An article in the “In School” section of The New York Times by Michael Winerip profiled the efforts of members of the African American Alumnae of Vassar College to encourage able African-American and Hispanic students “from New York’s roughest neighborhoods” to visit Vassar and consider applying for admission.  Winerip’s article followed the bus trip program, in its fifth year, from tentative talks onto the bus chartered for Poughkeepsie and through the often searching conversations on campus.  The two alumnae in Winerip’s account, Paula Walker ’74, assistant news editor at Channel 4, and Audrey Lee Jacobs ’76, a lawyer and publicist, convinced 14 promising high school seniors to venture to the campus, and what followed was frank and engaging.

Attending the biggest dance of Vassar’s year, the Homo Hop, given by BiGala, the bisexual, gay and lesbian organization was an eye-opener for the homecoming king at Thomas Jefferson High School.  “Everybody’s mixed together here,” he said, “It’s a very huggy place.”  A senior at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx said, “Not my type of crowd, but I was glad I saw it.  It’s like my religion teacher says, ‘Take off the blinder, Jeremy.’”

The alumnae were candid about their own concerns over 20 years earlier. Winerip wrote of Walker’s experience in 1970, “For Paula Walker it seemed an alien, white place. ‘My older brother said you better take a gun with you.’” Ms. Jacobs, responding to a question from a 15-year-old senior about the “trade offs” she made to be at Vassar, said, “Every problem you read in the newspaper you’ll find here at Vassar.  I spent a lot of time fighting here.  Maybe too much.  I wasn’t always happy.  But I wouldn’t be wasting my weekend here if Vassar hadn’t served me well.”     The New York Times