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February 24, 1899

At a special meeting in New York City the Vassar board of trustees adopted a resolution urging President Taylor to remain at Vassar and to reject a unanimous vote in his favor, which was reported to him on February 8 by a presidential search committee at Brown University. A second resolution pledged the trustees’ “cordial co-operation in seeking to meet the pressing needs of the College, that it may hold its place as the leading educational institution for women in our country.”

Taylor received and considered similar entreaties from faculty, alumnae, and students, and on March 1, he wrote to Rev. Alvah Hovey, the search committee chairman, declining the position.

“This conclusion has been reached slowly under the influence of a weight of assurance from the trustees, faculty, alumnae, and students of Vassar, and friends of education unrelated to Vassar, that I cannot set aside. I have been made to feel that the resignation of my duties here would be construed by most observers, despite my own honest protest, as an assertion that the type of work for which Vassar stands is of less importance than that of a college devoted mainly to men. I have been convinced, against my earlier judgment, that the chances of disintegration which come with every change would be very grave, just now, for Vassar, and that her work might be hindered for years, at least till a new leader should have gained the confidence of the College and its alumnae…. I have been convinced, also, that the position offered me would present no greater opportunity for usefulness than that I now hold.”

Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, The Life and Letters of James Monroe Taylor

Writing to The New York Times on February 4, 1915, a few days after Henry Noble MacCracken assumed the presidency of the College, Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94 called Taylor’s letter perhaps “the most significant document of his twenty-seven years of service” and Taylor’s decision “in itself a triumph for the cause of woman’s education.”

The Years