling.... In the middle of the show, Mettler and O'Connor asked the audience for story ideas... When someone from the audience suggested 'moose mating,' and The Quiet Riot performed the request, it was evident that the team is extremely creative and works well together."  In another piece, called "The Wedding," originally from a show done on the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum, the two mimes were joined by six members of the audience.

Vassar's squash community inaugurated four new glass-walled courts in Kenyon Hall with a "Squash Extravaganza," featuring a women's "Can-Am Invitational," exhibition matches by ranked professionals and faculty/alum vs. varsity play. "Just hours after the wet paint signs and wooden sawhorses had been removed," wrote Pamela Thompson '82 in The Miscellany News, women's teams from York, Queens, and McGill joined the Vassar, Hamilton and Dartmouth players in a round-robin tournament on the new courts. Losing to York in the final round, the Brewers came in third, after York and Queens, with Dartmouth, McGill and Hamilton rounding out the results.

"However," Thompson reported, "the extravaganze did not end with the presentation of the trophy.  Vassar coach Peter Talbert, who is ranked second in the New York City citcuit and 35th in the world, proceeded to lead the special exhibitions by other nationally and internationally ranked players, which included Rob Dinerman, Laurence Franklin, Nancy Gengler and Wendy Lawrence."  The event concluded with matches in which alumnae/i and faculty members challenged players form the men's and women's varsity teams.

In their third of four appearances at Vassar in the 70s and 80s, Lionel Hampton and his orchestra played to a packed house for the Fall Formal in the Villard Room.  In 1936 the first black musician, along with pianist Teddy Wilson, to play with white musicians, in the Benny Goodman Quartet, Hampton and his orchestra played at Vassar in November 1974, February 1979 and again on March 3, 1983.

Political activist and Wilmington Ten member Reverend Ben Chavis, spoke in Chicago Hall. As a participant in the the First Annual Festival of Third World Arts and Culture, he spoke at Vassar and led a chapel service in February 1981.

In the student seminar exhibition, Problem Pictures from the Vassar Collection, at the Vassar College Art Gallery, 12 students, working under the guidance of gallery director William Hennessey, presented their solutions to curatorial "problems" with 30 of the gallery's paintings, ranging from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Each of the paintings, wrote Lori Mason '85 in The Miscellany News, "holds a specific problem such as a question of attribution, subject matter or date.  Within the 30 paintings on display, a wide range of uncertainties prevails.... According to Hennessey, this component of the seminar offers a unique experience to students."  Among the problems solved was the determination by Eric Werblow '83 that a painting thought by its donor to have been the work of J. M. W. Turner was a copy and the identification by Elizabeth Ann Jackson '82 of all the individual items in a 1725 painting, "Trompe L'Oeil—Still Life," along with the significance of many.

Vassar used the grants from the Charles E. Merrill and Pew Memorial trusts as well as the gifts of Julia Blodgett Curtis ‘62, Mrs. Suzette Davidson ‘34 and Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller ‘31 to acquire the papers of Pulitzer-prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop ’34.

“I’m extremely pleased to have Elizabeth’s papers in the Vassar manuscript collection,” the literary executor of Bishop’s estate, Alice H. Methfessel, told The New York Times. “It’s an excellent library, and the leadership of the college is dedicated to the preservation of manuscripts and knows their value to scholars and students. Elizabeth had a real fondness for her alma mater and the friends she made there. She said that Vassar had a profound effect on her life.”     New York Times  

Robert Leuci, the inspiration for Robert Daley’s book Prince of the City (1978), spoke about his work in the Special Investigating Unit in the Narcotics Division of the New York City Police Department and about his role in informing on corrupt policemen within that division. "I never looked like a cop," Leuci said, "The NYPD chose guys like me who didn't look like cops to go into the Narcotics Bureau/Detective Division." Of Leuci's story of gradual moral "erosion"—drugs as bribes, illegal wiretaps, choosing to overlook minor crime in order to get along—said Julie Kaufman '85 in The Miscellany News, "there were two parts...: negative and postitive. 'The negative,' Leuci explained, 'occurs when you try to emulate the behavior or actions of people you admire.... Your morality and integrity disintegrate and a certain amount of criminality appears.  You don't even realize this is happening to you. Once you open your eyes, see what you're doing and try to find ways to change, you enter positive erosion.'"

Leuci's "positive" period began with his agreement to work undercover the the Federal Knapp Commission in a two-year investigaton of corruption that, "initially...focused on the criminal justice system, but ended by focusing on Leuci's deparment.  As a result...55 officers were arrested, Leuci's partner and best friend both committed suicide. Leuci was sent to Governor's island for three years with a 24-hour body guard."

The Vassar College music department gave an hour-long broadcast performance on WNYC-FM in New York City as part of the “Discovery Series,” performing works by former music professor Ernst Krenek and Professor of Music Richard Wilson. Works by Krenek, who taught at Vassar from 1930 until 1942, were "Monolog der Stella," sung by soprano Carol Wilson accompanied by pianist Huguette van Ackere and his Sonata No. 4, performed by pianist Todd Crow.

Works in the program by Professor Wilson were "A Theory," a setting for piano and vibraphone of Musa Guston's memorial poem to her late husband, the painter Philip Guston, performed by Carol Wilson and Richard Wilson and his "Ecologue," performed by pianist Blanca Uribe.