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June 24–26, 1872

The end of the college year began with the traditional soirée musicale on the evening of Monday, June 24. Bad weather, however, hampered Class Day on the 25th.

At Commencement, on Wednesday, the 26th, the Latin and German orations were given by Alla Foster ’72 and Alice Seelye ’72. Other class addresses included “Sanitary Science in Our Homes,” “The Antagonism of Science and Religion” and “Progressive Phases of Astronomical Science.” Of particular interest was the oratorical opposition of Ella Hollister ’72 and Wilimena Eliot ’72, who spoke on “This Age Specially Irreverent” and “This Age Specially Reverent,” respectively. “The love for the audiacious, the idolatry of experiment, the levelling process of science, the educational methods of modern times,” claimed Miss Hollister, “are subordinate to the great annilhilation of the existing order of things. The spirit of communism is abroad in the land. It heads the army of social insurgents which seeks to destroy all distinctions of rank and worth. It raves against the glory of God…. It claims to be th expression of the most self-sacrificing generosity. It is the crystallization of the selfishness of men.

“It might be argued that selfishness implies a reverence for one’s self and that, in this respect, our age is specially reverent. Granted. But if Darwin can prove beyond a doubt that men and brutes have the same origin, and ultraism [radical socialism] prove that all men are born free and equal in every respect, where are the grounds for our superiority, and what becomes of our reverence for ourselves? These hypothetical theories may seem to be mere driftwood on the current of the times, still driftwood shows the direction of the stream.”

“The religious sentiment of the age,” Miss Elliot responded, “ought not to be measured by the number of people who go to church on Sunday, but by the number of those who go to work with an earnest and unselfish purpose on Monday. And, on the whole, no country has produced a greater number of inveterate workers and thinkers than ours. True, the thinking often leads to skepticism, but there is no stronger proof of a reverent belief in something beyond than this same doubt. It only shows that the religion which is to guide this and future ages must be intellectual. Not the infidelity of the learned, nor the devoutness of the foolish, but a faith which shall have ‘heaven and earth for its beams and rafters’ while science, art and beauty shall be its sign and illustration.”

Miss Hollister was especially active in the day’s program, opening its musical element by joining Elizabeth Kirby ’72 in a two-piano performance of Schumann’s “Études Symphoniques” and concluding the student presentations with Liszt’s “Polonaise.”

President Raymond conferred the baccalaureate degree on 28 members of the class, and—the trustees having established the requirements for the master’s degree the previous year—he conferred that degree on three members of the Class of 1868: Sarah M. Glazier, Isabella Carter and Mary Whitney. Miss Glazier had given the Philalethean Society address the previous year, and she went on to become the first professor of mathematics and astronomy at Wellesley; Mary Watson Whitney had been elected president of the alumnae association at its founding in 1871, and in 1889 she succeeded her mentor, Maria Mitchell, as chair of Vassar’s astronomy department and director of the Vassar observatory.

The New York Times, The Vassar Miscellany

The Years